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The Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition isn’t a supercar

The Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition carries a very special badge, along with a mix of Mercedes engineering with British style. But is it special?

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If you met me, I hope you’d believe me to be a pretty humble person. I have a dream job, driving luxury and exotic cars, shooting in beautiful places. And if you’d have told me I’d be driving a car like this Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition even two years ago, I’d have laughed.

Well, maybe smiled. Somebody has to believe that this website has a higher calling, and it better be me.

So there I was, driving this thing on the Garden State Parkway, when a blue Dodge Durango (it’s always a Hemi bro) pulls up next to me, hangs out his window, and starts snapping photos. I’ve been in weird things before, but driving a car like the Aston brought out new levels of enthusiasm.

Is it worthy of your lust?

Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition
2023 Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition Quick Take
Get one:

I’m-too-sexy body. Fast, precise and capable. F1 badge looks cool. It’s an Aston Martin.

Don’t get one:

Uncomfortable seats. Astonishingly bare bones tech inside. No DRS. Others offer more speed and power.

Soul Score: 8

An authentic sports car driving experience in an era where that’s becoming difficult to find.

The Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition overview

Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition

What is Aston Martin anyway? Obviously British, and in fact the cars are still made there. A Ferrari competitor? I suppose, but they aren’t really after the same mission. How about a racing team – it is Lance Stroll’s only hope for being an F1 driver, after all.

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A regular Vantage isn’t quite the same.

Let’s focus on the racing, because this isn’t just a plain ol’ Vantage. What you see here is the F1 Edition, and it was developed alongside the actual Vantage pace car used for F1 races. Now, being a pace car in F1 isn’t for pomp and circumstance – you need to pull in front of a pack of 20 of the fastest cars on the planet and hold them at a velocity that keeps their tires warm, but is still within safe limits. Of course, pace cars are street cars, so while Max Verstappen is having a picnic in his cockpit, Bernd Mayländer is driving at 10/10s like his hair is on fire.

All this means that our Vantage F1 here has some meaningful changes to up its performance. And since they’ve partnered with Mercedes to supply the engine and electronics, we get the best of both worlds – German engineering with British style.

Let’s see if it can finish in the points.

Performance Score: 8. DRS disabled

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Make no mistake – the Vantage has enough juice to make you squeeze your butt, flatten your face, and entice your passenger princess to scream. If you never drive another exotic (semi-exotic? Where does that distinction begin and end?) this Vantage will make you very happy.

Otherwise, keep reading.

Engine

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Unfortunately, there’s nothing really “F1” about the engine.

Hey, I know you.

It’s Mercedes’ hand-built M177 4.0 liter Bi-Turbo V-8, shoved into everything from an SL to a G Wagon. Power is upped here compared to a normal Vantage, 527 vs 503, but torque remains the same.

I would love to tell you that Aston has transformed this motor, but that’s not really the case. It’s certainly fast, and with peak power available at 6,000 RPM, revving it is an enjoyable event. Turbo lag is nonexistent, with excellent throttle response that never lets you overpower the wheels (even if you want to). Overall, it’s a magnificent motor – in an SL. But if you’re looking for a Ferrari driving experience, the Aston isn’t going to leave you feeling satisfied. Remember, at this price point and level of exclusivity, we want more than capable – we want memorable.

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The tach is simple, but clear.

Like the various iterations of BMW’s N63, the M177 is a V-8 with a chameleon voice. A little G63 comes through in the Aston at low speeds, but the car really starts to sound unique the higher up in the rev range you go. It’s less “muscle”, more “exotic-lite”. Push it to redline, and that voice turns into a wail that can make grown men cry.

Will you downshift for the hell of it in a tunnel? Absolutely.

By the way, Aston decided to shove a twin-turbo V-12 into the Vantage’s bay for 2023, but only 333 were produced (and are already spoken for). But hey, F1 cars haven’t had V-12s in years…

Transmission

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Pressing buttons to shift never feels sporty or fun.

We can’t really blame Aston for rummaging around the Mercedes parts bin – all the parts are so good. The theme continues with the use of the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic (which everybody uses, not just Mercedes), and I believe it negates the need for a DSG or DCT option.

Once you get used to the silly button layout to put the car into gear, it works well. Pull on delicious, gigantic aluminum paddle shifters with a satisfying tick that offer lightning fast responses, but are also eager to upshift in Tour mode to give you a comfortable ride. Also nice – the paddles are mounted to the steering wheel column, not the wheel itself, so they remain in the same position no matter how you’ve turned the wheel.

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The paddles produce a very satisfying snick with each pull.

