The New Vantage is getting great reviews from automotive journalists, which is lovely. What isn’t lovely is that car’s front end. It’s divisive at best, and that’s not a good thing. It’s the replacement for one of the most beautiful cars ever made. It shouldn’t be divisive, it should be universally loved.
There has been a decent amount of speculation as to why the New Vantage has the massive, awkward grille. Most people saw it as a way to accomplish two goals: 1) provide a very clear visual distinction between the Vantage and the DB11, and 2) make the Vantage more appealing to younger buyers that wanted an aggressive styling that traditional Aston Martin design tends to lack.
That first goal was obviously accomplished. The New Vantage looks nothing like the DB11. Whether or not they've accomplished the second goal is yet to be seen. A slew of articles proclaimed the New Vantage to be a massive sales success last November, stating that the car was completely sold out for the entirety of 2018. While that sounds like amazing news - and a big disappointment for anyone wanting to buy a New Vantage - it's a bit misleading. Those sales do include customers' pre-orders, sure, but more importantly it includes dealership allocations. All the "sold out" proclamation means is that aside from those pre-orders, dealerships have bought up all of the New Vantages that Aston Martin can build for 2018.
I'm not saying the New Vantage won't be a huge sales success, but the articles published last Fall were incredibly misleading. I hope the New Vantage does prove a boon for the brand. It's just too early to tell.
But I Digress
There are a few things that may hold back sales. The engine in the New Vantage is no longer naturally-aspirated. Rather, it's the twin-turbo lump from the Mercedes AMG-GT. Aston Martin not using an Aston Martin engine has upset a few people, sure, but there are also the issues people have with the engine itself. Some people don't want a turbo-charged engine. Often the complaint is that turbo lag takes away from the driving experience. While I can appreciate that, my thought is, "Have you ever driven a bone-stock 4.3L V8 Vantage?" That engine is naturally-aspirated (no turbos) but it still has a really bad lag due to the sluggish throttle body response and heavy flywheel. The lackluster throttle response of the 4.3L engine may not technically be "lag" in the turbocharged sense, but it's functionally still the same thing: you press the gas pedal and then you wait for the engine to get into its key power band above 4k rpm.
My real issue with the 4.0L twin-turbo AMG engine is that it just doesn't sound good. The outgoing N/A V8 engines (both the 4.3L and 4.7L) sounded absolutely amazing, especially if you open up the exhausts systems. The AMG engine's exhaust, to me at least, is just flatulent.
Another potential obstacle for sales is the interior. I, and many others, prefer the classiness of the previous Vantage. The "waterfall" console of the outgoing car has been replaced by a clunky grouping of vents, buttons, and switches, topped off with a screen with no integration into the dashboard whatsoever. Likewise, the simple, elegant, sporty seats previously used have been tossed aside for seats that appear to have been made in homage to a cheap tennis shoe.
And then there are the disproportionately-small headlights and the ungainly hood line connecting them. The price is also much more dear than the previous V8 Vantage, but that's not terrible since it's performing at the level of the V12 Vantage which was more expensive.
But Still I Digress
Let's [finally] get to the point of this blog post... the front grille.
There has been plenty of debate about the New Vantage's front end. Had the point been left alone, the dust would have settled with everyone accepting their own conclusions about the grille's redesign and lack of traditional slatting. But then, Aston Martin Chief Creative Officer, Marek Reichmann, did an interview with The Drive. He was asked about forgoing the traditional grille design.
And he said this:
Normally I would love to read something like this coming from a designer at Aston Martin. But... what??? The heaviest of the previous Vantage's grilles weighed in at a whopping 3 lb 13 oz. That was the original 8-bar grille. So even by completely removing a "traditional" grille, it would only have saved less than 4 lbs at the very most. That's 1.32 kg - far, far less than the claimed 15-20 kg (33-44 lbs).
