First Drive: The Valour Proves Aston Martin Still Excels in Crafting Perfect Cars

Featuring a V-12 engine and a manual transmission, this car is truly special. However, it is reserved for a select few.

When the Aston Martin Valour was unveiled in 2023, it sparked mixed reactions. Some critics were unhappy with the Valour’s limited availability, as only 110 units were produced, making it accessible to only a few wealthy buyers. On the other hand, enthusiasts recognized the Aston for what it truly is: an extraordinary vehicle.

Aston Martin, along with other luxury brands like Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, and Morgan, is increasingly focusing on these limited-edition models. The trend of ultra-exclusive cars is only accelerating.

The Valour is a striking special edition, featuring curves inspired by the one-of-a-kind Victor released a few years ago. The Victor itself drew inspiration from classic Aston V-8 Vantages and a race car charmingly nicknamed ‘The Muncher.’

The Valour’s wide, open front end is a slightly more mainstream interpretation of the Victor’s design. It features a large integrated spoiler at the rear and a grille surround that doubles as a bumper for low-speed incidents while directing air to the Valour’s massive engine.

The rear light clusters are a stylish addition, initially proposed in the 2014 DP-100 Gran Turismo Vision concept. Although it took some time to bring these lights into production, they debuted on the Valkyrie hypercar and now feature in a more practical vehicle. The Valour is a visually stunning car, adorned with numerous retro-inspired details that will captivate your attention for hours.

Since it’s based on the ‘old’ Vantage, the interior retains some elements from its predecessor. The design of the HVAC vents, infotainment screen, and steering wheel have all been updated in the new Vantage, making these older features feel somewhat out of place in a ‘new’ car. However, the open gear mechanism and a prominent starter button are more than enough to divert your attention from these outdated elements.

Beneath the Valour’s exterior lies the heavily modified structure of the previous-generation V-12 Vantage, featuring a 5.2-liter turbocharged V-12 engine that delivers 705 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque. This immense power is packed into a relatively small car.

The Valour can exceed 200 miles per hour, given enough space, and it outperforms the old V-12 Vantage in 0-62 mph times. However, the driver’s manual control means it isn’t as fast as it could be, and for a very good reason: it has a manual transmission.

As manual gearboxes become increasingly rare, Aston Martin has chosen to preserve them for its most discerning customers. While it’s not practical to offer a manual transmission in its mass-market models, for a car with a price tag as hefty as a phone number, the sky’s the limit in customization.

If there’s a surface on the Valour that can be painted, upholstered, or modified in any way, you can have it done. Tweed upholstery was an option that became so popular it led to one fabric producer selling out.

Once you settle into its bucket seats, a gentle press of the Valour’s prominent crystal starter button brings the magnificent V-12 engine to life. The initial bark reverberates through the cabin before settling into a gentle hum. The Valour’s impressive sound might lead you to expect a much larger car, but the concept of a powerhouse engine in a compact vehicle is part of its unique appeal.

Engaging the clutch reveals its surprising heft—not too heavy, but not light either. The moderate resistance provides a refreshing workout for the left leg. The wood-topped stick is satisfyingly notchy with a relatively short throw. As you shift through the gears, the stalk clicks against the metal surround, evoking images of racing heroes and dashing individuals cruising along the Riviera. And then you hit third gear.

A big engine in a small car with lots of torque is a winning combination in any gear, but third gear is where you really feel its power. The acceleration is smooth and relentless, constantly increasing the speed and the numbers on the dash. It’s truly excellent.

Naturally, you can adjust how aggressively the powertrain responds by selecting different drive modes, but keeping it in the most aggressive ‘Track’ mode is likely the optimal choice. Similarly, you have the option to tailor your experience with the dampers, though using them outside their most forgiving setting away from the track would not be advisable.

The steering feels lighter than expected without sacrificing feedback; it’s incredibly smooth and seems to encourage pushing the limits even further. Grip appears plentiful, allowing you to push as hard as you dare through each corner, a challenge both you and the Valour eagerly embrace.

Aston Martin describes this as a driver’s car for those who prioritize the driving experience above all else. While an automatic transmission might be quicker on the track, it’s less engaging. With a six-speed manual, striking aesthetics, and more power than most would need, it’s a vehicle designed purely for joy, aimed squarely at affluent enthusiasts who relish being part of the driving experience.

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  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...

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