The Vantage is Aston Martin's entry-level two-seat sports car — if you can consider a car that starts at around $150,000 to be entry-level. It has distinctive styling, highly customizable exteriors and interiors, and a turbocharged V8 engine. For 2020, the big news is that you can now get a new Vantage AMR version that has a seven-speed manual transmission.
2020 Aston Martin Vantage
- Release Date
- Winter 2019
- Price Range
What to expect
- New AMR version with optional seven-speed transmission
- Manual version is lighter and has a retuned suspension
- Part of the new Vantage generation that debuted for the 2019 model year
Aston Martin redesigned the Vantage in 2019 to make it more aggressive and appealing to a younger audience. Last year's Vantage was available with a paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic. But for 2020, Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer has made good on his promise to always offer a three-pedal car in the lineup.
This new 2020 Vantage AMR comes from Aston's performance brand, Aston Martin AMR, which is inspired by Aston Martin Racing and based near the Nürburgring Test Center in Germany.
The manual-transmission Vantage AMR weighs about 210 pounds less than the automatic-equipped car due to its lighter transmission and standard carbon-ceramic brakes. The suspension is matched to the new weight with retuned springs and dampers. There's also a mechanical limited-slip rear differential instead of the electronically controlled diff that's otherwise standard with the automatic. AMR even adjusted the feel of the brake pedal to allow for a more enjoyable heel-toe downshifting experience.
The three pedals are closely spaced and nicely set up for those who like to keep their heel-toe skills in shape. Of course, the car is happy to rev-match for you if you're not in the mood. There's a no-lift upshift ability as well, which is great fun if you can untrain your right leg from lifting off the throttle as you change gears.
The engine in the AMR version is the same as in the automatic car: a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 cranking out 503 horsepower. Aston says this potent mill will take the Vantage from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and top out at 200 mph — 5 mph faster than the automatic version due to the gearing changes in transmission and differential.
From the outside, the Vantage is appropriately snarly. Inside the cabin, it's civilized aside from the light snick-snick of the shifter and the occasional cherry bomb of an exhaust pop on deceleration.
Speaking of the shifter, Aston is using the Graziano seven-speed gearbox it used in previous Vantage manuals. It's notable for its race-car-inspired dogleg shift pattern. In the Vantage, first gear is off the left side, and second pulls straight back to third. The theory is that on a racetrack, or in spirited driving, first isn't used often, making the second-to-third upshifts (or third-to-second downshifts) more useful and rewarding. Expect an awkward feeling when you first get in, but using the pattern quickly becomes normal.
Once on the road, both engine and suspension can be adjusted to one of three modes: Sport, Sport Plus and Track. Changing modes affects the throttle response, the traction control and chassis damping. The car is firmly sprung, even in its street driving setup, leaving little reason to change suspension settings on the street.
But switching engine modes is hooning heaven. Like many contemporary performance cars, the sophistication of the tuning makes the Aston fast and safe in its base mode. But it also deadens some of the old-school edginess of having a high-horsepower machine. The Sport Plus setting has a more aggressive throttle mapping and a less attentive traction control monitor. Aston's Chief Engineer Matt Becker described this setting as "more urgent." We'd call it the "tire smoke and trouble" setting.
Whatever setting you're in, the Vantage is a light and lithe sports car. It's comfortable to drive while offering all the added driver engagement you'd want from a stick-shift V8.
Slip softly into the cockpit, and we do mean softly because nearly everything you touch is covered with velvety faux suede. Pity the poor fool who eats a chocolate bar on a road trip since there's no brushing off the crumbs in this car.
With about 80 bazillion colors and options on the standard Vantage, you might be tempted to choose the AMR model not just for its manual transmission but also because it's only available for 2020 in just five design specs. One of those special editions, the Vantage 59, celebrates Aston Martin's 1959 win of the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Those are sold-out, which makes for even fewer hard choices.
Materials in the Vantage are top-notch, and the glowing glass buttons are half Starship Enterprise and half Grandma's prized crystal. Critique of the interior comes in on the center stack and console. They are crowded with buttons, knobs and dials. And if you don't take advantage of the options for bright accents and trims, the cabin is as dark as a coal mine in a Johnny Cash song.
Comfort-wise, the Vantage is best for folks of middle stature. But even those on the higher and lower rungs of the height ladder will be able to adjust the seat to a usable driving position.
When it comes to practicality, the Vantage offers 12.4 cubic feet of usable trunk space — as a comparison, the 2020 Corvette boasts 12.6 cubic feet — in a handy hatchback format, with the front section of the cargo space accessible from inside the car. This layout is great for grabbing handbags, briefcases or jackets while on the go.
As a daily driver, the Vantage is conveniently sized. And its combination of big mirrors and wonderfully clear surround-view and rearview cameras make parking and maneuvering easier than one would expect from a sporty car. Don't go looking for too many modern driver aids, however. While the Vantage does offer optional blind-spot warning and parking sensors, you're on your own as far as adaptive cruise control or lane keeping. This Aston is a hands-on-the-wheel kind of car.
Infotainment, like the engine, is based on a Mercedes-Benz design, and it's quick if not as intuitive as we'd hope. For example, skipping songs while using the navigation requires multiple taps, pulls and twists of the center joystick. That quibble aside, the 8-inch touchscreen is clear and easy to reach, and Bluetooth, navigation and USB ports are standard. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available.
The optional manual transmission is the car's best feature. While the Vantage is lovely with the automatic, the driving experience is much more rewarding with the manual. It's rowdy enough to feel like a challenge, but it can be tamed enough to be used as a daily driver. In today's world of smart tech and self-driving, it's a pleasure to be reminded that driving can be done by the driver.
We like the Aston Martin Vantage for its distinctive styling and expansive collection of custom colors and trims. It's also nice to see that the company is giving you the automotive version of Throwback Thursday by reintroducing the availability of a manual transmission on the new AMR version. The Vantage's infotainment and safety systems are behind the times, but that won't be much of a concern given how fun the car is to drive.