Despite sitting at the bottom end of Aston Martin's lineup, the Vantage is a very luxurious performance driving experience. And more than ever, it leans hard on that second part—performance driving—to create one agile, athletic, and downright thrilling drive in the 2023 Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition.
I mean, just look at it. This slender, muscular coupe looks a lot like the Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4, one of the more popular platforms in IMSA and SRO sports car racing. And while it doesn't sport a sequential gearbox, roll cage, or a fire suppression system, its driving experience might be the closest that consumers can get to piloting one of Aston's race cars on the road outside of one of its actual-F1-inspired unobtanium hypercars. After all, it sports similar-looking aerodynamic components as the GT4 car that create honest-to-goodness downforce. That's right, that stuff ain't just for show.
What the Gaydon brand's come up with is quite authentic, engaging, and overall massive fun to drive. And, believe it or not, it's even secured a spot in the Top Five Cars I’ve Ever Driven.
|2023 Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition Specs
|Base Price (as tested)
|4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 | 8-speed automatic | rear-wheel drive
|EPA Fuel Economy
|18 mpg city | 24 highway | 20 combined
|A dream machine for anyone chasing an ultra-responsive sports car high.
Climbing into this serious sports car’s cockpit transports you into a spacious yet comfortably cavernous to be. You feel isolated from the outside world but in a good way—as if you're chilling in a commodious lounge rather than surrendering shoulder, waist, and legroom to live the low-slung sports car life.
It's a very aesthetically pleasing place to be and sports a reasonably sized eight-inch infotainment screen (pronounced “instrument binnacle”) and many, many buttons for configuring drive modes, climate control, and transmission controls.
Contrary to some other near-$200,000 sports cars, the Vantage is very user-friendly. The doors open wide and high, clearing most curbs and making ingress and egress quite easy. Once inside, you sit low and plenty far back in the monocoque, but the hood doesn't feel like a long hill of aluminum stretched far out ahead of you. Instead, it gently slopes downward giving a very clear and unimpeded view of the road ahead. The belt line is high, but visibility is generally good.
The seating position is top-notch, too, especially for tall folks. Its buckets have heating, adjustable bolstering, and lumbar support. They're also trimmed in luxurious Alcantara, which continues on to most of the rest of the interior's surfaces save for some piano black plastic surfaces in the center console and some rich, wonderfully soft black leather everywhere else.
Like its predecessors, the diminutive Aston is a svelte performance vehicle. Between its classic sports car profile, unique and sleek body, extra-wide stance, and yoked proportions, it slots in nicely below the grand touring (or, rather, super touring) DB12 and long-hooded V12 DBS.
Believe it or not, this generation of Vantage has been with us since 2018. Its styling has been debated since day one—after its utterly gorgeous predecessor that'll go down in history as one of the best post-2000 automotive designs ever, why wouldn't it?
But to me, comparing previous-gen and current-gen Vantage styling is like comparing records by The Replacements; Sorry Ma is vastly different than Pleased to Meet Me, but both are decidedly excellent for their respective moments in the band's timeline. Plus, this latest generation's face looks a lot better after Aston ditched the open-void maw in favor of a more conventional-looking grille.
Plus, there are the F1 Edition's substantial aero add-ons. The big wing, rear diffuser, gigantic front splitter, front dive planes, carbon fiber front fender vents—there's a lot going on. To do the F1 Edition bit of its name proud, Aston Martin invested a good amount of effort into making these features work in earnest. Massive tires and barely-fitting carbon-ceramic brakes can only do so much when putting down twin-turbo V8 power.
Speaking of, it's probably common knowledge now that the air-to-water intercooled, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 under the Vantage's hood is sourced from the hands of Mercedes-AMG. The unit found in the F1 Edition produces 528 horsepower—28 more than the base Vantage—and 505 lb-ft of torque. Dispatching all this power to the rear wheels is a carbon fiber driveshaft inside of a torque tube that attaches to an eight-speed ZF transaxle. Then, an electronic limited-slip differential divvies it up between rear 295/30/21 Pirelli P Zero tires that push 255/35/21s up front.
The Vantage F1 weighs 3,575 pounds—nearly 400 more than the current Porsche 911 GT3—but still manages a 0-60 mph run in a claimed 3.5 seconds.
The F1 Edition also gets revised damping particularly in regards to high-speed compression characteristics while sporting an increased rear spring rate over the base car. The latter presumably accommodates the increase in downforce from its massive wing, but the automaker says it's more to complement the front-end's response and sharpen turn-in.
In addition to the Vantage's unique body accessories, you can't help but notice the sheer size of its carbon ceramic brakes—they’re 16.4 inches up front and 14.2 inches out back—with calipers that look like they're half a millimeter away from machining grooves into the 21-inch wheels.
Always Ready to Pounce
In spite of the heft, this Vantage's driving experience felt anything but weighed down. In fact, it's one of the most capable and nimble sports cars that I've ever driven.
Firing it up and exiting my driveway for an initial quick spin instantly revealed two of its top qualities: a wonderfully stiff all-aluminum body and a very quick steering ratio. Steering was incredibly light around town, making the car feel like it could change direction with uncompromising precision at any speed. Where its engine and drivetrain are bolted up have a hand in this, too: The transaxle sits just in front of the rear axle and the entire engine sits behind the front shock towers. Double-wishbone front and multi-link rear independent suspension keep it all off the ground. No matter the speed or scenario, this chassis always felt ready to pounce.
