‘The V12 Vantage is a car that requires skill, commitment and self-control to truly master’
(now acknowledged to have been more powerful even than the official claimed figures), it is a wondrous combination of big-capacity muscle and searing top-end fire. The noise is otherworldly; a brittle bellow that shreds the air and fills the car, for the V12 sits so far back in the chassis that four cylinders are behind the base of the windscreen.
You need to take great care when the tyres are cold, for they are no match for the motor until the compounds have woken up. Squeeze too greedily on the throttle and the tail slips and grips in jerky, Esp-assisted bites. Even when you do have the tyres under you, the revs flare over bumps. At time it’s more like an offshore powerboat than a supercar, which is to say on the edgy side of exciting.
Because you sit so far back in the car you feel as though you’re aiming the nose through the corners like a strand of cotton through the eye of a needle. It’s a feeling that fades, but never quite leaves you. It’s not helped by steering that doesn’t connect you intimately enough with those distant front wheels. Becker nails it when he says that rather than the steering effort increasing with lateral load, it seems to decrease, so you don’t have a sense of how much front grip there is to lean on.
Given that both are notorious perfectionists, it’s perhaps predictable that Becker and Newey see only the One-77’s failings. Tate and Archer need some convincing, too, although, for the record, they both seem to disappear for lengthy spells and make A LOT of noise. I feel somewhat out of step in still remaining star-struck by the One-77, despite its flaws. On bigger roads, with more space to stretch its legs and more time to get to know it, I suspect it would have shone brighter. One thing we can agree on is that the One-77 sits so far outside the boundaries of the brand that it simply doesn’t feel or behave like an Aston Martin. For Newey in particular, this is food for thought.
Conversely the Vanquish S is about as on-brand as any Aston of the modern era. With more power, stronger brakes and a tauter chassis, the S addressed some of the weaknesses in the original Vanquish, truly taking the fight to Ferrari’s 550 and 575 in a manner Aston hasn’t managed since. And, thanks to Ian Callum, its chiselled lines and muscled physique still command admiring looks more than a decade after it was launched.
In the evolution from Vanquish to Vanquish S, attention was also paid to the paddle-shift transmission, though in truth it still didn’t really cut the mustard. Maybe because we all know the gearbox was never great, the less-thanpunchy shifts aren’t as big an issue as I’d feared. They certainly don’t taint the feeling of wellbeing to be had from driving Newport Pagnell’s last hurrah. Of course, it could also be that having just emerged from the One-77 I’m all out of gearbox-induced angst, but there’s something genuinely warm and appealing about the Vanquish S.
It’s a mellow machine. Far more mature and understated than the other cars here. Indeed, the fast car landscape has changed so much in recent years it seems odd to think that this car was once Aston’s most full-on series production model. In many ways it was the last of a breed. A top-tier flagship with no pretensions at being remotely aimed at track use. That’s inconceivable nowadays.
As a direct result, the Vanquish S has a pliancy that impresses even Becker, but the trade-off is a soft-edged chassis that doesn’t disguise the car’s considerable 1800kg bulk, though it does its best to contain it. Newey also appreciates its ability to find a flow, but doesn’t hesitate in bemoaning its inability to step up its game and find more bite (particularly at the front end) when you want to press on and really drive. You get the impression this man would make understeer illegal.
He has a point, at least in the context of this test, where we’re putting the credentials of each car under the