It’s a curious thing, but the moment I eased myself behind the wheel of Aston Martin’s mean new F1 inspired Vantage coupe I felt myself instinctively thinking: ‘Where’s my crash helmet?’.
Yet I was nowhere near a track and was in fact about to take it out for a spin on a public road.
Though no racer myself – nor ambitions to be one – I’ve had enough excursions on tracks around the globe to understand the pre-drive adrenalin rush and tingle of nerves as you prepare to take on the tarmac.
The look, feel, and aura of this two-seater sports-car was such that it really felt like the real deal far away from the track. And I’d yet to even fire up the engine.
And so it was as I eased myself into the cosseting sports seat of the new Vantage F1 Edition.
This car not only celebrates Aston Martin’s return to Grand Prix racing after a gap of more than 60 years, it is also based around the specially-created Vantage being used as the official Formula 1 Safety Car at races.
The stunning coupe had already drawn a host of admirers parked up at the popular Warwickshire pit-stop café Caffeine and MachineCaffeine and Machine in Ettington, near Stratford avon Avon, which is close to Aston’s headquarters (and those of Jaguar Land Rover) in Gaydon.
The venue has become a magnet for petrolheads and people who just like looking at, talking about and driving cars – as well as car firms seeking an informal Covid-compliant spot from which to safely hand over keys.
Visually the car is stunning, particularly in the fetchingly distinctive Aston Martin Racing Green, mimicking that of the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One team car and the on-track Safety Car.
The athletic looks, aerodynamic wing on the rear, the splitters on the front, the dramatic wheels and a host of subtle styling tweaks really set it off and mark it out as something a bit special.
It looks a real-life full-sized Hot Wheels toy for grown-ups – who’ve now got a bob or two to spare.
It is priced from £142,000 and is around £21,000 more than the standard Vantage which starts from £120,900.
Similarly, the F1 Vantage roadster costs from £148,050, compared to £126,950 for the standard Vantage roadster – also a mark-up of around £21,000.
Time to put the F1 Vantage through its paces…
Firing up the beefy 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine has a real sense of occasion – and causes heads to turn – as the initial energetic burst gives way to a reassuring rumble.
This is not a car for shrinking violets.
And it has more oomph under the bonnet. Power output for the new flagship Vantage F1 Edition – which now sits at the top of the Vantage range – has been increased by 25 horsepower to 535hp.
Burbling my way out under the envious gaze of dozens of al fresco diners at Caffeine and Machine’s many picnic tables, I nodded to the sign which respectfully emplores those leaving the premises ‘Don’t be a d*ck’ and was on my way.
This is certainly a punch-packing and well put together piece of kit that -despite all its power – is remarkably civilised to drive around town and at lower speeds. The engine is linked to an even slicker 8-speed automatic gear-box enabling faster gear-shifts.
Acceleration is scintillating.
That 4.0-litre engine propels the coupe from rest to 60mph in a rocket-like 3.5 seconds. And you feel it.
But the car and steering still feels precise, controlled, capable and rooted to the road.
Astons can be very lively but also a tad skittish, but in this one I felt glued to the ground whether on tight bends or twisty country roads.
Clearly I got nowhere near the top speed of 195mph. But to be honest, if you want to experience the all-out extremes, you can book yourself a track day and go all-out on the long straights.
But it’s gripping on the corners and exceptionally stable.
What also fascinated me was how much of that excitement, agility and dynamism you can still enjoy – within the law – on open country roads and highways, yet still not be fighting the car for control when tootling through small villages and towns.
The open-topped roadster manages the same in 3.6 seconds and 190mph respectively.
But don’t expect to save the planet – it averages just 24.3mpg and CO2 emissions are a hefty 264g/km (263g/km for the roadster).
Aston Martin says the new Vantage F1 Edition is ‘the ultimate expression of performance and dynamism’ and ‘the fastest and most focused of the already sporting Vantage.’
It’s certainly a cut above.
After my spin around leafy Warwickshire it was back to Caffeine and Machine to hand back the car and be on my way, with one last play of the Aston symphony through the exhaust pipes.
‘I enjoyed that,’ I told the Aston team as I reluctantly handed back the keys.
‘So we heard,’ said one of them dryly. ’So we heard.’
News Source: Paul Massey for This is Money.co.uk