Walking out of a lift into an underground car park, there can be few sites to make you smile more than, no, great though it is, not a Golf GTI, an Aston Martin Vantage.
It is, to my eyes, gorgeous.
You get behind the wheel, and although it is good to drive, I've always worried that with it's Mercedes sourced engine, it somehow lacks an identity that is all its own.
It doesn't really stand out in the rather well populated, one hundred thousand pound plus sports car market.
Now, however, there is this.
The Vantage AMR, with a crucial new component.
A manual gear box.
Off 503 brake horsepower 461 pounds for the top.
Note 60 in 3.9 seconds in the texting now 200 miles an hour.
Now I can tell you what you're thinking.
The standard car has 505 pounds for talking 44 times.
For more So was that?
You see the am always 1499 kilos, which is 100 kilos less than the standard Vantage, 70 kilos of that is down to the gearbox I mean instead of 70 kilos, it's all sort of here in there slightly community add a bit more, actually for the.
The gear lever and all that sort of thing but overall 70 kilos have been saved by having the main gear box.
However, if they had kept the talk with 505 pounds first, they would need a bigger clubs they needed all sorts things to strengthen it up.
So that would have actually added A 100 kilos to the whole weight of the system which we then left you with 30 kilos heavier car which then you did save 30 kilos from the MR bits and you've been back where you started.
So given that this is not an engine that actually suffers from a lack of torque anyway to [UNKNOWN] all clear.
Now you might think that adding a manual gearbox in isn't actually that difficult really.
I mean how difficult can it be?
But there's actually been quite a lot of thought gone into this.
For a start, they knew from the outset that this car was gonna have a manual gearbox, and that helps quite a lot.
Things like for example for parents who need a big enough metal box to fit the extra pedal in, and there's certainly plenty of room down there.
They benchmark, they market leaders of the company, which you may be familiar with.
I'm sure they come from Stuttgart.
You might have heard from [UNKNOWN] and effectively tried to make them as good as theirs and they've done a very good job indeed.
There are also being changes because of the drop in weights in the past system has changed a bit they've also changed the stiffness To the rear springs they've re-tuned the dampers slightly, which they would've done anyway potentially for an AMR.
But it's all things they've had to think about because of the manual gearbox.
Then you have the fact that you've now got a mechanical limited slip diff instead of the e-diff that was there before.
We'll get on to the driving characteristics of that in a second.
Because of the way Lemsip diff talks up, they've actually had to stiffen the rear anti robot by 20%.
Because the drag, ran down a bit had to be at all these little things that you just wouldn't think about with putting a manual gearbox into a car And of course this engine from Mercedes hasn't had a manual gearbox on it before.
Elsewhere, here well we still got the three different driving most of you got Sport, Sport glass, and then track which is the one where it sounds best because you get all the pops and crackles, for the last.
The sound of this car [SOUND] It feels to me like it's changed slightly.
It seems to be less like the Mercedes applications of this engine.
It seems lower, slightly [SOUND] Not more mute, it's just more refined I think.
Let's talk about the shift itself.
The box is by [UNKNOWN] which is 38% locking under acceleration and 40% locking under coast.
It's a seven street box we have dogload first.
It's not the best shift in the world.
In some respect, it's a kicky first kind of feel.
Just a bit gritty but it's a shift that gets better with time I think and I think that it's the fact that You're just not use to it.
It's a bit like driving perhaps with a center throttle.
It doesn't mean it's actually any worse, just your mind isn't completely in tune to how you're meant to move your feet around the pedal box.
Why is it that the shifter this seven speed feels trickier than a six speed h pattern or five speed dogleg manual?
Well, it's the four planes and well again leaving naturally centralizing, that takes a little bit of getting used to, you need to get accustomed to the various levels of resistance left to right, particularly learning how much pressure is needed to move across the two left hand planes.
30 second in particular, I found a little tricky sometimes.
