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When the new Vantage arrives in Canada, it will start at $229,200.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

On a racetrack in rural Spain, the clearest distillation yet of Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll’s vision for Aston Martin is thundering down the main straight, hitting 260 kilometres an hour before the first corner. The new 2025 Vantage sports car dives forward under braking as if caught by a giant elastic band, before slipping and sliding its way around the first corner to the giddy delight of its driver.

This was a car designed to entertain, and it does, but entertainment doesn’t always pay the bills. Profit has been elusive throughout the company’s 111-year history, which includes seven bankruptcies and countless turnaround attempts.

Lawrence Stroll became executive chairman of Aston Martin Lagonda in 2020 and has often talked about turning Aston into something like a British version of Ferrari, but that doesn’t mean what you think it might.

“It’s very important to maintain the Aston Martin character. We don’t want to copy anyone,” said James Owen, senior vehicle engineering manager for the new Vantage. “It’s more about the mindset, or the positioning of the vehicles, the bigger investment, the increased technology, increased capability. That all comes at a higher piece cost.”

Perhaps for those reasons, last year the company only sold 3 per cent more vehicles (6,620) than it did in 2022, but revenue was up 18 per cent, owing to higher average selling prices. Customers opted for higher-end models, loading them with pricey personalized options. While the company reduced its operating loss, it was still £111-million ($190-million) in the red and deeply in debt.

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The new vantage is more angry-looking with pumped-up wheel arches.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Behind the scenes, Stroll and others have been laying the groundwork for what they hope will be a lasting turnaround; the first fruit of their labour came last year with the DB12, a heavily revised iteration of the DB11 grand tourer.

The 2025 Vantage is the second heavily revised car in Aston’s lineup under Stroll’s leadership. As the brand’s entry-level coupe, it’s less a rival to Ferrari than to the Porsche 911 Turbo. When it arrives in Canadian showrooms in the coming months, the new Vantage will start at $229,200, up from $172,495 for the 2019 model. Roughly 80 per cent of the 2025 model is new, including everything ahead of the A-pillar, as well as the suspension and bodywork. The new car also attempts to remedy the biggest weakness of the old one: outdated technology.

Seen on the racetrack, it makes a fearsome first impression. It’s angry-looking with steroidal, pumped-up wheel arches to cover a wider footprint. It doesn’t look like the suave Aston Martins of old. While the outgoing model had 500 horsepower, this one has 656. With so much power in a short, wide, rear-wheel drive chassis, one might imagine driving it would be like attempting to tame the hopped-up beast from the movie Cocaine Bear.

And yet, the Vantage turns into the first corner of Spain’s Circuito Monteblanco with a sure-footedness and poise that puts my fears to rest. The engine is brutish, yes, delivering a big wallop of torque at almost any speed, but the chassis is so well balanced, the car practically dances around corners, offering predictable powerslides on demand. It’s not twitchy or terrifying as the spec sheet would suggest, far from it.

And before you assume it’s the electronic stability control taming this rear-drive beast, it isn’t. Switching off stability control entirely – and turning the new, manually adjustable traction control system down until it’s nearly off – only makes the car sweeter and more biddable.

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The hatchback trunk on the 2025 Aston Martin Vantage.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

The new Aston still can’t match the visceral feel of a Porsche 911 GT3, but it wasn’t meant to be a track-day toy like that car. The Vantage is more comfortable on the road. A lot of tire noise penetrates the cabin and there are no rear seats, but the hatchback trunk is surprisingly practical. (Under the trunk lid is a built-in umbrella, because … England.)

As far as performance goes, only the eight-speed automatic gearbox lets the Vantage down slightly. The ZF box offers smooth but sluggish shifts compared with Porsche’s dual-clutch automatic transmission. The paddle shifter’s action is not as crisp or satisfying as it could be, either.

The biggest drawbacks of its predecessor were its outdated Mercedes infotainment system and cluttered cabin.

“Some of the switchgear, or the quality, that wasn’t necessarily there in the older models. They were very pretty. They were very fun to drive, but they lacked some elements,” Owen said.

There’s still too much shiny black plastic in the new cabin, but the overall design is more luxurious (as it needed to be to justify the car’s higher price). There wasn’t much chance to properly test the all-new infotainment system – designed in-house by Aston – so the verdict’s still out on that critical feature. First impressions were of a few annoying design quirks and bugs, but future over-the-air updates might iron those out.

Despite some minor complaints, the new Vantage is certainly the most complete, most competitive Aston Martin I’ve ever driven. (Whether you like the new more muscular design is a matter of personal taste.) The Vantage doesn’t deliver Porsche 911 Turbo-level perfection, but I suspect there are plenty of drivers who are bored with that and searching for something different, less predictable and more entertaining.

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The new Vantage has an all-new infotainment system – designed in-house by Aston - replacing the outdated Mercedes one on the old model.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

At least it’s now obvious where all the fresh investment Stroll has brought into the company has been going. After the DB12 and Vantage, a similarly overhauled DBX707 SUV is on the way, also with the new in-house infotainment system. As if that’s not enough, before the year is up, the company says it plans to launch another V12-engine sports car, as well as its first plug-in hybrid: the mid-engine Valhalla supercar.

“From an investment point of view, and from a resource point of view, it’s probably been the strongest we’ve ever been,” said Owen, who has been with the company since 2013. “In terms of model output, in terms of development projects, this is probably one of the busiest we’ve been,” he added.

Aston Martin has a long way to go before it’s a real rival to Ferrari, commanding Ferrari prices and those sky-high residual values. The British company’s stock has fallen a long way from its initial public offering in 2018, and the firm is about to bring in the third new CEO since Stroll took over.

It’s too early to say whether this turnaround attempt will succeed in the long run or whether the company is destined for an eighth bankruptcy, but at least the new 2025 Vantage shows Aston Martin is moving in the right direction.

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A row of 2025 Aston Martin Vantage at Spain’s Circuito Monteblanco.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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