And as for the main event? In short, it’s fantastic. The dog-leg configuration of the manual ‘box might take a bit of time to wrap your head around, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. Its pairing with the AMG V8 not only feels incredibly special for the more intimate and organic nature of the control it allows you to exercise over this magnificent engine, it’s mechanical calibration suits the motor’s thunderous temperament down to the ground.
The shifter itself fills the palm of your hand, its action deliberately assertive and powerful without being overly notchy or difficult to interact with. The movement from first to second gear isn’t quite natural (it can be overly eager to spring back towards neutral, making second easy to miss), but the engine develops so much low-down torque you can skip first altogether and comfortably set off in second.
This particular manual is absolutely more of an acquired taste than most, and Becker freely admits this. “The dog-leg ‘box is a bit Marmite, but the process of learning how to use it provides a rewarding additional level of engagement” He’s not wrong.
The engine, meanwhile, remains as fantastic as ever. Yes it doesn’t feel quite as rapid as the automatic, but a 0-62mph time of 4.0sec is still plenty quick enough. In fact, the familiar sense of frustration that so often stems from feeling unable to use all of an engine’s performance on the road isn’t really an issue here – you feel as though you can use everything in the lower gears without potentially jeopardising your licence. The timbre of its angry, menacing baritone snarl is thrilling too.
Should I buy one?
This is where it gets a touch complicated. At the moment, the only version of the new manual-transmission super sports car you can actually buy is the limited-run Vantage AMR. Just 200 will be made, and they’re priced from £149,995. From around April next year, the Vantage manual will become a regular model, but it won’t be done up to quite the same specification as the special edition.
Our test car was not an AMR version. In terms of performance the two are the same, but the regular cars miss out certain trim finishers, as well as the carbon brakes that come as standard on AMR cars. Somewhat confusingly, our car had these (admittedly rather good) carbon brakes added back on, but Aston was unable to say how much the base model will cost at the time of writing. Considering the automatic comes in at £120,900, it seems reasonable to expect the manual to be somewhere in that ballpark.
That said, there will be a cost associated with making the manual transmission work with this engine. Aston has also said that it only expects a small proportion of Vantage buyers to opt for the stick shift, and that it won’t find its way to any other models. If there is a price premium involved let’s hope it’s not around the thirty grand mark.