In terms of springing, that's the shift you'd normally have first second to first in a regular age pattern.
And a normal five speed dogleg box.
Third to second would be the central plane and therefore not trying to pull the left to right, if you follow.
What I do you have to mention though, is this good enough?
There some sort of for Granada or something like that?
Surely they couldn't find a better one.
The first thing I do, I'm one of these aftermarket gear want to get back to us and just look around You do also have something new relating to the gearbox and that is AM shift.
This button just right over here.
So if I turn it on, then effectively it's road matching.
But it also works on the way out of the box.
So if I want to I don't actually have to lift off the throttle.
[SOUND] Just pull back, and it sorts it all out.
However, given the pedals are so well placed, it's actually very easy just to do it all yourself.
It's a very satisfying Gaza Hill and tokenization [SOUND]
Now, you might be thinking, I like the sound of this AMR.
I wonder how many they are going to build?
Well, that's a big job you ask because it's a slightly tricky issue.
However it's not quite that simple.
You see, you might have heard of something called the 59 edition.
The 59th edition is essentially exactly the same as the AMR, but with some extra carbon fiber fillies and a nice commemorative paint job.
They're gonna build 59 of those fairly obviously, but those are included in the 200.
So they're actually gonna be 59,59 additions and then 141.
A mass, clear?
Of course, Aston Martin isn't going to go into all the trouble of developing this car with a manual gearbox just for 200 cars.
Rather is, we all knew Porsche wasn't really developing a brand new 6-speed gearbox just for the 911 R.
So, from next year, you'll be able to order the standard Vantage.
With a manual gearbox option.
Thank you very much for that.
That's my German cousin Henrich, very useful for occasions like this.
We're on some fantastic road Here in Germany, narrow sir famous, all the large focus on the circuit itself, just thought These roads through the woods are just beautiful take for this time of year.
They're smoother than anything you're likely to find in the UK or the average UK b road certainly.
So I got the dampers in [SOUND] Sport plus because that's what they recommend.
And there's certainly a bit of bandwidth below that for a bumpier road, which is obviously good.
Although it's improved with speed, the dumping is fundamentally quite firm and it would be interesting to see how it deals with UK roads that are quite as perfect as these.
The mechanical limits is slightly different than the IMR means the way the rear breaks away also doesn't feel quite as smooth and progressive as with the E diff.
But it is more stable once you're actually sliding Something that is almost unavoidable in the world to help me become more controllable at and over the limit the throttle map has also been kept very linear in sport and track modes.
So what is an overall package is the voltage Mr like to drive?
I think it's pretty wonderful.
It is not perfect, but It's really engaging and it makes you think, not just because of the manual gearbox, which has come to be a little bit tricky.
So you have to think about that.
It's quite It's a very reactive car, it feels like it has a sure wheel base.
The steering for me is perhaps a touch quick.
But, you can get into corners fantastically.
And it makes you think by the way you're driving, it feels Very different.
Really, I think an awful lot of other cars are there at the moment.
A lot of sports cars these days do feel very easy to drive.
It's almost like I'm going to take a picture with an iPhone seem to get fantastic results always no matter what you do.
Whereas this is more like having a DSL or something and.
Tony went to Module it doesn't take more effort and the results might not always be as polished.
The rewards are all getting even greater.
The voltage Mr then is not as dynamic and polished as some of its rivals.
It can feel a little nervous, certainly on the wet roads I experienced, in fact in times it is quite demanding.
It is not a car where you can get in, turn on the radio, and just forget what you're driving.
Part of that need for concentration is the gear shift, but the steering too requires slow hands and the throttle needs careful application But this requirement for real thoughtfulness and focus as regards to driving also makes the Vantage AMR a rare form of escapism among modern cars full of infotainment and connectivity.
There are undoubtedly more dynamic and capable cars for the money, cars with better interiors, cars that are faster.
But with the AMR and its manual box, the Vantage now feels like it has a character or its own and a very likeable character of that.