The Vantage used to have an optional seven-speed manual, but it’s been dropped, and that’s ok. This car is too quick and responsive to be slowed by a row-your-own box.

Steering and chassis

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The Vantage lacks the sharp edge of other sports cars in its class.

The Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition is a bit more hardcore than a run-of-the-mill example, so we get a reinforced structure up front, along with retuned dampers, an increased rear spring rate, and a reprogrammed electronically controlled rear differential.

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Pro driving instructor Derek took the wheel for a few Monticello laps to help out with these shots. Thanks Derek!

This is about the time where we begin to notice that the extra cost is really for that F1 badge on the dashboard. You’d need to have one finely-tuned tushy to notice the difference the extra ability brings, and Fernando Alonso isn’t part of the package. That said, this car does not kill you on the highway with a super-stiff ride as long as you don’t push the button for Sport +. If you do, the Vantage turns downright violent on anything but glass roads.

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Grand touring in the Vantage is fine – but don’t put it in Sport +.

On track it’s a composed drive, never eager to lose the rear-end in slovenly power slides because you’re more classy than that. Perhaps Mercedes can take some notes from Aston in this regard, because they’ve added a level of eagerness that no current Merc has. A frame made from 70% aluminum doesn’t really keep the weight of the car down (3,800 pounds), but the Vantage feels lighter on its feet than the curb wright suggests. It’s a fun drive.

The best part here is the steering. Nicely weighted, probably one of the heavier racks I’ve turned, which is perfect for the seriousness this car brings. Its direct and precise response is Porsche-level accurate.

Brakes

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These work incredibly well – on track.

Bring along an extra $11,700 when you purchase this car, and you’ll unlock carbon ceramic brake discs. What I will say about them is that they work really well – on track. I’m sure they fade once you reach the sun’s orbit, but no earthly being should find anything but confidence when stepping on the pedal.

But. Unless this will be your dedicated track car (unlikely), you may find they work too well. A light tap produces a firm neck snap. Adjusting your foot’s pressure doesn’t really work; the brakes function more like a light switch than a dimmer. In my week with the Vantage, I couldn’t get the knack of them. Maybe skip bolting them to the wheel hubs here.

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Sum it all up, and you’ll find the Vantage to be supremely capable and a lot of fun in any back road or track environment. There is a soul here to be sure, but it’s hard to stare at that badge, (which must have cost them a fortune to license) and not feel at least some disappointment.

That’s it? For that much?

Livability Score: 3. Bazooka blast

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It’ll perform daily duties just fine.

There’s nothing really wrong with this Aston’s daily drivability. The trunk can fit your weekly ShopRite haul, and there’s plenty of room in the cabin for two.

But using it in this fashion isn’t really its forte, a bit like using a bazooka to kill an ant. Unlike a Corvette, the nose doesn’t have a feature to lift it for raised inclines, making each driveway entrance a butt-tensing moment. It’s hard to find the spot to lift the rear hatch up because of the numerous cuts and swoops, and it’s not power-operated. They do give you a nice leather strap to close it, because British. Also, no glove box because we need to save weight. Sigh.

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Swan doors are a neat trick.

Once you’re inside. Hold on. We need to get inside. Optional carbon fiber bucket seats are here, and they look spectacular – any M3 owner would gladly sell their firstborn for these. But like most pseudo racing seats, they are very low, with big scalloped bottom cushions. I had to get in and out of them a lot to shoot the car, and I never embraced that moment. It’s rough.

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Get in, and maintain your composure. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Ok, now we’re inside. The seats are ok once you get in, but the bottom cushion was a bit narrow for my frame. They certainly are supportive in a track environment, but like the brakes, perhaps uncheck the box if you’re keeping things on civilian streets.

Fuel Economy: 7. Beating a dead horsepower

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Even thrashing it still allowed for decent range.

Treat the Vantage like a normal car, (which you absolutely will do at some point because grandma doesn’t live at the other end of COTA) and discover that this V-8 will return decent mileage. I saw a combined 17 MPG, and up to 22 on the highway.

That 17 includes some “rode hard, put away wet” moments, so there’s really not much to complain about in a sports car with over 500 horsepower. Please never listen to the EPA, which uses the automotive equivalent of dark magic and the Force to find out a pretend number that’s designed to justify the gas guzzler tax and make you feel guilty. It has almost no real-world bearing.

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Hey, it’s almost 2024, and every press car I drive is still V-8-powered. If the electric revolution is coming, they’re going to need a lot of batteries. Better find more nickel.

