Tuesday 22nd January 2019
I thought it was about time I wrote a little something about my experience of the Vantage, which was a car I had wanted to buy for a few years but had half given up on at this point.
I’ve owned the Vantage for just over a year now after buying it on a bit of a whim at probably the worst time of year to buy a ‘sports’ car. The salesman I had befriended at Grange had been sending me Vantages of varying shades of green and blue, as the only stipulations I had given him were that it had to be a manual car and in an interesting colour. I (and my friends who’d approved of the idea) had mostly given up hope when I couldn’t bring myself to sell my 190e and stick to the plan of buying and selling a car every 3-6 months and building up the fund each time.
After missing a call from the salesman I decided to have a look online and see what car had come into stock that he’d want me to see, and a bright yellow Vantage appeared – which I wasn’t expecting. After taking a drive up to Grange and walking around the car it was obvious that it was a special car, especially among the sea of grey, black and white cars. I was something of an easy target and a few days after driving the car I did the deal, after all when was I going to get a chance to buy a car like this again? Rather stupidly in my excitement I forgot most of my lessons in buying a car and didn’t check the car as thoroughly as I should have – though to be fair the salesman did spot a couple of items and had them corrected without me asking (though they should have been caught by the AM inspection, admittedly). As it turns out that excitement nearly bit me in the behind months later when I discovered that the tyres were all nearing or over a decade old and a discussion ensued as to whether a brand like Aston Martin should really be selling performance cars with tyres well past their best. Luckily the dealer sorted this after some persuasion.
After collecting the car in early December I barely used it for the next few months, being a little too precious about it and ‘saving it for best’. Early on in 2018 the battery failed whilst in the garage and parts of the centre console did too, meaning that the car had to be dragged out onto the back of a lorry and then taken to the dealership for them to diagnose. The centre console was fixed under warranty but apparently the battery was going to cost me well over £300 to replace, which is ludicrous, no matter the brand. I wasn’t best pleased with the dealer’s attitude towards it, though they didn’t consider the battery a serviceable item as I do. After getting the car back I had little faith in it, though I did promise myself to use it more in a hope to stave off more issues.
By the summer I had been using the car more regularly and had a decision to make about whether to take it to the Le Mans Classic or if I should take another car, as I didn’t trust it to make the distance to Le Mans and back with no major issues. I was convinced to take the car and in the end there were no big issues, though the TPMS did throw a fit now and again. The car drove perfectly and proved itself to be quite an accomplished GT car that provided plenty of comfort on the rather lovely roads down to Le Mans. It is a journey I would recommend to any petrolhead, as the calibre of cars that you see is incredibly high, and a highlight for me was coming out of a set of tolls next to a Testarossa which happily blasted off after giving me a thumbs up.
After returning from Le Mans I began using the car daily, and enjoying using it more. The more I drove it the more I realised that the Vantage really isn’t a sports car at all, its more suited to being a GT. It isn’t a slow car by any means, and it does sound good too, but dynamically it just isn’t there. The rear suspension acts like a pogo over a bumpy road and though I’ve heard much praise for the steering feel I’ve never really trusted it enough to give it much of a push down country lanes. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy driving the car, but rather that it isn’t what I expected it to be. The only gripes I have with the car is that the clutch is quite bad, and that the gearing on reverse means that unless you’re on level ground you’d better like the smell of burnt clutch. I’ve heard the twin plate clutch is a great upgrade so that will be planned at the appropriate time and I will just have to live with the lack of feel that comes as standard.
The Vantage is a special car, and is a special colour too. I’m also happy to admit that I quite enjoy the fact that the typical Aston owner is probably going to be displeased that the car is a ‘tasteless’ colour. It also isn’t an unreasonable proposition as a daily driver as the fuel economy happily reaches towards 24 MPG with ease*, and I made a round trip to Huddersfield and back (450 miles) on a single tank of fuel – with no real effort to conserve fuel until the last 20 miles. I haven’t bonded with it like I have with other cars, but I’m giving it a chance and using it plenty to see if I can dispel the idea that it is very much replaceable.
I will add one last point though – even when the dealer has let me down and frustrated me I have always found Andy Palmer incredibly helpful on Twitter. I find it both amazing and fantastic that the CEO of a company like Aston Martin has time to answer tweets from the ordinary customer like me, much less sort out the problems I’ve had. It is those sorts of actions that really do set a brand apart, so thank you Andy.
*As pointed out by a friend, I do realise that 24mpg isn’t great fuel economy for the average car but it works for me and I find it reasonable for this type of car!