Just en­joy­ing the view

VANTAGE - - Cover Story | Db11 & Vanquish S - WORDS PETER TOMALIN

TAKE 15 MILES OF MOOR­LAND ROAD, add overnight dew, a pinch of road salt and a lot of grime, then chill to just above freez­ing point. Roughen the sur­face slightly and gar­nish with gravel. Now add two 600bhp As­ton Martins…

Ed­i­tor Meaden, be­ing by some mar­gin the quicker of the two of us, is lead­ing the way in the Vanquish S. I’m just about keep­ing up in the DB11 – thanks in no small part to its all-sea­son tyres, but also to its pli­ant ride, which keeps those con­tact patches pressed to the tar­mac.

It’s re­mark­able how much of their prodi­gious horse­power both cars are able to trans­late into for­ward mo­tion. In con­di­tions like th­ese, it’s a mir­a­cle they’re find­ing very much grip at all. Of course, if you’ve a mind to, you can make the sur­face work to your ad­van­tage. Ahead, Meaden is now slid­ing the S’s tail, into, through, and out of the cor­ners. Some­times on the straights.

It’s slightly galling to discover that he can go pretty much as fast side­ways as I can in a straight line, but it’s never less than a treat to watch a skilled driver make a pow­er­ful sports car dance. Given an air­field run­way or a cir­cuit with acres of run-off, I might even at­tempt some­thing sim­i­lar my­self. But not here. I sim­ply don’t have the skill, or the chutz­pah (it’s Yid­dish for balls). What you’re read­ing here, then, is the view of our two As­tons from the per­spec­tive of a driver­with­out­su­per­nat­u­ral abil­i­ties.

As­ton Martin had kindly of­fered to de­liver the cars to our homes so that we could beat a path straight to those won­der­ful moor­land roads. Tan­ta­lis­ingly, nei­ther Dickie nor I knew which one we’d get. So it’s the first mea­sure of how closely matched they are, in de­sir­abil­ity as well as hard num­bers, that I was equally en­thralled by the prospect of ei­ther car. And as the DB11 rolled up out­side, it looked completely won­der­ful. Un­mis­tak­ably an As­ton, but dif­fer­ent, and im­pos­ing too – though some of that might be down to its width. On the lo­cal lanes, it felt an­other size up from the DB9,

tem­per­ing my speed in those early miles. It’s also im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent how much stiffer the bodyshell is and how much bet­ter the struc­ture and sus­pen­sion are at soak­ing up both small sur­face im­per­fec­tions and se­ri­ous jolts.

On the long haul up the A1, the DB11 plays the grand tourer to per­fec­tion, ex­actly as billed, the en­gine barely tick­ing over at 1750rpm at 80mph, the oc­ca­sional squirt of throt­tle when the traf­fic clears pro­duc­ing an ab­so­lute gale of tur­boen­hanced urge. Be in no doubt, this thingflies. It hasn’t lost its throaty V12 tim­bre ei­ther, at least not un­der load and with Sport en­gaged.

I find my­self select­ing Sport for the damp­ing, too – just to give a lit­tle more feel for the road sur­face. It’s the only chink in the DB11’S ar­mour – the elec­tric steer­ing is just a lit­tle vague at the straight-ahead. Ac­tu­ally ap­ply some lock and it feels alert for a GT, dart­ing to your bid­ding.

Head­ing across coun­try to our ren­dezvous, I’m fur­ther be­guiled by the depth of the DB11’S abil­i­ties and the qual­ity of its chas­sis, not to men­tion the hay­maker hit of the twin-turbo en­gine. The com­bi­na­tion makes it crush­ingly quick on chal­leng­ing roads like th­ese. In Sport+ it makes a de­cent fist of be­ing a sports car, too, sinews tight­en­ing, re­ac­tion times short­en­ing. It seems to be the As­ton that does it all.

And then I climb into the Vanquish S and discover what I’ve been miss­ing. A cleaner con­nec­tion with the tar­mac, es­pe­cially through the steer­ing. A cleaner con­nec­tion with the en­gine, too. The DB11’S throt­tle re­sponse is su­perb for a tur­bocharged en­gine. But the Vanquish S’s is just that lit­tle bit crisper.

And the noise! Like a trum­pet player re­mov­ing the mute, the nat-asp V12 sounds glo­ri­ous. The top-end rush, the way the power just keeps grow­ing as the revs rise and rise is just in­tox­i­cat­ing, the air be­hind crack­ling. Ev­ery­thing is just that bit more in­tense, as if your senses are on height­ened alert.

The cock­pit has a more ana­logue, more hand­built am­bi­ence, but it’s also more in­ti­mate. The DB11 coun­ters with a more ‘de­signer’ feel, bet­ter qual­ity switchgear, and of course all the lat­est toys. It all func­tions beau­ti­fully. In­deed the whole car feels like the prod­uct of a ma­jor man­u­fac­turer – al­most, dare I say it, Ger­manic.

In fact both feel beau­ti­fully built, and both are hugely de­sir­able. The DB11 is the more rounded, more so­phis­ti­cated ma­chine. There’s so much to en­joy, on any road, in any con­di­tions. And the harder you push it, the more im­pres­sive it gets. In terms of all-round abil­ity, the DB11 is the best car that As­ton Martin has ever made. But the Vanquish S could just be the bestas­ton. It has an even stronger iden­tity, and an in­ten­sity, an ex­tra layer of con­nec­tion that makes you feel like a re­aldriver. Even if you’re not.

V

‘BOTH FEEL BEAU­TI­FULLY BUILT. BOTH ARE HUGELY DE­SIR­ABLE’

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