Expert Reviews

2025 Aston Martin Vantage First Drive Review

Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, father of Formula 1 driver Lance, is the latest in a long line of rich men who’ve attempted to save Aston Martin.

The British car company has gone bankrupt seven times in its 111-year history and has rarely turned a real profit, according to previous CEO Andy Palmer. The fact the company continues at all is a testament to the sheer strength of the brand, and probably also the sheer marketing power of a certain fictional spy.

Aston has yet to turn a profit since Stroll took over as executive chairman of the struggling company in 2020, but things are slowly moving in the right direction. (The company only lost the equivalent of about CAD$190 million last year – a major improvement over 2022’s CAD$243-million hit.) Stroll’s idea is to turn the brand into something like a British Ferrari, not by copying the Italian cars but by aping its business model: burnishing the brand imagine, raising prices, limiting supply, selling more multi-million-dollar limited editions, getting back into F1, and – last-but-not-least – finally making properly competitive cars.

Fixing the Big Issues

To that end, the heavily-revised new 2025 Aston Martin Vantage is the second in a wave of updated models – including the DB12 and DBX707 – that feature all-new cabins and infotainment systems. Those were the two biggest weak points of previous models.

“Some of the switchgear or the quality, that wasn’t necessarily there in the older models,” said James Owen, senior vehicle engineering manager for the new Vantage. “They were very pretty. They were very fun to drive, but they lacked some elements.”

He knows what he’s talking about. He’s worked on nearly every Vantage since he joined the company in 2013.

The firm invested heavily in a new infotainment system, designed in-house. The new central touchscreen is as crisp as the display on an iPhone, and the interface looks slick. But, since our test-drive route through the hills of Andalusia, Spain, was programmed on Google Maps via Apple CarPlay, there was precious little chance to put the car’s new infotainment system to the test. A proper verdict will have to wait.

What’s obvious right away, though, is that the cabin is vastly improved. The steering wheel comes from Mercedes-Benz, but the other switchgear now looks as if it was made for the car and not picked out of an old parts bin and scattered around the dashboard at random. There are no back seats, but headroom is surprisingly generous for my 5-foot-10 frame, and the hatchback trunk means you could almost convince yourself this is as practical as a Porsche 911. (It isn’t.)

Deeper Changes

The 2025 Vantage looks as if it’s been on a steady diet of steroids and working out. The wheel arches bulge out to cover a wider track at both the front and rear axles. The new headlights scowl at oncoming traffic. (Make up your own mind, but I miss the more understated look of the outgoing model.)

Under the sheet metal and carbon fibre, nearly everything has changed. Roughly 80 per cent of the car’s hardware is new, Owen said.

Such extensive changes were costly for the company, as was the new infotainment system, but it shows where the fresh investments from Stroll and Co. have been going. Besides, a revamped chassis is necessary in order to handle the massive hike from 500 hp in the outgoing model to a borderline frightening 656 hp here. Unlike the Porsche 911 Turbo or AMG GT – which, despite all the Ferrari talk, are this entry-level Aston’s true rivals – the Vantage doesn’t have all-wheel drive. All 656 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque go through the rear wheels. There’s no rear-wheel steering to help, either.

Stronger, Faster – More Frightening?

And so it was with extreme caution that I ventured out in the Spanish countryside with the new Vantage. It should be a ferocious machine. The old default driving mode – GT, for grand touring – is gone, replaced by sport mode. The steering is heavy and only gets heavier switching into either sport+ or track settings. The twin-turbocharged 4.0L V8 sourced from Mercedes-AMG pops and crackles on the overrun. Peak power arrives later, at 6,000 rpm, and the engine is hungry for revs.

It feels like the V8’s output is limited in first gear when launching from a standstill (perhaps to protect the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox from self-destructing). Grab second, then third, and the car warps toward the horizon as if pulled forward by some immense cosmic force. Only the vague action of the paddle shifter and ever-so-slightly sluggish shifting lets the car down.

Gradually, the Vantage begins to feel surprisingly friendly. The ride is comfortable given the machine’s ballistic performance and low-profile tires (21-inch rims are standard). On dry pavement, the Vantage never felt as manic as its spec sheet – or styling – might suggest. The steering offers up a decent amount of feedback while still filtering out some road chatter.

Later, on the Circuito Monteblanco, the intimidating Vantage is an utter delight. The car never feels like it’s about to fling us into the barriers, despite my clumsy attempts to drift it like Chris Harris. Turning off electronic stability control, drivers can now manually adjust the traction control through nine settings. (One is fully on. Nine is nearly off.) Set to seven or eight, the car feels even more agile and engaging than it does with all the electronics on. The car works both front and rear tires more evenly through corners, not leaning on the fronts so hard and allowing precise attitude adjustments on the throttle. It’ll slip and slide predictably around a track to your heart’s content. The perfect 50/50 front/rear weight balance and fine level of feedback through the controls mean the Vantage makes a great track-day partner for drivers of all skill levels. To my great surprise, the new 656-hp car isn’t ferocious at all. It’s actually just frivolous, tire-smoking fun.

Final Thoughts

Predictably, all of this comes at a cost. When it hits Canadian dealerships in a couple months, the 2025 Aston Martin Vantage will start at $229,200. Even after adjusting for inflation it’s still a hefty increase over the 2019 car’s $172,495 sticker, but about right to steal sales away from the new AMG GT and Porsche 911 Turbo.

It all fits into Stroll’s plan to push Aston Martin upmarket, chasing profitability and burnishing the brand image. That only works if the products justify higher prices, but the heavily revised 2025 Vantage certainly does.