For anyone curious, the lightest grille was the AMR grille, which was basically just a hex-pattern plastic mesh, that weighed in at a negligible zero-pounds and 8.5 oz.
The intake system on the New Vantage is different than previously; it looks to be a carry-over from AMG as well. That probably saves a couple pounds (maybe 1 kg) by reducing the amount of intake ducting forward of the wheels. The air boxes are the heaviest part of the system and are still there, though, and higher up from the ground than previously. Great for ease of maintenance, but not for center of gravity. It'll have an incredibly tiny effect on the car's center of gravity, but hey, supposedly a 3-lb 13-oz (or less) grille weighs 33-44 lbs, so let's include it.
The tiny headlights are probably lighter than the previous ones, so let's say a couple more pounds have been saved - maybe another kilogram or two. What are we at now? About 4 kg saved? And we haven't added back in the mesh of the new grille or the huge chunk of carbon fiber used for the grille frame.
The only other way to save weight in the nose of the car is by replacing the front bumper armature with something much more lightweight. The armature is the big, cast aluminum structure at the nose of the car that acts as part of the crash structure as well as the mounting point for the headlights, oil cooler (on the 4.3L), tow hook, intake inlet, and grille. Replacing that with the lightest thing available - the lightweight bumper beam from Aston Martin Racing - saves about 16 lbs. It also would in no way be usable on a production vehicle facing crash regulations in various countries. Rather, it's designed to be used on a race car that has a full roll cage for occupant safety.
But let's just play along and say they did actually use that. It'd give a 7.27 kg weight savings, bringing out total weight saved to 11.25 kg, plus adding back at least 2 kg for the new grille's mesh and carbon fiber, bringing our total weight savings to around 9 kg. Quite a bit shy of 15 kg, let alone 20, and that's assuming they used race car parts where they can't.
And they didn't.
Here's a screenshot from a video of the New Vantage. You can clearly see the front bumper armature is there, and it's the same type as the previous one. It's big, it's cast aluminum, and it rules out that 7.27 kg weight savings the race car parts could have provided.
So where in the bloody hell did they save 15-20 kg with the grille redesign?? Realistically we're looking at 4 kg (or less), and that's taking into account other factors beside the grille, which is the whole point. Just accounting for the grille itself, it's probably a wash. There's no weight savings to be found by replacing a 3-lb part with something that probably also weighs 3 pounds.
If I've gotta be the bad guy here, then so be it. I hate to call them out but sometimes a load of shit needs a good wiping.
Maybe I'm Just Being Cynical
Yeah, I guess you could say that I am. I learned a long time ago that saying, "What's the worst that could happen?" always leads to trouble. After our huge moving debacle, I knew better than to say everything was okay. But maybe I let it slip, because things definitely haven't gotten okay.
A week ago I found out about a serious health issue with one of my family members. It isn't my place to divulge his personal affairs so I won't go into details about it. Point being, I haven't handled it very well at all, and it's weighing incredibly heavily on my mind. My life has been somewhat haphazard, and he's been the only continuity I've had throughout it. The sudden realization of mortality - both his and my own - hit me like a ton of bricks.
It's got me short-fused and agitated, my attention span limited, my mind wandering, and my short-term memory failing. And this at a time when there's so much going on!
But we'll get through it.
Our First Tech Day is Almost Here!
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Our red V8 Vantage project car is currently at BC Racing getting the new prototype coilovers fitted. We'll be picking it up tomorrow and doing a bit more testing. Hopefully the new setup will nail what we want so we can start selling the coilovers!
We've gotten a bunch of inventory out of storage and we're reactivating listings in our online store as we unbox it all and get it packaged up for sale. More inventory will be added as we get to it. We still haven't gotten a new supplier sorted for OEM parts so we aren't yet able to get anything we don't currently have in stock.
I've added a DIY page for removing the rear bumper of the V8 Vantage (still under construction), and will use it as the basis for guides for the rear diffuser, exhaust tail pipe finishers, and a couple repairs.