A new boss means a new plan for a grand old British brand, and this is how it starts.

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Now under new ownership and with former Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers at the helm, Aston Martin has yet another plan and vision for the future.

The business has had a much-needed reality check over the past 12 months. It has been made much more efficient and pragmatic, and this time, Moers insists, it will build its success from firmer foundations.

Shark-nose grille has been quite extensively rethought (make of that what you will). The chunky frame and mesh grille of the standard car are replaced by vertical and horizontal vanes and a more integrated look. It’s a bit more classic Aston

Having become CEO in August 2020, Moers waited until March 2021 to announce the first car in his plan for the most famously elusive business turnaround in global sports car making – and it wasn’t a million-pound collector’s item or a right-on zero-emissions pariah. It was a better version of the firm’s core two-seater.

The Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition is the new range-topping, series-production version of the Aston Martin Vantage front-engined super-sports car. It’s cheaper than its immediate predecessor (the Vantage AMR) but offers an even clearer connection with motorsport, having been pitched as Aston’s showroom version of its specially engineered Formula 1 safety car.

Months ago, having reviewed all of its current model line-up, Moers’ first challenge to his engineering team was to develop the Vantage to its full potential as a driver’s car, and to make it a considerably faster, better-handling track machine without compromising its on-road performance.

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The resulting car, Aston claims, is nearly 15 seconds faster around the infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife than the regular Vantage, but it hasn’t resorted to a big power hike or a sticky track-day tyre to produce its magic.

Now to find out how much quicker it’ll go around Autocar’s dry handling circuit.

The Aston Martin Vantage line-up at a glance

With all of last year’s 007 Edition specials now built and sold and the manual-equipped AMR versions slashed, the Vantage range is back to four cars in total: two coupés and two roadsters. All have a 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8, which is available in two states of tune.

There’s a dizzying number of leathers you can choose, and just as many exterior colours among Aston’s contemporary metallic, satin Q, special Q, special AML and exclusive Q paint shades. As options, the priciest colours cost £10,995.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Aston Martin Vantage


2 Aston Martin Vantage F1 2021 RT hero side

This, says Aston, is the most track-focused version of the current Vantage since its factory introduction in 2018 – and considering that lineage includes the windscreen-less, twelve-cylinder Aston Martin V12 Speedster, it’s quite the claim. With the packaging job on that 12-cylinder engine effectively already done for Aston’s smallest model, it’s reasonable to assume that Gaydon’s V12 will power a natural successor to the old Vantage GT12 at some later point; but the F1 Edition isn’t that car.

Instead, it’s an exploration of how great the combined effect of incremental gains might be for the Vantage. The car’s mechanical layout is familiar, consisting of Mercedes-AMG’s 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 mounted up front, behind the front axle line; an eight-speed, rear-sited automatic gearbox mounted transaxle style, fed by a carbonfibre propeller shaft; a torque-vectoring, electronically controlled locking rear differential; double-wishbone front suspension; and a multi-link rear axle.

Satin-finish green paintwork matches the look of the F1 safety car and Aston F1 team livery. It’s standard – but if matt- finish cars aren’t your thing, you can have Jet Black, Lunar White or Racing Green in normal gloss or satin finish.

Among the new boss’s first acts was to delete the seven-speed manual gearbox that was formerly offered in the Vantage to cut costs, reduce manufacturing complexity and boost quality, so the Vantage F1 Edition is auto only. Electronic recalibration has increased peak power from 503bhp in the regular Aston Martin Vantage to 527bhp at 6000rpm. Torque peaks at 505lb ft, just as it does in the regular car, but here it’s available over a slightly broader band of revs. (We asked Aston to supply power and torque curves to confirm these gains, but it declined.)

The F1 Edition’s key straight-line performance claims (0-60mph in 3.5sec, 195mph) are the same as a regular Vantage’s, and it has the same 2.93:1 final drive ratio, but Aston claims to have refined the calibration of the gearbox with ‘torque cut management’ for faster gearchanges.

The all-aluminium monocoque chassis has been stiffened across the front end to grant improved steering response and better control feedback. New adaptive dampers with respecified internals have been fitted, which allow a wider operating range of adjustment between Sport, Sport+ and Track driving modes and, says Aston, they create much better high-speed vertical body control.

