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2019 Aston Martin Vantage

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 10/25/2018 Jared Gall

a green and yellow car parked on the side of a road: Third place.© Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc Third place. We were barely 10 miles from the office when it happened for the first time. Another driver slowly rolled by, one eye on the road and one on his phone screen, shooting video as he passed. This happened so many times during the course of our driving week that we stopped counting. Not a gas stop or photo break passed without making new friends, and nobody's first question was about the Mercedes or the Porsche. We'll get to the Aston's personality in a minute, but let's not pretend that the first thing everybody notices isn't this car's looks.

Watching the Vantage in your rearview mirror, you can't shake the feeling you're being tailgated by Aston Martin's $2 million-plus track-only Vulcan. It's got the same gaping maw, predatory squint to the headlights, and broad clamshell hood. And the view only gets better as you move around to the back. The taper of the Vantage's greenhouse makes every other car on the road look like a Winnebago, and the wide hips and outrageous diffuser make it a delight to follow, too. Bright colors like the Lime Essence on this car mute some of the details across that hood, but paired with the naked carbon-fiber diffuser ($10,700, inclusive of the front splitter and side sills), they emphasize just how little bodywork there is aft of the rear wheels. Aston design chief Marek Reichman deserves to be knighted for this.

But even though it's the most expensive car here, the build quality doesn't feel up to the level of the design. Other drivers at the track night commented on the sizable panel gaps around the doors, and the mesh around the $1595 quad exhaust outlets appeared either to be melting or to have been hacked through with a spork. And inside, some of the stitching does a bit of a drunken wander over the panels it holds together. The car arrived at our office with an intermittent check-engine light that came on when we took it easy and went away with a good thrashing-though we find that deeply endearing.

a person driving a car: The Aston’s highlighter paint makes lane markers look drab by comparison. And its fluorescence distracts the eye from the Vantage’s beauty.© Anton Watts - Car and Driver The Aston’s highlighter paint makes lane markers look drab by comparison. And its fluorescence distracts the eye from the Vantage’s beauty.

Because thrash it we did. The numbers show that the AMG is the straight-line champ and the Porsche is the handling master, but they don't tell you what we suspected after our Appalachian journey and confirmed at GingerMan: The Aston is King Hooligan. It's that friend who only makes bad decisions and keeps getting away with them. Even with the longest wheelbase in the test, it feels as if it's pivoting around a single contact patch right in the middle of the car. Like the Porsche, it readily rotates under braking, but unlike the Porsche, it doesn't settle with throttle. The long pedal just freezes the slip angle and then allows the driver to fine-tune it like a Formula Drift driver, the progressive breakaway behavior making child's play out of high-risk tomfoolery. High-dollar, too; we can still smell the smoldering Pirellis. It's not the fastest way around a track-or through the slalom, you'll note-but it's riotous fun.

But that fun comes at a cost, both financial and cognitive. The Aston demands a focus the others don't, and drivers who aren't looking for the Vantage's particular brand of thrills can tire of it. If you want to go even faster, relax a bit while doing so, or do it for less money, read on.

This article is a part of the comparison 500-HP Face-off: All-New Aston Martin Vantage Takes On Mercedes-AMG GT and Porsche 911 GT3.

Second Place: 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe

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