As­ton Martin Van­quish S Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS

As­ton’s DB11 might have stolen its thun­der, but the gor­geous Van­quish S is still go­ing out with a bang

Car India - - FRONT PAGE - Story: Ben Barry

YOU’D BE FOR­GIVEN for be­ing a lit­tle con­fused about the Van­quish S. Yes, As­ton Martin did re­place the DB9 with the com­pletely new DB11 last year. And, yes, the DB11 is just the be­gin­ning of that new plat­form’s blood­line, with a hot­ter, Van­quish-style ‘su­per GT’ due to land in 2018. But the Van­quish S is not that car. In­stead, it takes As­ton’s Van­quish range­top­per — first launched in 2012, based on the DB9 — and di­als it up to, well, 11.

The Van­quish was al­ready a pretty rad­i­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the DB9 and the VH ar­chi­tec­ture that un­der­pinned it: there was new car­bon-fi­bre body­work, per­for­mance leapt up, the sus­pen­sion was sharper… It was a much more thor­ough re­work­ing than the fa­mil­iar de­sign let on. We rated it highly.

But while it was a very good GT, the 2012 Van­quish didn’t en­gage as well as it could when you re­ally turned up the wick. New boss Andy Palmer and new chief en­gi­neer Matt Becker re­alise this; hence the S. Becker hasn’t rein­vented the Van­quish: with around 800 an­nual sales fore­cast and that 2018 re­place­ment loom­ing, he was never go­ing to get a blank cheque. But he’s made some small changes that add up to a tan­gi­ble, worth­while dif­fer­ence.

These can be summed up as: 1) give the per­for­mance a greater sense of drama and en­gage­ment, 2) move the yaw cen­tre for­ward and re­duce un­der­steer for a more ag­ile, pointier feel, and 3) do this with­out com­pro­mis­ing the ex­ist­ing car’s com­fort. At a whisker un­der £200k (Rs 1.7 crore), it’s a £7k (Rs 6 lakh) pre­mium over the Van­quish it re­places.

In­side you’re struck by some pretty awe-in­spir­ing crafts­man­ship with al­can­tara, in­tri­cate, spi­der­web-like stitch­ing and swathes of Bridge of Weir leather, as well as some pretty aw­ful seats; flat and hard, there are David Browns with more com­fort and lat­eral sup­port. The DB11’s seats are nicer and, of course, it has an all-new in­te­rior with im­proved switchgear, in­stru­ments and Mercedes­based in­fo­tain­ment.

Slid­ing the jewel-like key into the cen­tre con­sole di­verts your at­ten­tion from this. The nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 6.0-litre V12 ig­nites with thun­der­ous rasps and fizzy gun­pow­der crack­les rip­ping from the new quad ex­haust pipes. Blip the throt­tle and it re­sponds like there’s a doc­tor un­der the bon­net rub­ber-mal­let­ing the throt­tle but­ter­flies’ kneecaps. The DB11’s 5.2-litre V12 is very re­spon­sive for a turbo en­gine, still sounds de­li­cious and — again con­fus­ingly — makes marginally more power and 70 Nm more torque, but the S is more vis­ceral in sound, de­liv­ery and feel.

Com­pared with the old Van­quish, power rises from 576 PS to 603 PS thanks to a re­vised in­take sys­tem that gulps more air, and while peak torque of 630 Nm is un­changed, there’s a fat­ter wodge of it spread broadly through the mid-range.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion is rel­a­tively modest lowdown, but that al­lows for im­pres­sive trac­tion given the per­for­mance and the greasy roads we tested on, and by 3,000 rpm a switch is flicked, the V12’s en­ergy perks up, and there’s a more de­ter­mined sonic build up to peak power at 7,000 rpm; the Van­quish stayed a lit­tle mono­tone given the same treat­ment and peaked 350 rpm less spec­tac­u­larly, while the DB11 throws in the towel 500 rpm ear­lier and doesn’t go nearly as When Harry Met Sally when you get there. Plus the S ac­tu­ally feels faster in com­par­i­son to its pre­de­ces­sor than the modest power hike sug­gests; the carry-over ceramic brakes with their feel some pedal and force-field stop­ping pow­ers are cer­tainly wel­come.