I then headed to the canyons, set both the engine and suspension into Sport+, and pulled on the massive, column-mounted downshift paddle to lock the gearbox into manual mode. The winding, rhythmic corners of Angeles Forest Highway truly came alive at speed. Steering wasn't just sharp and direct, it was as if it had titanium heim joints directly connected between the front hubs and its thick, Alcantara-covered steering wheel. The tiniest inputs translated to minute changes in direction and the entire vehicle followed behind lock-step. It was wonderfully precise, and in no way too twitchy. Calming its suspension down to Sport yielded just an inkling of body roll, whereas it was nowhere to be found in Sport+ and Track. No matter the mode, though, the Vantage’s handling oozes with character.
The valiantly communicative chassis and excellent overall balance made it so easy to feel exactly how much weight was shifting toward each tire's contact patch under big-grin-level (alternatively known as fearful-for-one's-life-level) g-forces. It's a precision instrument meant to calculate clean, smooth driving at high speed. Whenever my inputs were a little over-eager, traction control did a great job of smoothing them out. Grip-wise, the goalposts are moved quite a ways back compared to something like the BMW M2 or Ford Mustang Mach 1. It was so planted and sure of itself at speed and felt more akin to serious hardware like the McLaren 620R.
Initially, the brake pedal was quite firm and didn't have much travel to it, only starting to loosen up slightly after a few braking zones. The massive carbon ceramics needed a decent amount of heat to work properly, which could be a problem for the uninitiated. However, once up to temperature, they had no issue lobbing off tremendous speed, corner after corner, all afternoon long, and with decent modulation.
Upon reaching some uninterrupted, desolate tarmac, I was ready to feel exactly how ravenous the AMG 4.0's tuning was in a straight line. The short-ratio eight-speed was as fun as any ZF auto to click off shifts, and the high-revving, near-lagless turbo-eight was heaven-sent above 3,000 rpm. It was torquey all over—it's a V8 after all—but north of 4K is where it really came alive and stays alive all the way to a hair-too-early 7,000-rpm redline. A 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds is very believable as is that 11.7-second quarter-mile sprint.
I experienced a bit of an epiphany behind the wheel of the F1 Edition: The guiding hand of Downforce. I was shocked at how planted and secure it felt turning into and then slingshotting out of a desolate ribbon of asphalt laid across the Mojave desert's gentle curves. It just gripped, gripped, and gripped some more. I could feel the aero going to work, keeping the rear end perfectly stuck to the sun-beaten tarmac while deep into eyebrow-raising speeds. Slicing through one particular right-to-left uphill transition with my foot braced firmly against the gas, the change in lateral g felt like a roller coaster. It completely got under my skin, and I now yearn to rip this Vantage on track where the floodgates of all this potential can truly be broken open.
The F1 Edition Vantage is easily one of the best cars I’ve ever driven, but it’s not without its faults. The steering rack's variable weight and brilliantly quick ratio were generally always a riot, and it even transmitted a decent amount of the road's surface to my fingertips. However, regardless of mode, I wish it loaded up more in corners—weight didn't change much in proportion to the degrees that I was feeding it. The wheel itself also does not tilt or telescope far enough for my liking, which was a bummer considering how tailor-made-for-tall-folks the rest of the interior was.
The F1 Edition's big front splitter provided a very aerodynamically positive experience, but boy, was it stressful doing my best not to scrape its underside during any regular street driving. There's no nose-lift system, either. Driving up and down even the mildest driveways took a lot of careful, calculated maneuvering.
This was no issue for my track-suspension-toughened spine, but its across-all-modes stiff ride could be a turn-off for some prospective buyers.
Finally, Aston Martin uses a version of Mercedes-Benz' old infotainment in its entry-level sports car, and it's just that: Old. As in, very old and not very intuitive. I had to pair my phone twice over Bluetooth—once for calls, another for music—and even with a massive amount of buttons ready to poke on its center console, it was confusing to navigate at first. I got the hang of it after a couple of days, and thankfully a center wheel made changing between SiriusXM stations a breeze.
But still, all of these downsides are easily outweighed by its upsides; the Vantage F1 Edition is an immensely enjoyable experience for anyone who wants a proper high-end sports car with ravenous power and excellent grip in a brilliantly handling chassis.
Alternative Dream Car
My week with the 2023 Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition was nothing short of brilliant. I spent an obscene amount of money keeping gas in its 19-gallon tank—average observed economy was a hilarious-yet-totally-worth-it 13.9 mpg over 630 miles.
But its high power output, beautiful exhaust symphony, grip-printing aero, and more aggressive suspension tuning make it an immensely potent sports car that’s totally worth the time spent at the pump. Even if its infotainment is a bit stale, the steering wheel is slightly awkwardly placed, and Aston was too lazy to put the hood release in the left-side footwell for us left-hand-driving Yanks.
The Porsche 911 GT3 may get all the glory and fame (and added dealer markup, sadly), and deservedly so as it's a religious experience on track. But the winged, heavy, front-mid Aston can put up and get down as well and is worth any enthusiast's notice. Especially if they're inclined to try something different, or prefer the heavenly noise of a thunderous, turbo-V8 over a high-strung flat-six. Or, better yet, have the funds to park the best of both worlds in their garage.
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