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These are exciting times at Aston Martin, with everything from a revitalised showroom line-up to front-running Le Mans racers and a born-again continuation build of the original DB5 spy car that was driven by James Bond.
The $299,950 Vantage is the newest of its new cars and is a rorty driver-focussed V8 coupe that could finally throw out a serious challenge to the Porsche 911 and Mercedes-Benz AMG GT.
It’s a move away from the DB11, which is more of a GT than a sports car, also adding value with a showroom sticker that is noticeably more affordable and undercuts its German rivals.
Racer tastes dominate the good looking lines of the Vantage. The smooth flowing lines of the latest Aston styling direction remain, but there is more brawn to the final result.
There's a big front spoiler and a track-style aero ‘diffuser’ below the rear bumper, with a huge air inlet in the nose and skirts down the sides to direct the airflow.
It’s not as boldly brassy as a GT3 from Porsche or Benz’s GT-R, which both look like road racers without their numbers – but for something different, Aston is offering the Vantage in bright jellybean colours which are proving surprisingly popular with buyers.
Impact is standard, that’s for sure, and there is no mistaking the intent of the Vantage when it’s viewed - almost inevitably - from behind.
Mechanically, the Vantage continues and extends the British brand’s technical collaboration with Mercedes-Benz.
That means Aston gets access to a turbocharged 4-litre V8 engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox.
But the engineers at Aston have done their own tuning tweaks, including the backfiring pops-and-bangs which now come standard on every turbocharged performance cars.
They have focussed on mid-range shove, which is what most people want for most of their driving, without overly extending the engine or having too much impact on fuel economy.
The engine sits well back in the chassis to aid the cornering balance for the rear-wheel drive coupe and the final finishing work, both high-end materials and assembly, is impressive.
At the top end the Vantage is capable of 310km/h and will catapult to 100km/h in just 3.6 seconds.
Aston has always provided old-school British luxury, but there is less wood in the cabin in 2019 and the leather can come dressed with piping and stripes to reinforce the sporty intent.
Using Benz electrics means the dashboard layout is clear and functional, there is infotainment that works easily and well, and the controls have Mercedes efficiency with Aston design and style.
It works in the same way as the DB11 and ends complaints about earlier Aston Martins which had instruments which were hard to read in Aussie sunshine and digital displays which were too small.
On the road, the Vantage turns heads. Everywhere, all the time.
I’m driving it in Britain, in an area where Premier League footballers like to live and where Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis are relatively commonplace.
Even so, my colourful 'lime essence' Aston is a stand-out and attracts plenty of attention.
It’s a similar story when I step on the accelerator and the turbo V8 gets into its stride with a manly bellow and a series of exhaust explosions as I brake for a tight corner. My earlier time in the DB11 was more subdued. This car is bit more of a bruiser, a car that wants to go.
Aston has done a great job on the styling and I smile every time I walk up to the car, or watch myself cruising past a shopping centre reflection. It will be the same story for owners.
But the real impact of the V8 Vantage comes when I get out into the countryside for some fun running. The Aston is sledgehammer quick between corners, has huge grip in any turn, and basically does what I want without drama or fuss.
It’s a car which could only really be extended on a racetrack, like it’s Porsche and Mercedes rivals, and I’m sure it would be nearly race-car quick but still with the cosseting comforts of aircon and leather.
Cruising on the highway, the ride is firm without getting harsh, the cabin is well equipped and comfortable, and it’s easy to set the cruise control and relax to enjoy the trip.
It seems as if Aston Martin's new Vantage could leave the Porsche 911 and Mercedes-Benz AMG GT market both shaken and stirred.