Aston Martin Vantage (The manual one).


 Let’s see now… First is over and down, and Second is up, across, and up. Third, that’s opposite Second. Fourth is up, across, and up again, and opposite Fourth is Fifth. Sixth is up, across, and up once more. Then there’s Seventh, that’s next to me, straight down, opposite Sixth. When required, Reverse is all the way over to the left and up, directly opposite First. This is going to take practice.

    In world where our headlamps now automatically dip themselves, our windscreen wipers sense the faintest hint of a shower, radars help us cruise, and autonomous cars edge ever closer to everyday reality, the manual gearbox in Aston Martin’s Vantage feels gloriously all-the-more mechanical. There are no paddle-shifters, no software selecting the highest possible ratio as soon as it can. There’s never been a more involving, and at first more challenging, way of making a 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 sing.

    You have to think. You have to concentrate. You have to drive. Get it right, and it feels marvellous. Get it wrong and well, you’re at risk of looking like you bought all the gears and you’ve no idea!

   In a world that currently threatens to turn all cars into anodyne, self-driving boxes that offer little more excitement than switching on the tumble dryer, Aston Martin, they of Royal warrants, hand-rolled aluminium panels, and a certain double-oh Bond, say they are still committed to building their cars - and for the foreseeable future - with three pedals and manual gearboxes. Hallelujah!

    I may have forgotten where First was more than once (Sorry Aston!), but the reality is with 503bhp and 461lbft of torque lurking beneath the Vantage’s clamshell bonnet, even if you do inadvertently shift from Second to Sixth, (I did that too), you may not even notice. Such is the engine’s tractability; any ham-fistedness is simply shrugged-off.  Whatever the gear, the Vantage simply gets on with the job of conveying you, your passenger, and your weekend’s luggage in surprising comfort. Motorway cruising speeds equate to little more than tick-over in Seventh, and as long as you can live with the inevitable tyre rumble 295/35/20 rear tyres create, endless gawps from kerbside bystanders, and low 20s mpg   - as long as you drive carefully that is – you could happily cross continents in this car.

    However, that’s perhaps not quite what Aston Martin had in mind. Capable of 0-62 in 4.0 seconds and, where allowed 195mph, the manual Vantage is very much the super car.  

    You sit semi-recumbent, ensconced in an alcantara- lined cockpit, your knees higher than your bum, Ahead lies Aston Martin’s strangely square steering wheel, beyond that their now Mercedes-Benz sourced digital dash; the all-important gear indicator taking  centre stage. The ride is taut, there’s no glovebox, your feet fill the narrow footwell, and you can’t see the end of the bonnet from your body-hugging seat. Thankfully, because of the Vantage’s beautifully weighted steering (and the parking sensors) you instinctively know where it is.  Driving the manual Vantage therefore is an immersive, all-encompassing experience.

   Pressing the Sport button enables Aston Martin’s AM Shift function, it rev-matches on downshifts, making you sound like a heel-and toeing pro - the resultant cackles from the exhaust are intoxicating. Powering out of a corner is equally addictive; you can make the rear end relinquish its grip even in the dry.

   Yes, you could argue that seven gears is one, even two perhaps, too many, but the thrill lies in the challenge. Drive the manual Vantage in the way Aston Martin designed it to be driven, and rest assured, the rewards, far outweigh the effort.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m just popping out for a bit more practice.


Aston Martin Vantage Manual 

Engine: 3,982cc 32V Twin-turbo V8. petrol

Transmission: 7 speed manual with AM Shift, rear wheel drive.

Power:  503 bhp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 461 lbft @ 2,000 - 5,000 rpm

0-62 MPH: 4.0 Sec

Max Speed: 195 mph

CO2: 285 g/km (NEDC)

MPG: 26.9 (combined)

Price: from £114,850. (As driven £162,375)  


Many thanks to Kevin, Sophie, and Jane at Aston Martin for the loan of their Vantage.



Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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