Is the new Aston Martin Vantage really better than the Porsche 911?
With a new Aston Martin Vantage booked to test, all we needed was a Porsche 911 to test it against. The British carâ€™s intimidating German rival was delivered early, and we enjoyed a balmy weekend in it where it proved just how formidable the latest GTS model is. By the time we arrived in Wales to meet the Vantage, we were in love.
The Aston arrived late, and with it, drizzly weather. We didnâ€™t even get to see it in daylight until the next day. Early verdict? This is one mean-looking machine, all muscular front end and louche, curved rear. Itâ€™s not conventionally pretty, not like the old Vantage, but itâ€™s certainly head-turning.
Porsche 911 Carrera GTS
Engine:Â 3.0-litre, twin turbocharged flat-six
Transmission:Â 7-speed manual, rear-drive with limited slip differential
Top speed:Â 194mph
Same for the inside. Weâ€™re familiar with the clean clarity of the Porsche layout â€“ this 991-generation car is, after all, going to be replaced sooner rather than later. The Aston aims to look much more modern and dynamic, although in reality, itâ€™s too busy and cluttered to be conventionally timeless. The puffy, overstuffed steering wheel is almost criminal, and the amount of shortcut buttons shows the limitations of the Mercedes infotainment system.
At least the basics are spot-on in the Vantage: excellent seats, perfect driving position, nice-feeling steering wheel paddles. The 911 is predictably perfect too, if not quite as special or as much of an event. The drama of the Aston continues when you start up its 510hp 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, donated by Mercedes-AMG and every but as burbling and amplified here.
Paired with a brilliant eight-speed automatic gearbox, it has relentless pulling power from walking-pace speeds right round to giddyingly high revs. Itâ€™s a real thrill, and complemented by a firm, tight-knit chassis thatâ€™s proudly stiff, and distinctly more sporting than even the 911.
Aston hasnâ€™t gone over the top here. The Vantage still glides where it needs to be, and proves tolerable in town. This newfound focus pays dividends on faster, twistier roads, with brilliant accuracy, loads of agility and a sort of electrifying sharpness that you have the confidence to use because the Aston is also so faithful and planted as you approach the limits.
Aston Martin Vantage
Engine:Â 4.0-litre, twin turbocharged V8
Transmission:Â 8-speed automatic, rear-drive with e-diff
Top speed:Â 195mph (limited)
If thereâ€™s a gripe, itâ€™s that it ultimately lacks that last edge of handling finesse that marks out the true greats. Which is a problem when youâ€™re facing the best Porsche 911 Carrera currently on sale. This GTS is impossibly capable no matter how atrocious the weather conditions, delivering untold feel and feedback to the driver, serving up amazing adjustably and a level of confidence thatâ€™s on another planet.
Itâ€™s a significantly lighter car, so even its lower power output doesnâ€™t factor next to the Aston. This perhaps adds to the better tactility of the GTS; it certainly makes the 911 ultimately feel like the more incisive, more impressive driverâ€™s car overall.
Certainly, itâ€™s a lot cheaper than the Aston. Â£25,000 cheaper, if you pick one with a manual gearbox. The Aston does have more equipment, which eats into some of the difference; but the aged Porsche is still likely to be the more affordable car overall. Itâ€™s definitely the better one.
The new Vantage is an undoubted success, one leagues ahead of its predecessor and fantastically charismatic in a way that will surely delight thrill-seeking owners. The Porsche can still cut it though, which is ominous, because thereâ€™s an all-new 911 on the horizon, and it could be even better still. The fight between these two brands for todayâ€™s sports car honours has only just begunâ€¦