One other thing. Electric cars don’t really start to turn “green” until about the 36,000-mile mark. That’s when they finally offset the amount of greenhouse gas it takes to produce one compared to a car like this Aston. But you’re not driving this Aston every day – how many F1 Editions will even see 36,000 miles in ten years?

Could it be possible that an electric sports car such as a Vantage replacement will never be able to offset its production carbon footprint? Anyway…

Features and Comfort: 3. MS DOS

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If there’s a major problem with this Vantage, it’s inside. Just doesn’t look like a $200,000 car. And the tech…

Where am I?

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Yup, that’s all you get.

Look at the dashboard and see a tiny screen plopped right on top. It’s framed by what looks like the thing they use on my daughter’s pretend iPad.

Turn it on, and you’ll see graphics from 1992. No Apple CarPlay. No touch screen. Use that damn Mercedes wheel to navigate through the menus. Unacceptable in any car at this price point, boutique or not.

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Steering wheel controls give limited access to the infotainment system.

You also get a digital dash, which is again very simplistic but works much better at presenting information to the driver than some more convoluted means. The start button is dead center and lights up red to nudge you to press it. But it feels like a cheap plastic game board piece from Trouble. You touch this part so much – needs to be glass. I want to get in and hear Evanescence sing “Bring Me to Liiiiiife” in my brain every time.

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Digging around the Merc parts bin.

Elsewhere, it’s a mix of beautiful matte carbon fiber, Alcantara and leather. Cool AMR Lime stripes and stitching are a nice tie-in to Aston Martin’s F1 team. But the overall effect is underwhelming. Take out the seats, and it’s not really a memorable place to be.

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A nicely finished cabin helps to hide some of the sins.
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The F1 badge is tastefully added, never tacky.
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AMR Lime is a nice tie-in to the racing program.

DRS Zone

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A combination of wings and diffusers give the car an aggressive look.

An F1 car shares absolutely nothing with any road car. Even the badge is a decal. But the most dominating thing about the Vantage F1’s exterior, that rear wing, feels like a missed opportunity.

The DRS, or Drag Reduction System, that is equipped on an F1 car sounds fancy, but it works as advertised. In passing zones, the rear wing opens like an airplane flap and drag is reduced, giving the car an extra 20 MPH of speed. The Vantage is all about theater, so shouldn’t it get one of those as well?

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I feel as if this should all be carbon fiber, not painted plastic.
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The F1 Edition gets a unique silver grille.

I see we have black plastic trim on the bottom and for the wing, something Larry from AMMO NYC really enjoyed cleaning up. Swan doors aren’t quite Lambo doors, but are interesting in and of themselves.

Of course, the car as a whole is stunning, and the F1 edition adds butch body work that makes the Vantage look much more aggressive. Better than anything 911 (generic) or Lamborghini (too much Audi) have to offer.

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Swan doors are a nice trick to help you get in.
Aston Martin Vantage
Though the Vantage has a large color palette, the F1 has this AMR Green, white or black only.
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The Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition isn’t a supercar, but it doesn’t need to be

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As I pulled into the gas station for the second time in two days, a young man got out of of his car and walked over, mouth agape.

“Wow. Can I ask you what you do for a living? I’d love to know what it takes to be able to afford a car like this!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that this Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition wasn’t mine. And in a way, I suppose I was driving it around as I please, so I did “earn it”. I was honest in my answer too.

“Do what you love.” Is that the secret? I don’t know. It’s gotten me this far.

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I tell you this story in closing because reactions like this become part of the experience of owning a car like this Aston Martin. People gawk and stare, whipping out their phones. It’s an ego boost to be sure. And isn’t that part of the deal when we throw down a $200,000 check? This car will make you feel good when you drive it, and when people react to it.

Is it a Porsche 911? No. Doesn’t need to be. As good as a 911 is, boy is it a safe choice. Boring too, if you’re walking around on a Sunday morning show.

I bet you won’t see this thing twice.

As long as cars like this exist, with their own distinct personality, I’ll be happy to experience them.

Aston Martin Vantage
Special thanks to the Monticello Motor Club and Derek Leonard for making this shoot possible!
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2023 Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition Specifications

Vehicle Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, two-passenger, two-door coupe

PRICE

Base: $171,586
Price as tested: $206,486

POWERTRAIN

4.0-liter twin-turbocharged and intercooled V-8,
528 hp @ 6,000 rpm
505 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
Eight-speed automatic

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 106.5 in
Length: 176.8 in
Width: 76.5 in
Height: 50.2 in
Curb Weight: 3,813 lbs

EPA FUEL ECONOMY

Combined / city / highway: 20/18/24 MPG

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