Jaime, Mantle's motoring correspondent, is a lawyer, professional beer brewer…
It was a holiday, and I had hoped to take advantage of the calm to run a few errands. My phone rang, and it was a call from the gentlemen at Aston Martin Manila. A while back, I had expressed interest in reviewing the 2019 Vantage, so they eventually called to let me know that it was available for a test drive that afternoon. I loved pleasant surprises; my errand day had just taken an interesting turn.
An hour later, a bold Kermit Green Vantage arrived at the driveway of my apartment building. I took a moment to walk around it, taking in its curves and details, and there was a lot to like. The winged Aston Martin badges finished in shiny chrome and enamel, the leather interior with color-matched green stitching, the leather-wrapped door pulls, all exquisite details that evoked a sense of quality and warmth that only a hand-built approach could provide.
If I had to compare, I would say I preferred the looks of the new one over the previous model. I found the lines on the 2019 more muscular and predatory. Like a tiger about to pounce on its prey, its stance and shape a hint of the aggression to come. Unfortunately, I was not on a track, where I could set this beast loose.
I opened the driver side door and noticed that it rose slightly upwards as it opened, a nice touch that would prevent accidental door dings. I settled into the driver seat and thought to myself, “This is a lovely place to be.” The seats were set low, but comfortable, and were easily adjustable to offer the perfect driving position. The steering column could also be adjusted to rise or drop, and could be extended closer to the driver if so desired. Everything felt premium to the touch.
If anything felt less than premium, they were the air-conditioning vents: plain and unimpressive, in stark contrast to the rest of the interior. They had limited adjustability, and no matter what I did, they always seemed to be pointed at my face. If anything needed improvement, it would be that.
I pressed the engine start button, and the Vantage rumbled to life. Initially I set the car to Sport Mode with the softest suspension setting, as I had a few places to visit in the central business district, and I expected bumps and potholes along the way. At that setting, the ride was still firm, but the suspension did a very good job of smoothing over any imperfections on the road.
The engine and transmission were buttery smooth, even in areas where I had to deal with stop-and-go traffic. At low speeds, bringing the Vantage to a stop required only the lightest of touches on the brake pedal. Anything more, and the stop became more abrupt. I found that at higher speeds, the brakes were more progressive and easier to modulate.
Parallel parking on the street was a breeze with the 360-degree cameras that could be viewed on the infotainment system. I also noted a surprising amount of ground clearance, as even the largest, most imposing speed humps posed no problem.
The Vantage was powered by a twin turbo 4.0 liter V8 from Mercedes-AMG mated to a ZF 8-speed automatic, with the paddles mounted on the steering column. It emitted a low rumble as I cruised from stoplight to stoplight. As I ascended onto the elevated highway heading south out of the city, I had a brief opportunity to open up the throttle. I toggled the controls to Sport+ and then to Track Mode. The suspension firmed up, and the exhaust note was amplified. As I applied throttle, the acceleration was immediate and linear. The sound of the twin turbo v8 started as a throaty bark, and became a magnificent war cry that sent shivers down my spine as I reached the upper limits of the rev range.
The engine and transmission are mounted on an extremely rigid bonded aluminum chassis. The engine sits low and is tucked into the cabin. The transmission sits just at the rear of the passenger seats, bringing most of the weight as close to the vehicle’s center as possible. The result is near perfect 50/50 weight distribution, which feels so good on the road that it is difficult to describe. The steering is precise and engaging, the level of grip is immense, and yet the rear is endearingly playful. At this point, I can only speculate, but on a proper track, on full Track Mode, the Vantage could be a real track weapon.
Aston Martin is known fantastic GT cars, intended to travel long distances at high speed and in luxurious comfort, and the Vantage can definitely do that.
That afternoon, though, I tooled around the city, picked up some groceries, paid my phone bill, and headed south to visit my mother-in-law—the Vantage was competent, sporty, and fun throughout! What a supremely balanced thing. With the Vantage, Aston Martin did everything right.
I’m dreading picking up the groceries next week without it.
Jaime, Mantle's motoring correspondent, is a lawyer, professional beer brewer and one of the founders of Pedro Brewcrafters. When he isn't brewing beer, he is dreaming of cars, or trying to improve his laptimes at Clark International Speedway.