New Vanquish a pricey but refined offering
Niche brand Aston Martin survives in part because of its evolutionary policy that applies incremental developments to incoming models, rather than producing a succession of all-new cars. Hence the new V12 Vanquish, successor to the DBS, best known to most as James Bond’s car. Where the One-77 uses a carbon fibre monocoque chassis and aluminium skin, the Vanquish reverses it, the bonded aluminium chassis stiffer than the DBS and housing amore powerful, more efficient normally-aspirated V12 engine, with 421kW and 620Nm put to the rear wheels via a six-speed auto transmission to propel this mighty car from zero to 100km/h in 4.1 dramatic seconds. The drama comes not just from its power but the soundtrack. Press the sport button to access increased vigour and open valves in the exhaust that deliver a heady shot of testosterone to the soundtrack. Given this is a GT car – designed to deliver distance-eating comfort in a sporty package rather than hard-core sports performance – it’s no surprise that Vanquish feels more refined than the DBS. But it also handles better, the suspension coping with the big hits of our luridly bumpy test route, all but erasing the sharp ones and adding phenomenal grip to handle corners with confidence-inspiring surety. Carbon ceramic brakes haul you up with necksnapping force but without the aural drama of earlier generations.
There was plenty of show at the international launch, set at the privatelyowned Tyringham Hall, with its team of butlers and cooks, and its fabulous collection of art. Parked round the oval driveway’s fountain were six of the $430,000 cars, each with a route book taking us through 150 kilometres of back lanes to lunch at Newmarket’s jockey club, before an equally challenging return. Then there’s the car itself. A single unpainted version revealed the full carbon fibre shell in all its highlylacquered glory, complete with a rear boot-top ‘‘duct’’ that resembles a spoiler but is part of the one-piece moulding to help create downforce at speed. Inside, there are lashings of leather, blissfully comfortable seats further developed from the Rapide’s, an extensive specification list and a gorgeous glass-smooth dash into which you insert the glass key – and yes, fingerprints do accumulate fast.
Aston’s designers and engineers must walk a fine line to create a car that feels both devastatingly quick and comfortable over long distances. The carbon skin saves 6kg and allows the shaping of one-piece panels which couldn’t be built of sheet metals; the engine-bay cross-brace is now one piece, not two; a double-clutch auto would add 30kg and an eight-speeder feel too busy, while this car needs just second-tofourth gears to access the meat of the torque for smooth and rapid delivery. Small improvements on each model are used to help develop the next, simplifying the process for a small company that relies on an exclusive flavour for part of its appeal.
To Aston’s design team for creating a faster, stiffer, more powerful, betterhandling car that’s also more comfortable and refined, a difficult balance to achieve. As is the combination of quiet cabin while cruising, and testosterone-addled roar under acceleration.
The car costs $430,000 in New Zealand – at that price it should be good.
Skilful refinement: The Aston Martin Vanquish