Aston Martin’s Muscular Vantage Is a Combination of Sophistication and Aggression - Kanebridge News
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Aston Martin’s Muscular Vantage Is a Combination of Sophistication and Aggression

Thu, May 16, 2024 9:12amGrey Clock 4 min

Aston Martin builds all of its cars with a peak blend of performance and luxury. Still, their six-figure creations can lean more aggressively into one side or the other of that simple recipe.

For example, the DBD707 SUV hides a 4-litre V8 engine capable of 697 horsepower, but its overall size and endless creature comforts nuzzle a little closer to luxury’s embrace. The small-batch Valour muscles up on the performance scale with its prized manual transmission and 5.2-litre, 705 horsepower V12 power plant. Meanwhile, the recently redesigned DB12 is the company’s best attempt at splitting the performance-luxury gambit right down the middle.

Amid all of those supercar machinations, the Aston Martin Vantage sneaks away to play as the most performance-centric car coming out of the Gaydon, England, factory. Redesigned for 2025, the US$191,000 coupe reasserts itself as the most dedicated “driver’s car” in a very driver-friendly line. Should this be in pounds first?

During a road drive and speed testing event at Spain’s Circuito Monteblanco about an hour outside of Seville, the new Vantage proved itself as Aston Martin’s most accessible track-day companion.

Aston Martin is the most accessible day-track companion. Aston Martin

A first look at the latest addition to its very elite Warwickshire family pulls the eyes right to the newly extended rear wells that jut out around 21-inch, forged alloy wheels. While widening the car’s haunches, the wheel positioning reduces unsparing weight and gives the new Vantage a much more athletic pose.

Beyond that muscular base, the Vantage continues the modern Aston Martin styling tradition of riding the razor’s edge between aggression and sophistication. While the car’s Italian and Swedish rivals opt for prominent fins and big scoops, Aston’s designers keep the lines low, wide, and balanced from the signature highlighted grille to the understated aerodynamic spoiler.

In the performance specs department, the Vantage now packs an AMG-built, 4.0-litre, V8 twin turbo, front-mid mounted engine, capable of 656 horsepower, and a top speed of 202 miles per house and a 0 to 60 mph time of 3.4 seconds.

According to James Owen, Aston Martin’s senior manager of Vehicle Engineering, if the DB12 is the automaker’s distinguished overachiever, the Vantage is its less responsible, but equally attractive pugnacious sibling.

“The DB12 is a sports tourer and is positioned in the market as a GT,” Owen says. “It’s important for us to differentiate between Vantage and the DB12—to make sure that difference is clear for buyers and enthusiasts”

Owen describes the larger, pricier DB12 (starting MSRP of US$245,000) as more refined, while he considers the 2025 Vantage as playful and passionate. He even uses the word “brutish,” if such a term can be used for a technology-stuffed, six-figure sports car.

“The word that we keep hearing when talking about the Vantage is ‘fun,’” Owen adds. “That’s what we wanted to hear. We wanted to create a car that pulls at the heartstrings because it’s so enjoyable to drive. But, we wanted it to have a challenging character to it.”

Previous versions of the Vantage fit that punkier image. While always built for speed and powerful acceleration, the last couple editions of the Vantage were a little more harsh. The steering seemed more aggressive—demanding more input from the driver. The suspension felt tighter, deliberately transmitting more of the road’s surfaces and imperfections into the driver’s backside. If any current car in the Aston Martin line is a direct descendant of the automaker’s racing pedigree at Le Mans or in F1, it’s the Vantage.

Still, amid all this talk of driving fun and racing performance, Owen is quick to remind drivers that the Vantage is still an Aston Martin— steeped in the company’s signature identity of sophistication as the grownup’s more dignified supercar.

“The Vantage also has that added feature in its wheelhouse,” Owen explains. “Yes, it will respond to a driver pushing it in a racing scenario, but—with the technology we built into the car to stabilise the body at its most comfortable driver mode settings – the Vantage is still a very pleasant place to be.”

In keeping with such pleasantness, the interior of 2025 Vantage bears no resemblance to any race car. Handmade and stitched Haircell Leather stretches in all directions in any color the buyer prefers. The Sports Plus Seats are 8-way adjustable with heat or cooling on demand. The complete infotainment suite featuring the official Aston Martin Audio system from Bowers & Wilkins is a step up from the previous Vantage (and the current DB12).

The interior includes an infotainment suite featuring the official Aston Martin Audio system from Bowers & Wilkins. Aston Martin

Once the internal comforts and engineering feats come together, the experience behind the wheel is a sensual union of car and operator. Acceleration is smooth, yet immediate. The cornering is focused and nimble, and its rear-wheel drive allows for just enough play for the occasional drift at speed in turns.

A key piece of Aston Martin technology makes the Vantage’s elite performance potential accessible to more drivers. The ESP System (Electronic Stability Programme) debuted in the DB12, and the Vantage adopts the tech to its driver mode system. ESP takes information from multiple sensors around the vehicle, feeding the accelerometer data into a computerised concept of the car’s driving conditions and the ability of the operator.

Resulting algorithms react to those conditions, road surface issues, available grip, etc., tightening up the vehicle where necessary to aid the driver and offer as much feel and performance as the given operator can manage.

In its completed package, the 2025 Vantage is aimed at a specific buyer demographic—the driving enthusiast who puts thrills ahead of all-out creature comforts.

“For each project at Aston Martin, we have a customer profile in mind,” Owen says. “They have defined interests that highlight their demographic. For the Vantage, we consider a buyer who is perhaps new to the brand and looking into the ‘entry level’ Aston Martin. That’s a buyer who isn’t concerned with having a backseat or the DB nameplate. He or she thinks performance first and foremost.”


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Wed, Jun 12, 2024 5 min

I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”