March 11, 2017
This is an article about a car, but written by someone that loves watches too.
Spending just a couple of days with an Aston Martin is not enough. When it came time to hand over the key – an actual key that you use to turn on the ignition – to the beautiful Stratus White 2016 Aston Martin Vantage GTS, I felt like I’d only just begun to bond with the car and that to have it taken away so soon would leave an emotional void I’d be unable to fill. As such, we’ll focus on the car first, spiced up with some images of relevant Jaeger-LeCoultre watches, and discuss said timepieces – and where they’ve disappeared to – at the end.
My time with the latest and final iteration of Aston’s contemporary icon was a whirlwind. The first bit of driving I did was around Los Angeles late at night, a rather cerebral experience in nearly any vehicle and a truly enthralling one in a vehicle as special as this. There’s no doubt that the Aston Martin Vantage GTS is special, even though it appears quite common when compared to its competition. That Aston Martin has barely changed the design since the Vantage debuted in 2005 is a testament to just how impeccable it has been since day one, and a fact you’re fully aware of while driving it.
So many of today’s special cars attract the wrong kind of attention, but not the Vantage. Credit is due to the proportions of the exterior, such as the short overhangs, heavily raked roofline, as well as the classic 5-spoke “throwing star” wheels that were finished in a bright silver on this example. Little details like a polished aluminum fuel filler cap and front grille in Piano Black add just the right amount of character.
The glares, eye rolls, and death stares that I’m often on the receiving end of when driving a new sports car were virtually non-existent for the duration of my time with the Aston. Instead, I was on the receiving end of many nods of approval, a few upturned thumbs, and lots of indifferent gazing. It is far and away the most understated car in its class – especially in this expensive-looking, but still unpretentious white – a welcome respite from the shouty and overwrought designs that populate the rest of the field.
With my suspicion that the Aston Martin Vantage GTS would make for an excellent under-the-radar cruiser confirmed, I was left to find out what else it did well. As it turns out, not a whole lot – although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After a full day spent driving to Santa Barbara and back, I was no more impressed with how the Aston Martin Vantage GTS drove than I was after the initial couple of hours.
It’s a car to be taken at face value, there is no magical secret you’re going to uncover by driving it on different types of roads or in sport mode vs regular mode, though the former is slightly more enjoyable because it ratchets up throttle response. Lengthy road trips are possible with this stiffened up “Sport” spec, though the “Luxury” spec would certainly be more comfortable. Regardless of which you choose, the cabin will eventually have you feeling claustrophobic, though trimming it in brighter colors might help ease that quite a bit. It will, of course, happily carve up some twisty roads, and the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) will assist you but won’t inspire a huge sense of confidence. Nor will it have you feeling like the next big thing in motorsports like, again, some of the competition will. The Vantage GTS is a classic two-door sports car, nothing more, nothing less.
Rather than attempt to be all things to all people as much of the competition does, the Aston Martin Vantage GTS is content with being one thing: an Aston Martin. It’s still a hand-built British sports car, as certain minor imperfections make quite apparent, but that’s all part of the charm of the brand. Realizing that some interior pieces are a bit out of alignment might distress some folks, but I look at it as being perfectly imperfect, a reminder that Aston Martin incorporates a human touch in their vehicles.
That doesn’t mean that their interiors are inferior to the competition – far from it. The Aston Martin Vantage GTS comes with stylish leather-trimmed seats with patterned Alcantara inserts and a thick-rimmed steering wheel also covered in Alcantara. These are your points of entry to the vehicle, the things that you’re in contact with the most, and both are superb. A genuine emergency brake handle sits between the door and the driver’s seat, and a lever connected to a smooth shifting six-speed manual transmission is found between the driver and passenger. Quick, name another new sports car with a physical emergency brake and manual transmission, I’ll wait.
There isn’t one; Aston Martin is the only holdout. Aston’s CEO Andy Palmer is known for being firmly in the #savethemanuals camp, and beyond his affinity for rowing your own gears, it seems he’s intent on retaining an overall “old school” feeling with the Aston Martin Vantage GTS. During my time with the car, I would tell anyone who would listen how great it is that this is a car you can buy new.
While every other brand is downsizing their motors and adding turbochargers, here’s the Aston Martin Vantage GTS with its naturally aspirated 4.7-liter V8 that makes 430 horsepower and 361 lb-ft of torque. Your neighbor probably has a crossover that boasts better numbers, but I guarantee the Aston makes better use of what it’s working with.
Hammer down on the gas pedal and you’re treated to a throaty growl from the exhaust that’ll make you wonder why you ever considered driving anything other than a V8. Frequent stops to fuel up may temporarily diminish some of that joy, but at the end of the day, the juice is worth the squeeze. If you want to enjoy driving a car in this segment, you’re going to pay for it on a daily basis, not to mention the upfront cost. The Vantage GTS starts at $137,820, and my tester came out to $144,987, which includes the $1,700 Gas Guzzler fee and $2,285 destination fee. That’s a healthy chunk of change for a car that doesn’t appear to be much different than it was ten years ago, but innovation isn’t what you’re paying for when you buy an Aston Martin Vantage GTS, character is. You want affordable old-school? Get a Mustang 5.0.
Otherwise, the Aston Martin Vantage GTS is your only option, and you should take advantage of it while you still can. The next generation Vantage will have a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 borrowed from the Mercedes-AMG GT, further upping the percentage of German parts in the iconic English automobile, which is currently only 20%. It’ll be faster and more modern, but will it retain the qualities that make an Aston Martin such an emotionally engaging car? Only time will tell, but for now, you can make due with the most old-school sports car you can currently buy new.
Okay, so thus far, you had to endure all the teaser images of some very select Jaeger-LeCoultre watches, and here’s why: we spoke about disappearing cool stuff from world-renowned brands, and that just provides the perfect occasion to briefly say goodbye (again) to the Jaeger-LeCoulre Amvox line – a selection of very cool, highly engineering watches that marked the merger of the brand’s Memovox collection with, you guessed it, Aston Martin. The resulting Amvox collection included tourbillon GMTs, world timer chronographs in high-tech ceramic cases, and even “Transponder” watches that could be programmed to lock and unlock your Aston Martin.
Sadly, this collaboration has recently ended between Jaeger-LeCoultre and Aston Martin, making some of the more rare pieces that much more collectible. It was one of the more interesting lines of watches, marking what often was a true technical collaboration between watch and a car industry giants, and it feels that much shorter now that it’s over. What’s left on JLC’s end of the Amvox line? Not much, sadly… Still, to the life-long bucket list, add not just an Aston Martin Vantage GTS, but a matching Jaeger-LeCoultre – at least, many of us certainly feel that way now. astonmartin.com