Testing the 656-Horsepower, 202-mph 2025 Aston Martin Vantage

Merging onto the autopista outside Seville, Spain, the 2025 Aston Martin Vantage’s Bowers & Wilkins-curated playlist played the Guns & Roses version of Live and Let Die just as my right foot flattened the accelerator pedal to unleash the 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8’s 656 horsepower and 590 lb.-ft. of torque.

This is the Vantage’s version of the Mercedes-AMG-supplied engine we saw last year in the DB12 grand touring car. In the smaller, lighter Vantage, the engine pushes the car to 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds and to a top speed of 202 mph.

“We’ve made massive leaps in performance without losing what makes an Aston Martin,” crowed Aston’s director of product and strategy, Alex Long. “Combining luxury and performance is a challenge. We believe we’ve nailed that brief.” Evidence soon bore that out.

Highway Star

Once on the highway, the Aston engineers’ work to preserve the Vantage’s grand touring capabilities became clear, as it settled into a comfortable cruise mode that benefited from improved control of the Bilstein shock absorbers and a stiffer structure. The Michelin Pilot Sport 5 S tires are the very same sizes, 275/35 R21 front and 325/30 R21 rear, as those on the DB12. They include the same sound deadening for a quiet ride, but their final specifications have been tweaked to suit the lighter Vantage. “We tuned these tires for this car, which is no small undertaking,” Newton stated.

Related:The Aston Martin DB12 Is a Much-Improved Super Tourer

Half an hour later, my Aluminite Silver Vantage arrived to the sinuous mountain switchbacks that both demonstrated the Aston’s mettle and re-engaged my fading, jet-lagged brain just in time.  Forty minutes of unrelenting switchbacks provided the perfect stage for the improvements made to the Vantage’s chassis, while also revealing concerns about its brakes.

The Vantage’s chassis is 10 percent stiffer than before, with a 29 percent increase in stiffness under lateral load. “We put some additional structure across the front, behind the radiator packs,” said Aston’s director of vehicle performance, Simon Newton. “In addition, we put a slightly reengineered shear panel underneath, so we’ve upped the gauge of the material and we’ve upgraded the cross-brace, the strut brace if you like, above the engine, tying the front damper tops together.” The car’s steering column is solid-mounted, with no isolation bushings, and that also contributes to the Vantage’s steering feel.

The Importance of a Good Rear End

The rear structure is just as important, he added.  “Equally important for steering, but also lateral response, is the rear of the car,” he says. “We increased the gauge of the shear panel underneath the rear differential, and we have tightened up the connection between the rear damper tops.”

Related:Aston Martin V12 Speedster Is Stripped To The Essentials

“Those changes at the back help with the steering connection because as soon as you steer, you’re trying to get the back of the car to react laterally when you do your first steering input,” Newton added. “It helps with on-center connection and also crispness of lateral response when you steer.”

Balanced Performance

These claims were supported by the experience of a brisk drive through the Spanish mountains, where the Vantage’s 50/50 front/rear weight distribution and chassis upgrades produced impressive handling for a front-engine car. The turn-in to corners is crisp and accurate, with no understeer even while driving quickly.

Gear changes in the 8-speed ZF planetary automatic transmission are quicker and firmer than before, delivering an even more direct driving experience even though it still employs a hydraulic torque converter to provide peerless low-speed creeping ability while parking. In contrast, dual-clutch transmissions are popular for sports cars, but their weakness tends to reveal itself during parking situations and low-speed driving, when they can be jerky and unpredictable.

Related:Aston Martin Racing Revs Up PTC Tools In New Design Strategy

The computer-controlled Bilstein shock absorbers have five times the bandwidth of force distribution than the old shocks, which is another important factor in the car’s ability to deliver both ride and handling.

Autocorrect

The stability control system uses a 6-D Inertial Measurement Unit, which tracks the car’s movement through six axes; Surge (moving forward/backward), Heave (moving

up/down) and Sway (moving left/right) with Roll (tilting side-to-side), Pitch (tiltingforward/backwards), and Yaw (turning left/right). Meanwhile, the electronically controlled differential can go from open to fully locked in 135 milliseconds and can make dynamic adjustments in as little as 60 ms.

These systems have a wide range of adjustability, letting the driver choose how much computer intervention to request during spirited driving. “[The Bosch controller] has a clear idea what the car is doing so it can predict what is required from the system,” Newton said. “[Electronic traction and stability management] comes in very early, very lightly, not at all disruptive to the driving experience,” Newton explained.

That was my experience, as I found driving the Vantage in its Sport and Sport Plus modes produced no noticeable intervention during street driving and rare activity during the track drive at the Circuito Monteblanco. In Sport Plus mode, the car activates the mufflers’ bypass valves, providing a good soundtrack for the drive while also alerting cyclists who share the road of the car’s approach.

Alternatively, you can listen inside the car to the rest of the nicely curated playlist on the Bowers & Wilkins 1,170-watt, 15-speaker sound system that includes dedicated 3D headline speakers and a powerful subwoofer for superlative audio quality. Unfortunately, the large aluminum speaker grille on top of the dashboard creates a significant reflection in bright sunlight that makes it hard for the driver to see into right turns because of the glare. An anodized flat black finish on the grille would solve this problem.

Brakes broke?

What did fall short both on the street and the track was the car’s brakes. It features Brembo-supplied six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers squeezing 400-mm front rotors and 360-mm rear rotors. Cast iron rotors are standard equipment and lightweight carbon ceramics are available optionally. The cars I drove on both the street and the track had the carbon ceramic brakes. Unexpectedly, these brakes were not up to the job.

In non-stop switchbacks on the mountain, with no long straights for cooling, the brakes glazed, resulting in a high-pitched whine during light brake application. Brake friction seemed undiminished, but the brake pedal got spongy feeling due to boiled fluid introducing compressible bubbles to the incompressible brake fluid.

On the track, by the end of a day of repeated lapping sessions, the spongy pedal worsened to the point of the pedal traveling most of the way to the floor when braking at the end of the high-speed pit straight into the low-speed turn one.

Other than the eventual brake fade, the Vantage held up well on the track for a street car with grand touring capabilities. The handling that was perfection on the road is nearly as good on the track, with hints of understeer arising only when the driver has delayed braking a touch too long and turns in while still trying to shed speed.

Carmakers tend to tune cars’ handling with a bias toward understeer because it provides a margin of safety for drivers when they become over-exuberant, as some of my colleagues did. Between intentional hot dogging and imprudent decisions to turn off the stability control, many of them spun the Vantage during our lap session (see video).

This is the price of having a car that delivers lively handling, without a propensity for understeer. All those drivers needed to do was let the Bosch stability control system do its job, or not try to drift like they were shooting a Fast & Furious movie, and all would have been well for them.

Maybe they just aren’t worthy of the Vantage and its responsive steering and widely adjustably electronic safety net. Drivers who can use these systems sensibly will be rewarded with a car that carves corners like a real sports car and swallows highway miles like a bullet train.


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