A tough act to follow

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Aston Martin adds sparkle to an old favourite

 

What does AMR mean to you? Aston Martin will presumably be hoping very much it will conjure images of the 1989 Group C AMR1 prototype, whose lack of success was covered almost entirely by its brutal appearance and thundering soundtrack, and not the disastrous AMR One prototype of 2011.

One day someone will tell the full story of Aston Martin’s least successful racing car, a machine whose short and disastrous history makes even that of the front-wheel-drive Nissan GT-R LM look pretty impressive by comparison. I’d like to know how the programme was funded and why a 2-litre, straight-six engine was thought the best possible configuration for a car designed to win Le Mans.

Although utterly different in concept, both the AMR One and GT-R LM took the same enormous gamble of going down an engineering road so narrow it left no place to turn. So if it turned out to be a dead end, the project died right there. As, in both cases, it did.

But whatever the inspiration, AMR is a sub-brand we’ll be hearing a lot more of in future. Aston Martin has launched it as an entity of its own, offering for now mainly cosmetic upgrades to existing products and a far more bespoke tailoring service than would be available for the standard car. The Vantage is the first to receive the treatment and if you were to observe that such a scheme should help bolster demand for the 12-year-old car in its run-out season, I might call you a cynic but not incorrect.

Just 300 AMR Vantages will be built, 200 with the V8 and 100 powered by the V12 that also receives an additional 30bhp to bring it up to the specification of the 593bhp Vanquish S motor. Sadly a V12 was not available, but the mechanically unaltered V8 still provided a welcome opportunity for a valedictory drive in one of our favourite cars.

The AMR programme provides for a number of colour schemes with stripes designed to recall either recent Aston racing colour schemes or limited-edition road cars. Once you’ve made your choice you can then add a wide range of option packs, mainly featuring carbon fibre interior and exterior trim to create a car that’s highly unlikely to be the same as any other in the world. The good news is that the V8 Vantage AMR costs only £3000 more than the standard car upon which it is based, but that’s before you’ve added any costly options.

The perhaps more interesting observation to readers of this title is that, even after a dozen years, the Vantage – be it AMR or otherwise – remains a scintillating thing to drive. That’s not to say it’s outstandingly capable any more, nor even particularly quick – I expect a 911 Carrera S would make short work of it on a decent road – but it remains as outrageously entertaining to drive as it has ever been. All the stuff you cannot quantify: the sound of the engine, the feel of the steering and the chassis balance are simply outstanding. I found myself hurtling around the countryside, grinning like a loon, right up to the moment it occurred to me that this might well be the last time I drive a Vantage. And then I was rather sad. Of all the Astons I’ve come to know in all the time I’ve been doing this job, it’s probably the one I’ll miss the most.

Of course there will be a new Vantage very soon and those who have seen it say it looks incredible. But for all that and the presumably monster power it will source from its Mercedes-Benz 4-litre, twin-turbo V8, its real challenge will be transferring across the Vantage character intact. As acts to follow go, there are few tougher than this.

FACTFILE

Aston Martin V8 Vantage AMR

Price £97,995 Engine 4.7 litres, 8 cylinders Power [email protected] Torque [email protected] 5000rpm Weight 1610kg Power to weight 267bhp per tonne Transmission six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive 0-62mph 4.8sec Top speed 190mph Economy 20.5mpg CO2 321g/km

 

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