Look out, Aston. The world’s not short of talented 500bhp, £120k sports cars…
The new Aston Martin Vantage costs £120,900. For that, you get two seats, an eight-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive, and an AMG-designed bi-turbo V8 with 503bhp and 698Nm. Without any fuel or fluids (which is a bit pointless, but we digress) it weighs 1,530kg. Aston says it sorts 0-100kph in 3.6 seconds and 311kph flat out.
Lovely. What a hearty, meat’n’veg set of specifications that is. And just as well too. Because for about £120,000 (RM661,100), there are a great many very talented sports cars available. Some are old favourites. Some are downright old. Some are lairy, others more cultured. But all of them pose a threat, in some way, to the new kid on Aston’s block. Let’s recap the competition, shall we?
1. Porsche 911
Obviously. The world’s best-selling, most enduring, most iconic sports car. The car the old Vantage was benchmarked against, and never quite toppled. It is the definitive benchmark, and even though we miss its naturally aspirated engine and think the 991-gen car is a bit big for a 911, it’s still the go-to all-weather, all-occasion, all-the-family sports car.
These days, a basic 911 Carrera sets you back £77,891, but we’ll ignore that because Porsche’s options list is harder to ignore than a pick’n’mix counter marked ‘help yourself’. Any 911 with some kit is going to cost north of eighty grand.
The new Vantage has been priced quite cleverly, then. The superb 911 Carrera GTS is massively cheaper at £95,795, but it’s over 50bhp down on the Brit. We’ll ignore the £112k GT3, because it’s trickier to get hold of than a greased eel in a barrel of oil, and then you arrive at the 911 Turbo. It’s 30bhp up on the Vantage, but costs almost £8,000 more. Choose wisely: ultimate attack-road pace, or something a little fruitier?
2. Mercedes-AMG GT S
How appropriate. A low-slung, two-seater coupe with rear-drive, a paddleshift ‘box, a button-festooned cabin and… what’s this? The same basic 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 engine in the nose? That’ll be AMG’s take on the Vantage formula.
The mid-range GT S costs £112,060 and spits out 515bhp, so that’s a dead-ringer for the Aston’s target market. However, the GT S is not the best GT. What you really want is the wider stance of the GT C, which conceals rear-wheel steering from the ultimate GT R. The rear-steer tames the AMG’s wildly fast and hyper-sensitive steering, and basically means you can aim for the correct roundabout exit spur without needing the fingertip precision of a bomb-disposal robot.
Right now, AMG’s only offering special ‘Edition 50’ GT C models like the matte black meanie pictured, which cost £138,060. By the time Vantages start hitting the streets, expect that gap to have closed a bit. Could this, and not the venerable Porsche, be Aston’s greatest foe? Powered by the same engine too. Oh, the irony.
3. Jaguar F-Type SVR
Since we’re mulling over swaggermobiles with snarling V8s, here’s a fellow Brit for the Aston to contend with: the ultimate F-Type. Oddly, despite the intent of those initials, the ‘SVR’ isn’t some hardcore nightmare designed for track max-attack and as a result, a pain in the backside on the road. It’s a great GT car. Just as well, as thanks to all-wheel drive and the F-Type’s weight problem, it’s not the sharpest sports car by a margin.
Still, 568bhp for £110,800 is a proper bargain. Smashes the Aston’s power-per-pound ratio, if nothing else. It might even be prettier, if it weren’t for that god-awful wing out back…
4. Lexus LC500
Now, Aston calls the new Vantage its ‘predator’, and has said from the outset that the new DB11 was made soft and wallowy because the Vantage is supposed to be angry and fighty. And at long last, we’d have some proper fresh air between Astons, instead of them all looking and driving about the same.
So, in philosophy, Japan’s 465bhp, ten-speed auto, 1,935kg V8 coupe is far more down the DB11’s line than it is a Vantage fighter. But consider this. The Lexus looks even more striking than both Astons, and it costs £75k. So might it be a cheaper, more everyday-pleasant alternative? We reckon it’s up there with the best sports cars Japan has ever stamped out…
5. Maserati GranTurismo
Lordy-lord this car’s old. It’s actually a strong foundation for immature jokes. Try it yourself: the Maserati GranTurismo is so old they found caveman paintings in its glovebox. The Maserati GranTurismo is so old it’s fuelled with mead, not petrol. Henry VIII traded his in for a horse. And so on.
It’s recently had its seventy-third facelift, but that’s done nothing to cover up the fact the interior is from a time when mobile phones had buttons instead of screens, and it wasn’t fashionable to measure CO2 output in kilograms. Nevertheless, for £95,960 – a healthy chunk less than the all-new Aston – you can score the top model. The 4.7-litre, 454bhp GranTurismo Sport MC Shift. It’s still beautiful, it still makes a great noise and it has useable back seats. It’s just about the oldest new sports car you can buy, too. Cover it in straw and dust and call it a barn-find if you like.
6. Nissan GT-R
Now, we can’t imagine that there are too many folks cross-shopping a brutal all-wheel drive weapon like the Nissan GT-R with the suave, designer-label Aston Vantage. But the GT-R has attained cult status because it is perhaps the quintessential giant-killer, able to tackle 911 Turbos, mid-engined Italians and even American muscle with aplomb. It’s a speed capsule that’s also hugely engaging to drive hard – a proper lump of automotive engineering in spite of physics.
Updated last year with a fresh interior and more power, the current GT-R costs £82,525 in standard guise. There are also Nismo-engineered variants (not the full Ringmeister) for about £100k. Yes, yes, it’s still a lot ‘for a Nissan’. But aren’t we a bit past that old trope now? The GT-R’s a huge amount of performance and reputation for the money. Not that anyone lusting after a Vantage cares. Probably. But we do.
7. Bentley Speed 6
Last one, this. And we’re being cheeky, because a sub-Conti GT, two-seater Bentley doesn’t yet exist. This concept was first shown - to huge acclaim – in 2015, but since then Bentley’s been flat out restyling the Bentayga (with mixed results) and creating the new Continental. And next up that’ll be turned into a soft-top, and a four-door Flying Spur, and the Mulsanne’s not getting any younger… Fair to say Bentley has plenty on its plate. Not to mention turning 100 years old in 2019.
Might a two-seater sports car be the perfect present? Well, the styling certainly says yes, and with the 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 from the Porsche Panamera Turbo in the nose, plus some potential hybrid gubbins, and a projected price of around 120,000, a showroom-spec Speed 6 would be the ultimate Aston Martin Vantage rival. A proper British civil war…
In the meantime, we’ll tolerate no fence-sitters here. On specs and styling alone, which sports car gets your vote?