Bond…James Bond: easily one of the most illustrious, industrious and ingenious fictional characters of modern times, one whose unflappable poise under pressure, dapper duds and uncanny ability to attract beautiful women give normal menfolk plenty about which to be envious. But I dare say that James Bond might be just another sweet-talkin’, martini-swillin’ bloke with an accent if not for his cool gadgets, chief among them being his rides. Of them, Aston Martins are his clear favorites, serving as Bond’s getaway car/rolling arsenal in fully half of the 24 Bond movies produced to date. Now, who wouldn’t want to be that guy?
DB10: A Spectre indeed.
For well-heeled Bond fans who’d settle with driving a clone of that guy’s car—sans the rocket launchers and ejector seats, of course—Aston Martin has been happy to build them one. All of Bond’s Astons have been based on production models, after all. Well, except for one: the slinky two-seat “DB10” used in the 2015 Bond film Spectre, a car that I personally think is not only one of the most beautiful Aston Martins ever made, it’s one of the most beautiful cars ever made—period. Sadly, as Aston Martin puts it, the DB10 was a “bespoke creation for a very singular—and demanding—customer.” Curse you, Bond! Just 10 were built—eight for the movie, one for the Bond museum, and one that sold at auction for about $3 million. After those, Aston broke the mold.
Or did it? Turns out Bond’s bespoke baby was actually a design study rendered during the development of the car you see here: the Aston Martin Vantage. As beautiful as it was, the car had several more phases of refinements to go through before Aston determined it was ready for its public debut. Put another way, the DB10 was essentially a test mule—perhaps the most beautiful test mule in automotive history—and the 2018 Vantage was the finished product. In this light, Mr. Bond can be seen as merely a test driver—perhaps the most beautiful test driver in automotive history. Thank you for your service, Mr. Bond.
The DB10 is dead. Long live the Vantage!
And what a product the Vantage is. As much an erotic sculpture as a transportation device, the Vantage is no worse for its extra time in gestation. Seriously, this is next-level beauty here, even by Aston standards. You’ll circle it twice—at least—before pressing your thumb on the illuminated door handles and swinging the door open, which, being this is an Aston, also swing upward in order to clear curbs (and look cool, too). You’ll take in the luscious form, note its perfect proportions and savor its distinct features, most prominently its large grille circumscribed by a protuberant lip—a concession to aerodynamics and engine bay breathing and also the most significant design departures from the pure-of-form DB10. Each ovoid headlamp contains two bright, flower-shaped bulbs, and that’s it for front-end features. Out back, string-like LED tail- and brake lamps define its strong shoulder as they trace the upper edge of the ducktail hatch (yes, this beautiful creature is a hatchback), and mirroring that is a dip in the rear bumper for the license plate, lending cohesion to a fascia that is underscored by a lower diffuser that could have fallen off one of Aston’s Vantage GT3 racecars. I could go on about the flush door handles, turbine-like wheels and the seamless clamshell hood, but you get the point: It’s a rolling aphrodisiac.
The Vantage is a true two-seat sports car, meaning that the seats are mounted just inches off the ground, so it helps to stay limber. But those extra stretches at the gym are worthwhile if they help grant access to the Vantage’s gorgeous cabin with its artful application of hand-stitched, perforated leather swaths between which the aluminum structural components below are occasionally allowed to peek through. My tester had brilliant sport seats with electronically adjustable side bolsters hugging or releasing one’s midsection for drivers of different sizes, or the same driver after a one too many plates of sushi. Leather-wrapped buttons add something ineffable—and perhaps a little naughty—to the experience of adjusting things. If only they were all logically placed. Sigh. On that note, kudos to Aston for teaming with Mercedes-Benz for its infotainment system—a challenging component in previous-generation Astons—since many of its customers are surely familiar with the Benz system’s sensible disc-style remote control device and the high-mounted display screen.
Mercedes also provided the Vantage’s 503-horsepower turbocharged V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission. This is huge power for so small a car (and, not for nothing, it’s considerably stronger than Bond’s DB10); alas, it’s nearly impossible to use all that power without sending the rear wheels a-spinning, which can be great fun if you know what you’re doing and rather terrifying if you don’t. Driven like a gentleman, however, the Vantage is eminently demure with its taut but nicely damped highway ride and light and precise steering. And the sounds it makes are utterly spectacular, and the more spiritedly one drives, the more crackles one gets during coasting. Set it in Sport+ or Track for the greatest aural effect. Save for occasionally touchy brakes, there is little I can think of that could be improved.
And nor can fellow motorists and bystanders, it seems, based on the universally positive engagement this car invited everywhere I drove it. To my great delight, more than one asked “Is that the James Bond car?” And instead of providing the long story of the DB10 cum Vantage, I simply provided the short answer: “It’s better.”
2020 Aston Martin Vantage
Base price (includes $3,086 delivery charge): $156,081
Body style: 2-door, 2-passenger Coupe or Convertible
Power: Turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8: 503 hp, 505 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive wheels: Rear
Fuel economy, city/highway (mpg): 18/24