10 / 10
When it comes to sheer automotive glamour there are few – if any – car manufacturers that have the goods to go head-to-head with the century-old British sports car manufacturer, Aston Martin. That’s especially true of the all-new Aston Martin Vanquish.
The new flagship Vanquish may well be one of the most beautiful cars in the world, but if you believe the brand’s design director, Marek Reichman, the Vanquish is also “the best Aston Martin thus far”.
And he’s not just talking about how the car looks: the latest Vanquish also demonstrates extraordinarily high-level performance and handling on some of Britain’s most demanding B-roads.
Our initial impressions of the Vanquish are that it is, indeed, simply the best Aston Martin we have ever driven.
But it’s not the first time Aston Martin has used the Vanquish nameplate for its range-topping model – the now-famous lineage first appeared in 200l at the Geneva Motor Show.
Aston released a more powerful version, the Vanquish S, in 2004, which lifted power from 340kW to 383kW along with uprated brakes and more aggressive styling.
Production ended for the first-generation Vanquish in 2007 when the DBS was released.
The second-generation Aston Martin Vanquish takes over from the DBS, but apart from the car’s overall proportions, there are few similarities between the two cars, inside or out.
Part evolution and part revolution, the latest Vanquish benefits more from styling cues borrowed from Aston’s supreme halo car, the Aston Martin One-77.
Proportionally, the Vanquish is still a large car, with a near-identical footprint to the DB9. Stylistically though, it works a treat.
Aston’s long-standing ‘VH’ architecture has been in service since 2000, but it’s now in its fourth-generation with huge strides having been made over the third-gen platform, which spawned the four-door Aston Martin Rapide.
For starters, the Vanquish gets a full carbonfibre skin (that’s all body panels, including the roof), the benefits of which go far beyond the virtues of lightness and torsional stiffness.
Critical to the design brief was the freedom of form that a carbonfibre body would allow. For example, the depth of draw in the doors would simply not be possible using metal.
Even more impressive is the one-piece carbonfibre deck, which bears no gaps or joints. It takes one person two days to produce and is a remarkable engineering achievement that points to the attention to detail that’s gone into building the Vanquish.
The story goes that Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez gave the design team a brief to make the piece “look impossible to make”, and for a couple of months that’s precisely what the team was thinking.
There are styling accents from the One-77 all over the new Aston Martin Vanquish, from the rear light blades to the carbonfibre side strakes.
Visually, the Vanquish is leaner and edgier than the DBS and as a result, more elegant in its stance.
Inside, there’s even more inspiration from the One-77 supercar. Aston’s trademark glass starter module and gear mode select buttons are all there, but the whole centre stack including touch buttons and Driver Information Module is borrowed from the One-77.
With such cracking performance from the Vanquish it might be all too easy to forget about Aston’s luxury credentials except for the seven leather hides used in each Vanquish and the 70 hours of handcraftsmanship required to build and trim the interior of each car.
Using a combination of high-end materials such as Bridge of Weir Luxmil leather, Semi-Aniline leather and Alcantara, the Vanquish interior is on a higher level than its rivals, offering nothing less than a sublime ambience.
There’s also a practical side to the Vanquish. There’s noticeably more room inside the cockpit and storage space has been increased by 140 per cent. Passenger space has grown in every direction.
Boot space is 60 per cent larger than the DBS, so there’s more than enough room for weekends away or even overfilled school backpacks – should they be so lucky.
From the moment you slide down into the quilted leather buckets, get acquainted with the switchgear and get a whiff of that high-end leather upholstery, you’ve pretty much decided that Aston has nailed it with the Vanquish, at least with the cockpit.
The 6.0-litre V12 under the bonnet might share the same 5935cc displacement as that of the DBS, but that’s where the similarities end. The geometry is the same, but this engine has benefited from some serious re-engineering work with new block, pistons, head and crank.
Aston’s engineers have focused on getting the air into the engine more efficiently. The Vanquish also gets new ‘big wing’ manifolds for improved airflow and dual variable valve timing – a first for Aston Martin.
There’s also some racing technology on board, with a fully machined combustion chamber and improved engine cooling.
Foot on the brake, insert glass fob and hold for a second or two before the big V12 fires up with Aston’s signature throttle blip. Packing 421kW and 620Nm, the new Aston Martin Vanquish is the most powerful production car the company has ever built.
Simply cruising along in automatic mode around the delightful Buckinghamshire countryside, however, reveals a few characteristics unique to the Vanquish, and just how much effort has gone into the detail of this car.
Whereas with the DBS you needed to stand on the throttle to get it to play its more aggressive exhaust tune, with the Vanquish it’s pretty much on-demand from just 2000rpm. Only with the Vanquish it’s a lot more boisterous with some high-pitched F1 screams blended with a deep burble for what is a unique engine note.
And you won’t need to drop the windows for that stereophonic effect, either. Aston has somehow managed to pipe that raucous growl directly into the Vanquish cabin.
Open it up, though, and the newfound decibels from what is one of the world’s most intoxicating exhaust notes requires the complete lowering of all windows for a sound that’s unequivocally race-inspired.
What’s also apparent is that the Vanquish responds to throttle inputs far quicker than the DBS. Bury the throttle for any length of time and you’ll also experience a level of potency not seen before in an Aston Martin road car. This thing is seriously quick.
Aston Martin continues to resist the move to a dual-clutch transmission in the interest of weight saving, so the Vanquish makes do with a six-speed auto with a limited-slip differential and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
What the Vanquish loses in shift times (it’s still quick in Sport mode), it more than makes up for with a gearbox that’s both robust and smooth shifting to exploit loads of mid-range torque, although some might find it a bit of a mismatch with such a lively and willing powertrain.
It’s super composed at high speeds too, but then Aston has always produced a great chassis. The real test for the Aston Martin Vanquish came in the form of some shockingly uneven Buckinghamshire B-roads, but again, the car’s rock solid stability and poise through high-speed S-bends is extraordinary. The Vanquish begs you to keep pushing harder, but there’s no change to the car’s composure.
The Vanquish’s extra stiff tub allows the chassis systems to do all the work, which is why the steering response is lightning-fast and pin-point accurate, while the feedback through the steering wheel is possibly the best we have yet to experience in a luxury GT car.
There’s so much communication between what the front wheels are doing and the steering wheel that you can thread this 4.7-metre-long car through some seriously fast apexes with all the confidence in the world.
Set the adaptive front and rear dampers to Normal mode and the Vanquish offers up a ride as comfortable as any sporty sedan is capable of. Switch to Sport mode and the results are similarly impressive, with a quicker throttle and faster shift times.
And if you must, there’s a launch control feature on the Vanquish (another first for Aston) that allows for multiple starts without fear of wear and tear, according to Aston Martin engineers.
At high speed through tight, twisty back roads the Vanquish somehow maintains its rock solid composure, but with the suspension soaking up all of the road’s irregularities. At times we should have been bottoming out – but the Vanquish didn’t come close.
With six-pot carbon ceramic brakes up front on discs not much smaller than those found on the Bugatti Veyron, you tend to get on the brakes late in the Vanquish. Pedal feel is outstanding, too – you always know precisely where you are.
Aston Martin has utterly nailed it with the new Vanquish.
It has produced a potent high-speed grand tourer that handles like an Italian exotic and offers cruising comfort commensurate with a luxury sedan.