The sweetest dilemma Porsche’s new entry-level 911 or Aston’s raging AMG-engined Vantage? If you’ve north of £600 a month to spend, well, congratulations.
The rules of consumerism, learned since infancy and so fundamental to our world view that its truths are sacrosanct, prepare you for the inevitable feeling of less. After all, Porsche launched the 992-generation 911 in 444bhp Carrera S form (£10k more expensive than this 380bhp Carrera) with good reason: to feel sensational, and to be sensationally fast. Fast enough to demolish roads. Fast enough to make the Valencia circuit feel tight and technical. Fast enough to win a subsequent Giant Test ahead of a McLaren.
Only in the new, non-S ‘base’ 911 Carrera, the feeling of less never comes. Same beautifully resolved, Mauer-penned silhouette. Same de-contented, digi-Zen cockpit. Same palpable sense of confidence and cohesion within the first mile. This, you sense, is going to be good. Muted exhausts and monstrously tall gearing do their best to smother the flat-six’s response, as does the standard drive mode, but flick down to second or third in the flawless PDK ’box and, when the road opens up, there’s no lack of conviction to the way in which the Carrera flies. Traction is scarcely credible. Wet roads, some steering angle – the car couldn’t care less. It will grip and it will go.
The Carrera is every bit as magical as the S. The Aston makes the ordinary feel extraordinary
It’s fashionable to make steering fast and light. The 911’s is neither. Instead it guides the car just as your brain wants, without conscious effort, and while hardly alive it isn’t numb either. Just as the 911’s rear tyres somehow deliver drive like the wet tarmac is dry, so the front axle talks to you as grip fades. And here, when you’re playing, the Carrera is every bit as magical as the S; every bit as alive with malleable 911-ness as the best of this idiosyncratically engineered bloodline. Just as well given that, without the optional (£1646) Sport Chrono pack, you don’t get Porsche’s sweet midway Sport stability control setting.
Is the 911 a GT now, sports thrills sacrificed for refinement? Hardly. It’s just that so thoroughly resolved are the Porsche’s ergonomics, so practical its rear-engined architecture and so effortless its speed that you never really want to stop driving it. So you don’t. And accidentally prove that the 911 is sports car and GT.
And Aston’s Vantage? That’s a sports car. Nearly £800 a month is not a trifling sum. For that much, you’d want your pulse spiked every single time you drove it. And preferably every single time you looked at it. The Vantage does this. It is a very special experience from the moment you get the key in your hand. The Porsche is so fastidiously engineered it does the extraordinary the disservice of feeling almost ordinary. The Aston makes the ordinary feel extraordinary.
The exterior is pure automotive sculpture; the interior a racecar’s driving position swaddled in leather. The AMG V8 is everything all at once; cultured yet uncouth, violent but cuddly. Get moving, on cold rubber, and you’re wheel-spinning before the end of the road. The racket – of exhaust blare and crack, of loony induction moaning – has you in stitches the whole time. And to really drive – to send down a road with the kind of all-encompassing level of concentration that serves as such a powerful tonic to the complexity of modern life – the Aston is fabulous.
The oblong wheel implies quick steering and you’d be right; far quicker-witted than the 911’s. First corner and the nose leaps onto your chosen line like the engine’s behind you, not ahead. And the sense of connection to both axles is so well resolved that, while undoubtedly a little spikier than the Porsche (and with an annoying dead spot at the top of the brake pedal), enjoying the Aston isn’t like tugging a tiger’s tail and blindly hoping it doesn’t bite – you know where you stand.
A couple of years really getting to know this thing? It’d be a privilege.