To the same end, the Vantage F1 Edition runs with stiffer coil springs in its rear suspension than the regular Vantage has, and a stiffer rear anti-roll bar. Both are intended to sharpen turn-in, improve traction and give the rear axle a rate of response more in tune with that of the front one. At 13.09:1, the F1 Edition’s steering is geared the same as the regular car, but it does get 21in wheels as standard (an inch bigger in diameter than on the regular Vantage, but offering the same tyre section) with lower-profile tyres for better grip and feedback.

The full-width front splitter, front dive planes, underbody turning vanes and rear wing are all new, while the rear diffuser is carried over. Combined, they create positive downforce at all speeds but up to 200kg more than a regular Vantage generates at the 195mph top speed.


14 Aston Martin Vantage F1 2021 RT cabin

A combination of black leather with lime stitching and lime-coloured leather accents, and grey Alcantara on the steering wheel grips, seats, door cards and elsewhere, gave our test car’s interior its fresh, extra-special performance flavour.

You can have red, black or grey as an alternative to the citrus-hued upholstery highlights if you prefer; you can also swap much of the car’s piano black gloss trim for carbonfibre trim; and an Alcantara headliner is also available, all as options. But for a handful of F1 trademarked badges here and there, however, that’s what makes the cabin of the F1 Edition different from that of any other Aston Martin Vantage: colour and trim.

Official F1 branding comes as part of Aston Martin’s deal to supply the championship’s safety car, which the Vantage F1 Edition road car closely references.

Is it enough? Considering the modest price premium being asked for the car and the effort made elsewhere, it probably is. But if the Vantage was skating on fairly thin ice three years ago at its launch with some of its ageing Mercedes-sourced display and infotainment technology, it certainly now feels overdue a fairly wide-ranging mid-life interior refresh.

The car’s fundamentals are sound. Its driving position is low, straight and well supported, its controls are well placed and easy to reach, and forward visibility is reasonable enough through the car’s slim glasshouse. (It’s quite poor to the rear, but standard-fit 360deg parking cameras mitigate the penalty somewhat.)

There seems barely a square inch of the forward centre console and centre stack that hasn’t had a button or knob squeezed onto it, and not all testers liked the cluttered layout that results. But you can, without doubt, find the button you want when you need to deactivate the car’s engine starter-generator, dial back the stability control or engage reverse gear, for example; and Aston’s decision to move the Vantage’s push-button transmission controls to a lower level certainly makes them easier to reach than in Gaydon’s other models.

But there’s no mistaking the age of the car’s infotainment set-up, which is now at least two generations behind what you would get in a Mercedes of the same price and doesn’t offer smartphone mirroring of any kind. For a great many Aston Martin customers, and considering this car’s other lures especially, such considerations won’t matter much, but if Aston wants this car to continue to be taken seriously as an alternative to a higher-end Porsche 911 by its less loyal clientele, it’ll need to act to keep it competitive as a luxury sports car.

Aston Martin Vantage infotainment and sat-nav

Aston Martin’s 8.0in infotainment system in the Vantage can’t have much of a future in any model in the firm’s line-up. It’s controlled by Mercedes’ old rotary input device, which isn’t a chore to use and, being partly covered, also leaves the transmission tunnel looking neat and tidy.

But the set offers no touchscreen input at all and limited voice command compatibility, and among its principal advertised functionality in Gaydon’s promotional literature are a DAB/AM/FM radio and Bluetooth audio streaming. Smartphone mirroring isn’t offered and networked services are very few indeed. It’s hardly 21st-century stuff. And it’s not as if Aston Martin is the kind of brand that might engender some leeway on this score, like Morgan, Caterham or even Lotus might.

If the car has a get-out-of-jail-free card, it’s simply that the system, while old, still works pretty well. The navigation system has good usability and clear mapping, and the infotainment menus are laid out intuitively. Audio system quality on our test car’s Aston Martin Premium set-up (700W, £1325) was suitably crisp and powerful.


