Aston Martin's newest flagship trades a stiff upper lip for a sexier bod and a gutsier soul
By Basem Wasef
Burying the late, great DBS and resuscitating the Vanquish name is no small task for Aston Martin. Armed with a nearly $300,000 asking price, the new 2014 Vanquish demands equal doses of sexy-yet-discreet styling and forward thinking hardware to uphold its desirability in the current exotic car landscape.
Does the new flagship succeed in stoking the embers of desire? A recent drive on rambling English roads offered some insight into the Vanquish's ability to stoke our champagne-fueled dreams.
Inspired by Seventy-Seven Bespoke Hypercars, Inside and Out
Trickle down styling usually works in the realm of four-wheeled exotica, and Aston Martin's new Vanquish exhibits some of the tight radius curves and hunkered down poise inherited from its ultra-rare predecessor, the One-77. But the new $279,995 flagship also gains a thorough mechanical reworking that helps answer to detractors who claim the British brand is all show and no go: while an extruded aluminum tub remains at its core, the Vanquish adds carbon weave structures to the nose and tail for further weight savings and 25 percent more torsional rigidity, as well as carbon fiber skin all around. Official avoirdupois has yet to be announced, but the Vanquish's curb weight is estimated in the region of 3,750 lbs, nearly 100 lbs less than its DBS predecessor.
The new 5.9 liter V-12 sits lower and lighter, churning more power (565 hp, 457 lb-ft compared to the old mill's 510 hp) while claiming greater fuel efficiency, thanks in part to the incorporation of variable valve timing. Connecting the powerplant to the 6-speed automated manual rear transaxle is a carbon fiber prop shaft surrounded by an alloy torque tube. Aston claims that 60 mph arrives in 4.1 seconds, and that the Vanquish tops out at 183 mph.
Inside the cabin, a new interior treatment reveals One-77-inspired stitch patterns and details like a haptic touch surface on the center stack. The cockpit has been expanded for less of a cocooning effect, while the "boot" offers 60 percent more space.
On the Road: It Jounces... But More Importantly, It Pounces
Open the upwardly tilting "swan wing" doors, climb inside the aromatic leather interior, and snuggle up to the imaginatively sculpted leather seats—some of which are available with teardrop-style quilted patterns—and the Vanquish delivers on Aston's typically operatic sense of occasion, right down to the glass-capped key fob that slides into the dash and kicks the big V-12 to life.
The new center stack controls are a welcome update to the notoriously fussy setup in Astons of yore. The haptic buttons were still in development during our drive and though well situated and intuitive, we prefer not to fully evaluate the system without experiencing its final calibration. However, we can say with certainty that the Garmin-based nav offering still displays cartoonishly oversized menu functions, and doesn't integrate with the multimedia system's otherwise slick graphical interface.
Leather-tipped paddle shifters trigger cog swaps in a quick and smooth enough fashion, especially in "S" mode, though the single clutch transmission (supplied by Graziano) still can't match the effortlessness of more advanced dual-clutch units. The tall gear ratios and sometimes unpredictable automatic shifts also inspire manual overrides in order to enjoy the sweetest spots of the V-12's powerband, which reside at the middle and upper portions of the counterclockwise spinning tachometer. It takes long stretches of tarmac to enjoy the best of what the V-12 has to offer, but when the "Sport" button encourages the mill to sing in full throttle glory, few things sound quite as refined yet punchy as this big bore twelve cylinder. Partial credit goes to the exhaust geometry, which is an almost identical clone of the One-77's. Incidentally, a no-nonsense launch control system catapults the Vanquish off the line easily and effectively.
Buckinghamshire's meandering backroads revealed a firm, glued-down suspension, even with the adaptive damping system in its mildest setting—though to the car's credit, road surfaces seemed exceptionally rough. Steering has been quickened and sharpened, to palpable effect: the hydraulic setup seems noticeably more communicative than the DBS, which offered less feedback and heavier effort. Though the carbon ceramic stoppers-- six piston front and four piston rear—work effectively enough, mild initial bite is yet another reminder that this a grand touring coupe, not an out-and-out supercar.
At the End of the Day: More Mental Than Mechanical
Aston Martin maintains its status as one of the most sensual carmakers on the planet, and the Vanquish's heightened athleticism and innovative interior treatments keep it relevant within this rarified microcosm of high-dollar exotics. Though we'd like to see a more sophisticated gearbox and the long overdue multimedia improvements seamlessly integrated into a better nav system, Aston Martin's emphasis on fabulous sights, sounds, and sensations over outright performance numbers ring true with their new range-topper. It may not win the numbers game, but when it comes to memorable drives in swift, striking sheetmetal, the Vanquish takes the cake and eats it, too.