Aston Martin Vantage vs Porsche 911 GTS
It’s judgement day for the cool new Aston Martin Vantage as it takes on the legendary Porsche 911 GTS
Aston Martin is entering a new era, and models such as the latest Vantage are propelling the British marque to the forefront of the sports car class. At least, that’s the theory we’re putting to the test here.
With a technical tie-up that sees it use an engine from AMG but Aston’s engineering know-how for the chassis, the signs look positive. But to rise to the top the newcomer will have to beat the car that’s dominated this sector of the market for more than 50 years: the Porsche 911. And specifically here, the GTS model.
Following our early taste of the Vantage, Aston’s chief of vehicle attribute engineering, Matt Becker, told us this is the car the company benchmarked during the development process. So with the 911 in the Aston’s crosshairs, can the new model win?
|Aston Martin Vantage
|Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS PDK
|4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
|3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six
|Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
|Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive
|Sports Plus seats (£1,495), Zaffre Blue Q special paint (£3,995), ventilated and heated seats (£995), Tech Pack (£2,995), 20-inch forged black wheels (£3,495), satin carbon-fibre trim inlay (£1,495), black side window finisher (£1,295), perimeter camera (£995)
|Metallic paint (£834), Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (£6,018), rear-axle steering (£1,592), Porsche Dynamic Lighting System Plus (£1,772), park assist front and rear with camera (£1,128), Alcantara Package (£2,391)
Aston Martin Vantage
For: Looks and image, ride comfort, sweet steering matched by muscular powertrain.Against: Not as poised as Porsche, gearbox could be sharper, body control breaks down at higher speeds.
Any sports car should offer a slice of theatre – and that’s exactly what you get from the new Aston Martin Vantage. Swing the long door open and upwards, drop yourself into the low-slung but supportive seat, thumb the pulsing red starter button and listen to that 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 explode into life.
The AMG-sourced engine produces 503bhp and 685Nm, while Aston has tuned the set-up for the character it wanted in the Vantage. That includes replacing AMG’s twin-clutch transmission with a regular eight-speed auto – for better low-speed drivability, we’re told.
However, the Aston does use AMG’s E-Diff, and to great effect, because it’s a key component in the car’s sweet balance. The all-aluminium structure and 50:50 weight distribution help, as does the nicely weighted steering. With all that torque and a great connection to the car via the steering and throttle (response is solid and predictable), the Vantage will play the hooligan and indulge owners in its inherent balance. But focus on tidy driving and it’s a neat, effective performance car.
On test, the Vantage sprinted from 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds, not helped by a lack of traction compared with the Porsche – even though the E-Diff does its best – and slower gearchanges.
This showed accelerating from 30-70mph, where the Aston was half a second slower through the gears, taking a still impressively rapid 3.2 seconds. It’s the shift quality that’s more noticeable; the changes don’t slice home with the precision of the Porsche’s. On occasion you also have to wait for downshifts in manual mode, but it’s a consummate, smooth cruiser in auto.
This is a minor flaw in an otherwise well-executed package, enhanced by the Aston’s GT credentials. On the road in the softest of its three suspension settings the Vantage flows, riding with fluidity that belies its sporting intent. There’s plenty of suspension movement, but it’s comfortable, rounding off bumps and harsh ridges with a good degree of grace.
However, up the pace and this vertical movement becomes a problem. The dampers’ Track mode is too firm for the road, and in Sport it pogos around; increase your speed on a typical British B-road, and the body control ebbs away where the 911 remains resolutely tied down. Even in the Sport+ setting it hops. There’s still lots of grip and you can lean on the chassis hard, but you’ll find it’s not quite as poised nor as rewarding as the Porsche, although it’s still thrilling.
- • Infotainment: Vantage gets the last generation of Mercedes’ infotainment. It works well enough, but trails behind more up-to-date systems.
- • Transmission: Gearbox lets the side down, because the shifts aren’t as slick as in the Porsche, which hampers performance.
- • Cabin: Quality of materials is an improvement over recent Astons, but button-heavy layout is a little confusing.
Porsche 911 GTS
For: Incredible performance, huge reserves of grip and agility, surprising usability.Against: Not as exclusive as the Aston, lacks some of the Vantage’s effervescent character.
The 911 is the barometer by which every new sports car needs to be measured – and for good reason, because despite some significant changes over recent years (water-cooled engines, electric power steering and now turbocharging on all but the motorsport-inspired models), the iconic Porsche has resolutely remained the class benchmark.
This is because of its performance first of all. Our GTS 4 PDK model streaked off the line from 0-60mph in a staggering 3.0 seconds; that was 1.2 seconds faster than the Aston, which was far from slow itself. Although part of this is due to four-wheel-drive traction, the 911’s excellent launch control and PDK box mean it simply slices through the ratios with stunning speed where the Aston feels a little hesitant.
The powertrain isn’t the extent of the 911’s talents, though. In fact, the chassis is easily its equal. Its damping is sublime, which means the GTS always feels composed and planted, even on undulating, bucking B-roads. The level of grip will challenge your bravery, while the feedback from the steering inspires total confidence to do so.
Its poise and balance edge it ahead of the Aston. Even the 911’s firmer Sport mode for the dampers is still usable on the road, more rigidly controlling body movement and tying the chassis down to retain its composure over challenging stretches of tarmac. It’s at this point that the Vantage just starts to lose touch with the Porsche.
The 911 rides sweetly, too; although it doesn’t quite have the plush, long suspension travel feeling and therefore the compliance of the Vantage, it’s still not uncomfortable. The 20-inch alloys thump a little over road studs, but the Aston isn’t immune from that, either, while there’s marginally more tyre roar in the Porsche.
You can drown that out by switching on the sports exhaust. Even though the GTS now uses a 3.0-litre turbocharged flat-six motor, it still has that dry rasp for which the 911 is known and a lovely howl as you extend it towards the rev limiter, overlaid by a faint turbo whoosh.
Like the Aston, it revs with linearity, and although it’s down on power compared with the Vantage, with 444bhp and 550Nm of torque, the Porsche still delivers great flexibility. With one fewer ratio it pretty much matched the Aston in the lower gears from 30-50mph, although it lagged behind between 50 and 70mph due to its torque deficit. It still doesn’t ever feel slow.
- • Infotainment: High-resolution touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay, DAB and satellite navigation included as standard.
- • Transmission: Slick PDK gearbox works with the rest of the powertrain for blistering performance.
- • Cabin: Driving position is great, while the quality of the materials used is superb.
First place: Porsche 911 GTS
The GTS’s ability is simply stunning. It delivers supercar speed for sports car money, and has balance and poise that give an addictive level of engagement. Add surprising fuel economy, decent practicality and more tech at a lower price, and it secures top spot here.
Second place: Aston Martin Vantage
While the Vantage is a stunning car, it just has to give best to the 911. It’s beautifully balanced and Aston has repurposed the engine to great effect, but the 911 has a higher-quality feel, is cheaper to run and ultimately offers a more rewarding driving experience.