25 Aston Martin Vantage F1 2021 RT engine

Three years ago, when the Aston Martin Aston Martin Vantage switched from atmospheric aspiration to turbochargers, the resulting improvement made to the car’s real-world, roll-on performance made a big impression on us. Now, of course, we’re well used to the idea of an entry-level Aston that eats Lotuses and junior Porsches like finger food.

While the F1 Edition does much the same, it doesn’t actually do it with much greater appetite than the regular Vantage, though. But that was entirely the point of the boss’s particular brief for this car: big firepower gains were ruled out from minute one.

Despite some carefully adjusted tyre pressures and close adherence to the operating instructions of Aston Martin’s launch control system, our test car actually struggled to improve much on the off-the-line acceleration of the regular Vantage. A 3.5sec 0-60mph claim is made for the F1 Edition (the same as for the regular model). Back in 2018, that wasn't made to look very achieveable by the regular Vantage, which need 3.7sec for the sprint in near-ideal conditions. With the F1 Edition we missed the same mark by only one tenth of a second, as the launch-control programme struggled a little to deal out enough torque to over-rotate the real wheels just so. It wasn’t until well beyond 100mph, in fact, that the Vantage F1 Edition proved meaningfully quicker against the clock than the regular model on which it’s based in terms of standing-start pace.

However, break down the car’s performance into more detail, take away the influence of those bigger rear tyres and slightly bogged-down launch, and you can begin to see where the car’s extra power and torque show. Through many 20mph increments of in-gear acceleration between 60mph and 120mph in fourth gear and above, it improved on the times of the regular Vantage by a tenth of a second, and in some cases by two tenths. The car’s aero kit seems to take a small toll on its acceleration above 120mph, but you wouldn’t know it from the driver’s seat. Extra downforce or not, this is a car that always seems to have every bit as much performance as it can put down, just as a fast Aston Martin probably should.

The V8 engine isn’t exactly an operatic virtuoso, but it’s got effusive audible charm and likeability – and being so genuine to listen to, rather than digitally enhanced in any way as it is by Mercedes-AMG itself, adds much to the appeal.

The transaxle automatic gearbox feels just a little better suited to a fast cruise than being punted around town (when it can occasionally engage the lower ratios a little ham-fistedly), or when being hustled around a track. Aston Martin’s bid to refine the shift quality has had mixed success: upshifts come quickly and cleanly, but downshifts can be just slow and slurry enough to suggest that controlling the transmission’s input speed through that long propshaft can be a challenge.


27 Aston Martin Vantage F1 2021 RT cornering front

This is where Aston’s efforts ought to bear fruit – and they do, especially during road driving. Get the F1 Edition onto an interesting road and it handles like a sharper, more composed, better-controlled and more rewarding sports car than the standard Aston Martin Vantage but, pleasingly, still like a classic front-engined Aston.

The new dampers, more rigid frontal body structure and stiffer-sprung rear axle combine to bring even clearer feel through intuitively paced steering, but it’s the improvement to high-speed body control that existing Vantage owners will really notice. Even if you leave the suspension in its default Sport mode, the chassis adopts a fluent but clipped, neatly controlled ride gait over medium-wave bumps. And at fast road speeds, there is no sense here (as the regular Vantage could sometimes betray in its softer suspension modes) of mass starting to run unchecked; of the rear axle struggling to stay in tune with the front over really complex surfaces taken at speed; and of the smallest Aston suddenly feeling a little bit too big for its own good.

Revisions have given the F1 Edition sharper handling and greater composure than the regular Vantage, with good stability but still the potential for engaging the rear end.

Sport+ damping mode is usable on a smooth road also, increasing the tautness of the body control without introducing much tetchiness. And regardless of the selected mode, chassis response is a shade crisper and handling more precise than in the regular Vantage. The car feels keener and more lithe through tighter bends, settles into longer corners more quickly and shrinks around you that bit more effectively.

Anyone expecting the outright grip level and the fearsome agility of a limited-series Ferrari or Porsche 911 GT3 might be a little disappointed, because the F1 Edition doesn’t quite claw at the asphalt or rotate beneath you like those cars. Instead, handling is a little less darting, and more stable and inert under a trailing throttle, as front-engined sports cars tend to be, although the tuning of the car’s e-diff allows your cornering attitude to then become as animated as you like with power, if you disengage the stability control.

