Aston Martin doesn't do flair for the sake of flair. So despite the fact that the front canards and big rear wing on this Vantage look a little, uh, AutoZone chic, they serve a real performance purpose. These add-ons also speak to a number of other changes that make the F1 Edition more fun to drive than your average Vantage, though not necessarily a better car overall.
The F1 Edition is Aston Martin's way of linking its roadgoing Vantage to the company's Formula 1 safety car, but it's more than just a look. A full-width front splitter and underbody aero tweaks provide further performance enhancements, and in tandem with that slapped-on wing, these changes account for an additional 440 pounds of downforce at max speed.
More importantly, the F1 Edition has stronger front-end bracing than the standard Vantage, as well as different damper settings, stiffer rear springs and a recalibrated electronic limited-slip differential. The base car's 20-inch wheels are replaced with 21s wrapped in 255/35 front and 295/30 rear Pirelli P-Zero summer tires, and the Mercedes-AMG-sourced 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 also gets an additional 25 horsepower, for a total output of 528 hp and 505 pound-feet of torque.
Point this Vantage down a winding road and it won't take long to feel the improvements. The F1 Edition is tighter and more agile than other Vantage models, with better rear-end balance, thanks to the improved torque distribution, not to mention a lot more grip owing to those Pirelli tires. The larger wheels and stiffer suspension don't make this an ideal car for daily driving -- you'll feel every bump every time -- but on smooth roads, the chassis is perfectly taut. Optional carbon ceramic brakes provide excellent stopping power but are also a costly $10,600 upgrade. Otherwise, my only complaint is that the Vantage's steering is disappointingly numb.
You can't feel the V8's extra 25 hp, and the F1 Edition's 0-to-60-mph time of 3.5 seconds is only one-tenth of a second quicker than the base Vantage. That's all fine; there's more than enough low-end torque to get you moving, and this engine absolutely loves to rev. It sounds fantastic, too, with a different aural character than the bass-heavy rumble of the Mercedes-AMG GT with which this Aston shares its engine. This V8 also pairs well with the Vantage's eight-speed automatic transmission, which is happy to proactively downshift under braking. Oh, and a special shoutout to Aston for getting its paddle-shifter design right, even if the gearbox isn't super-responsive to inputs when used this way.
The F1 Edition is a more entertaining Vantage, but the same ol' problems remain. The toggles on the steering wheel for the drivetrain and suspension settings are hit-or-miss in terms of actually registering a response; I frequently have to tap these two or three times before the Vantage accepts a request. There also aren't any advanced driver-assistance systems to speak of, save for a helpful 360-degree camera system. This isn't necessarily a major issue on a sports car like the Vantage, I know, but Porsche offers a whole mess of tech on the 911 range, so it's worth mentioning.
Technology in general continues to be the Vantage's biggest problem. The 8-inch display on the dashboard runs a version of Mercedes' COMAND interface that's more than a decade old, with bland colors displayed in low-res Arial text. This isn't a touchscreen, so you can only operate the multimedia system via a control knob on the center console. Apple CarPlay? Android Auto? Not here in the year 2010, friends.
Look past the tech and there are several things to like about the Vantage's cabin. The F1 Edition has its own special color schemes, and I love the bright contrast stitching against my test car's black-and-gray getup. Both the leather and Alcantara faux suede look and feel supple, and the seats are as supportive as they are comfortable.
However, there are just as many things to dislike. The air vents are flimsy and feel cheap, there's barely any storage, and the center stack is a huge mess. All of the buttons and controls are scattered with seemingly no real rhyme or reason, making it difficult to find simple things like seat heaters at a glance, especially while driving. All the buttons also have this plasticky texture that is totally unsatisfying to touch. For as nice as the Vantage's upholstery is, the interior is really let down by its details.
That's a shame, especially since the base Vantage starts at a not-insignificant $142,086, including an exorbitant $3,086 destination charge. The F1 Edition hikes that price up to $165,086, and with the aforementioned ceramic brakes and an upgraded audio system, my tester rolls out with a price tag of $177,686. That's a few grand more than the unflappable Porsche 911 Turbo. Heck, even the less-expensive Carrera GTS is quicker and sharper, with a better interior and a lot more tech to boot.
The F1 Edition definitely improves on the standard Vantage formula, making this car much more exciting to drive. But there's no wing in the world large enough to cover up the Vantage's inherent flaws -- cons that, unfortunately, will always outweigh the pros.