A zero-back­lash cou­pling means there’s less slack in the driv­e­line too. Bor­rowed from the DB11, it again boosts the pow­er­train re­sponse, and has al­lowed the gear-shifts to be re­cal­i­brated for a snap­pier re­sponse. The time to ac­tu­ally swap be­tween eight ra­tios is un­al­tered, but they feel faster, es­pe­cially in Sport mode, and the trans­mis­sion is obe­di­ent too: you can drop from eighth to fourth al­most as rapidly as drop­ping ‘heel-and-toe’ into con­ver­sa­tion might clear a din­ner party.

Becker spent a pre­vi­ous life fet­tling Lo­tuses — lauded for sus­pen­sion and steer­ing ex­cel­lence — so it’s no won­der much of his at­ten­tion has been fo­cused on the chas­sis. Spring rates go up 10 per cent all round and the Bil­stein dampers have been re-worked with new soft­ware and a wider spread be­tween Nor­mal and Sport. Becker felt the old car was too fo­cused on re­bound damp­ing, try­ing to keep the car pushed to the ground, and has tar­geted an im­proved bal­ance be­tween com­pres­sion and re­bound. There’s also a new rear an­tiroll bar with stiffer bush­ings for a small but sig­nif­i­cant three per cent in­crease in roll stiff­ness, and ex­tra static rear toe on the rear wheels.

The sus­pen­sion changes — no­tably the rear axle fet­tling — help move the yaw cen­tre of the car forwards, but so too do aero changes: front lift has been cut from 66 kg to 18 kg thanks to a jut­ting front split­ter.

You no­tice the im­proved body con­trol, the sense of the car mov­ing as one piece as you flick it quickly left and right, while still feel­ing elas­tic and cush­ioned. Body move­ments do feel more ruth­lessly cur­tailed than the more leisurely DB11 over quick crests — it can feel like a Bond DB5 with twin ejec­tor seats in more ex­treme sit­u­a­tions — but the voodoo of bal­anc­ing co­pi­ous road sur­face in­for­ma­tion with a sup­ple ride de­fines this chas­sis. I’ll be hon­est, years af­ter last driv­ing a Van­quish in the dry, and in to­day’s pretty filthy con­di­tions, I wasn’t lean­ing all over the front end mar­vel­ling at the re­duced un­der­steer; I need to queue up for another go.

The hy­drauli­cally as­sisted steer­ing feels no­tice­ably dif­fer­ent, how­ever. Which is strange, be­cause the tyres are the same P Zero 20-inch­ers, the rack is no faster and hasn’t been re­tuned. In­stead, it’s all down to the re­vised sus­pen­sion — the ex­tra ef­fort taken to in­duce body-roll makes the still-quite-light-and-del­i­cate steer­ing weight­ier off-cen­tre and, ap­par­ently, more lin­ear. I’m pretty sure it’s more feel some too — not the pins-and-nee­dles tin­gle of the amaz­ing V12 Van­tage S, but tac­tile and more de­tailed than the elec­tri­cally as­sisted DB11 none the less.

No doubt about it, the Van­quish S is now a hugely ac­com­plished su­per-GT, comfy for day-to-day stuff, in­vig­o­rat­ing when you take the long way home and let it off the leash. It’s just that the tim­ing feels out of kil­ter. Pre­sum­ably, that’s all to do with new boss Palmer’s ar­rival and the way he’s im­pres­sively bal­anced the breath­less, quick-the-guests-will-be-here-soon sprin­kling of fairy dust on ex­ist­ing, aging prod­ucts while in­tro­duc­ing new ones. But the Van­quish S would’ve felt much more nat­u­ral ar­riv­ing at least a year sooner. So while I en­joyed driv­ing it very much, I’d put my own imag­i­nary cash into the newer and £45k (Rs 38 lakh) cheaper As­ton DB11, or wait for that Van­quish re­place­ment to put the DB11 back in its place.

Van­quish S is the only As­ton with an all-new car­bon­fi­bre body. So there, DB11

‘Filo­graph’ quilted leather is op­tional and gor­geous, but the DB11 owner gets a bet­ter cabin

Forged 20-inch di­a­mond-turned al­loys are new… but op­tional

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.