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Turned up to 11, meet the just-arrived and newly-potent Aston Martin Vantage

The baby Aston has morphed from Craig David into Daniel Craig, albeit with some death metal overtones. Naughty, but nice

By Darren Styles

The Aston Martin Vantage (Picture: Andy Morgan)

It’s a balmy 21 degrees in the Monteblanco circuit pitlane, and I’m blinking in the Spanish spring sunshine after the greyest of UK winters, as a hedgehog might on exit from hibernation. There is, though, not a scrap of dullard in me, I’m wide awake and can hear my own pulse. I’m strapped into the new Aston Martin Vantage, open-face helmet wedged on, and just in front of me sits Aston’s own Formula One pace car, lights ablaze.

It’s a view more regularly afforded your Max Verstappens, Lewis Hamiltons and Fernando Alonsos, so that’s one for life’s bingo card, but in the moment I’m more focused on the currently red lights to my left. When they go green, all I have to do (“all I have to do”) is follow the man in front, keep turning (mostly) right, and I’ll be back here safe and sound before I know it. Of course I will, this car can hit 60mph from standstill in 3.4 seconds and maxes at 202mph. Back in no time.

The Aston Martin Vantage (Picture: Andy Morgan)

Except. Well, except for a few things. A pace car driver’s pace is geared differently to mine. His ‘warm-up’ is my Jesus, Mary and Joseph moment, a flying lap surely akin to the last thing I’ll ever see. Four corners on from the green light and my aspirations have moved from learning the racing line by following him, to completing a lap before he catches me. And the car I’m in is not currently my friend. It goes hard and noisy in straight line, but brake a bit late, turn in anywhere that isn’t the optimum point and a car declared as having a perfect 50:50 weight distribution front to rear feels awfully like it wants to be a pendulum. Or a £165k embedded monument to momentum and gravity.

Once far-too-much pace man leaves things improve significantly. I stop looking at the back of him, start looking beyond the ducted bonnet at the track layout and, progressively, find a cleanish way round. The Vantage, it transpires, though a hooligan no doubt, is a Ray Winstone sort. You’d not want to cross it, but it’s a lark in the right social setting. Where you’re not going to get caught by an unfortunate back-hander.

The Aston Martin Vantage (Picture: Andy Morgan)

We’re closer to buddies now, the car and I, we see beyond 200kph on the main straight, delight in the grip under duress and dip into Aston’s tyre budget by leaving black lines on the tarmac. But, having played naughty for a bit and gotten clean away with it, it seems pragmatic to leave the security of a track environment’s wide open spaces and head for a more familiar road environment, where I’m best suited and the car would typically spend more of its time. And it’s here, if I’m honest, the Vantage goes from being a car you’d admire to one you’d want.

Firstly, just look at it. The slab nose of its predecessor has gone, and in its place is the traditional Aston grille and a snout that’s part former flagship DBS and part One-77 hypercar. And they were $2 million apiece. Combined with swollen rear haunches the Vantage silhouette is now muscular, strong and achingly good-looking.

Secondly, it’s as lovely inside: acres of leather bedeck the cabin, there’s bejewelled switchgear, an all-new touchscreen and yet plenty of proper buttons that are intuitive and snick nicely in operation. Plus a stonking Bowers & Wilkins sound system. It’s a good place from which to view the world.

The Aston Martin Vantage (Picture: Andy Morgan)

Especially when the world is flowing past your window accompanied by the sound of a mellifluous, four-litre, twin-turbo V8 and a baritone exhaust. It’s like the old days, but now with 30% more power than before, and it’s as it should be. So, too, the on-road manners, which are sharper than previously in every way that matters. Steering is meaty but precise, the ride better than a car of relatively modest stature on 21” wheels should be, with sufficient compliance and control to build confidence in the press-on driver.

And press on I do, at one point alone on a 28-kilometre stretch of glorious mountain road somewhere outside Seville, with switchbacks and undulations like you see only in car ads or the movies. Here, the Vantage is alive. Pulling at the leash, but fluid and willing, angrier in soundtrack as you row the 8-speed gearbox, deliciously wild and visceral, a bit more Lamborghini than Bentley when it needs to be. Naughty, then, but nice. You absolutely would.

Aston Martin Vantage. 656bhp // 590lb/ft // 0-60mph in 3.4 secs // 202mph // 274g/km // £165,000.