At lower speeds and in terms of rawness, feel and pure agility, then, this car isn’t quite in the league of the latest Ferrari Pistas, McLaren Longtails or Porsche GT cars – but driven to its limits, it’s no less engaging in its own particular way.

On MIRA’s dry handling circuit, the Vantage F1 Edition recorded a lap time only 0.2sec quicker than the standard car managed in 2018, but the way the car dealt with the fast T4 suggests that it has made a sizeable gain on downforce and high-speed cornering stability.

Through tighter bends, our test car worked its front tyres really hard, its optional carbon-ceramic brakes transferring a lot of heat into the P Zero tyres up front and making fine adjustment of tyre pressure critical. A Cup tyre would probably have dealt with the high temperatures much better and resulted in more consistent front-axle bite.

The Vantage’s throttle-adjustable handling is accessible regardless of the condition of the front tyres, though. The way it surfs its way around third- and fourth-gear bends, slewing to ever-manageable slip angles, never fails to raise a smile.

Comfort and isolation

There are no significant compromises to report here. Anyone familiar with Aston Martin’s back catalogue will expect the Vantage F1 Edition to be ready to play the comfortable long-distance tourer when called on, and it surely will.

The car doesn’t feel highly strung in the way it rides or steers; in its quieter modes, it doesn’t trouble occupants with particularly bothersome road or engine noise; and its seats are sufficiently soft and sensibly padded as to be agreeable over longer trips, although longer-legged testers felt they could support your thighs a little better. That exhaust settles to a background hum when you dial back down from Sport+ to Sport powertrain mode, and wind noise is reasonably well controlled as well.

With no glovebox and only a shallow armrest cubby, cabin storage is a little meanly supplied up front (although you do get twin cupholders and reasonable-sized door bins), but boot space is sufficient to take a medium-sized case and a couple of softer shoulder bags – and the forward part of that boot is accessible from the passenger compartment.


1 Aston Martin Vantage F1 2021 RT hero front

Aston Martin has judged the pricing of this car well. Although the model name might suggest otherwise, it isn’t a limited-numbers special edition, so it probably won’t be as collectable as some rivals, won’t have stellar residual values, and therefore would have struggled to sustain a bigger premium. As it is, £15,000 to £20,000 more than a like-for-like-equipped Vantage seems reasonable.

If you’re in the market for an extra-special super-sports car, nothing makes quite as much pecuniary sense right now as the near-depreciation-proof 911 GT3.

F1 Edition’s residuals aren’t expected to rival phenomenal 911 GT3’s but should be no worse than other exotic rivals’

However, by Aston’s own standards, this Vantage’s prospects aren’t as eye-watering as some. Our testing suggests you could also see better than 30mpg on a long, fairly unhurried touring run, allowing you to put nearly 500 miles between fills of its 73-litre fuel tank.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Aston Martin Vantage


30 Aston Martin Vantage F1 2021 RT static

Three years ago, we saluted the emphatic V8 performance and drama, and the charismatic front-engined, rear-drive handling, of the standard Aston Martin Vantage with a 4.5-star road test verdict. Now, in a market in which the 992-gen Porsche 911 GT3 and Turbo S both exist and where the McLaren 600LT has left its lasting mark, the notably enhanced Vantage F1 Edition does a shade poorer.

To some, that may not seem fair; but benchmarks relevant to this car for outright performance, track capability and driver reward have advanced over the past 36 months; and in other ways, the Vantage probably hasn’t advanced enough. The simple truth is the Vantage’s interior needs updating pretty urgently as part of a bigger mid-life facelift.

But the F1 Edition’s refinements have nonetheless sharpened the car’s on-road handling appeal and done similar on track – preserving its naughty-boy adjustable handling without quite putting it on a level with its most purposeful special-series rivals from Weissach, Woking or Emilia-Romagna. For Aston Martin, the supercar-hunting will come later. And given it leaves us with a very likeable sports car with a blend of dynamic lures, that’s fair enough.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Aston Martin Vantage

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.