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Does Aston Martin F1 Vantage lead the pack? We try its latest model

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.

Leading the pack? We test Aston Martin’s latest road model, which is based on the F1 safety car

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 F1 Vantage is from £142,000 - costing £21,000 more than the standard Vantage

The F1 Vantage is from £142,000 – costing £21,000 more than the standard Vantage 

Ray Massey visited the popular Warwickshire pit-stop café Caffeine and Machine  in Ettington, near Stratford avon Avon, to test the new Aston Martin

Ray Massey visited the popular Warwickshire pit-stop café Caffeine and Machine  in Ettington, near Stratford avon Avon, to test the new Aston Martin

This is the view Lewis Hamilton sees before every race as the Aston Martin F1 Vantage leads the field on the formation lap

This is the view Lewis Hamilton sees before every race as the Aston Martin F1 Vantage leads the field on the formation lap

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.

An F1 Vantage roadster is also available, priced from £148,050, compared to £126,950 for the standard Vantage roadster

An F1 Vantage roadster is also available, priced from £148,050, compared to £126,950 for the standard Vantage roadster

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

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

Under the bonnet is a 4.0-litre engine that propels the coupe from rest to 60mph in a rocket-like 3.5 seconds

Under the bonnet is a 4.0-litre engine that propels the coupe from rest to 60mph in a rocket-like 3.5 seconds

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.

Will it fit in my garage?Aston Martin F1 Vantage 

Price: Coupe: from £142,000 Roadster: from £148,050

Length: 4,490mm

Width (in mirrors): 2,153mm

Height: 1,274mm 

Doors: 2 Seats: 2

Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8

Power: 535hp (increased 25hp)

Gears: 8-speed automatic

Top speed: 195mph (190mph roadster)

0-60mph: 3.5 seconds (3.6 seconds roadster)

0-62mph (100km/hr): 3.6 seconds (3.7 seconds)

Fuel economy: 24.3mpg

CO2 emissions: 264g/km (263g/km for the roadster).

Wheels: 21-inch

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).

The interior features new Obsidian Black Leather and Phantom Grey Alcantara upholstery and trim, with a choice of Lime Green, Obsidian Black, Wolf Grey or Spicy Red contrast stripe and stitching

The interior features new Obsidian Black Leather and Phantom Grey Alcantara upholstery and trim, with a choice of Lime Green, Obsidian Black, Wolf Grey or Spicy Red contrast stripe and stitching

Racing bucket seats and a flat-bottomed F1-style wheel makes the F1 Vantage feel very sporty

Racing bucket seats and a flat-bottomed F1-style wheel makes the F1 Vantage feel very sporty

Don’t expect it to save the planet – it averages just 24.3mpg and CO2 emissions are a hefty 264g/km (263g/km for the roadster)

Don’t expect it to save the planet – it averages just 24.3mpg and CO2 emissions are a hefty 264g/km (263g/km for the roadster)

The first Aston Martin launched under the watchful eye of a new boss 

The new Vantage F1 Edition coupe and matching roadster are the first new Aston Martin variants to be created under the direction of the company’s new chief executive and task-master Tobias Moers, imported from running Mercedes-Benz’s performance arm AMG.

He set some tough performance and engineering goals for his UK team, but happily has not lost the rumbling British bulldog spirit that marks Aston out. Long may that be the case.

Plans for the new uprated and F1-inspired two-door two-seater Vantage were disclosed exclusively by This is Money when Aston Martin unveiled its new F1 race car – with the help of 007 actor Daniel Craig and former Bond actress Gemma Arterton – and which made its debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Significant improvements have been made to the chassis, aerodynamics, suspension, steering and ‘driver-feel'

Significant improvements have been made to the chassis, aerodynamics, suspension, steering and ‘driver-feel’

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

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

Steering still feels precise, controlled, capable and rooted to the road

Steering still feels precise, controlled, capable and rooted to the road

Specially-created Pirelli tyres have been increased for the first-time to 21-inch (from the standard 20-inch) on a Vantage.

Significant improvements have been made to the chassis, aerodynamics, suspension, steering and ‘driver-feel.’

Other enhancements include a comprehensive new aero kit a full-width front splitter, front dive planes, underbody turning vanes, and a new rear wing. 

Together this delivering positive front and rear downforce – totalling 200kg more downforce than Vantage at top speed, says Aston Martin.

Exterior paint colours are available in both a satin or gloss finish. As well as my Aston Martin Racing Green, other options include Jet Black and Lunar White, complimented by a solid matte dark grey racing graphic.

The interior features new Obsidian Black Leather and Phantom Grey Alcantara upholstery and trim, with a choice of Lime Green, Obsidian Black, Wolf Grey or Spicy Red contrast stripe and stitching.

Exterior paint colours are available in both a satin or gloss finish. As well as my Aston Martin Racing Green, other options include Jet Black and Lunar White, complimented by a solid matte dark grey racing graphic

Exterior paint colours are available in both a satin or gloss finish. As well as my Aston Martin Racing Green, other options include Jet Black and Lunar White, complimented by a solid matte dark grey racing graphic

The Vantage F1 Edition is further distinguished by its vaned grille as standard, 2x2 Twill carbon fibre exterior detailing, unique graphics, quad exhausts and a new design of Satin Black Diamond Turned 21” alloy wheel

The Vantage F1 Edition is further distinguished by its vaned grille as standard, 2×2 Twill carbon fibre exterior detailing, unique graphics, quad exhausts and a new design of Satin Black Diamond Turned 21” alloy wheel

Other enhancements include a comprehensive new aero kit a full-width front splitter, front dive planes, underbody turning vanes, and a new rear wing

Other enhancements include a comprehensive new aero kit a full-width front splitter, front dive planes, underbody turning vanes, and a new rear wing

The Vantage F1 Edition is further distinguished by its vaned grille as standard, 2×2 Twill carbon fibre exterior detailing, unique graphics, quad exhausts and a new design of Satin Black Diamond Turned 21” alloy wheel.

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.’ 

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