So who would you get to test drive a Vanquish? At Goodwood? In Aston’s centenary year? It had to be LM, pressed into service as a track tester for the day. The Vanquish made its debut on his Lordship’s driveway at last year’s Festival of Speed, so even more reason to reunite the two in front of the cameras in 2013. You can see the video below. It’s made all the more poignant with the news today that future Aston Martins will use Mercedes-AMG V8 under their British bonnets. We just hope they sound as good as the gloriously raucous V12 in the Vanquish…
Thankfully there was time after Lord March’s drive for us to have a go as well. And, yes, the Vanquish is indeed quite a car. I found it totally seductive in every way. And I suspect that everyone who saw, and heard, it pass by was seduced by it, too. It’s a car that generates warm feelings.
And it does look brilliant. Ours was a pearlescent white, not an obvious choice for an Aston but it showed the new swage lines and chrome details to great effect. The car is beautiful in a way all Astons are but it is also easily the most distinctive of the current crop – the antidote for those people who think all Astons look alike these days. Yes the family resemblance is obvious but I defy anyone not pick the Vanquish at 100 paces from a line of V8 Vantages and DB9s. It is stop-the-traffic, jaw-on-the-floor special looking.
It is perhaps not quite as memorable inside for a car that costs £191,000 plus options, but it is still an elegant, tactile and exquisitely finished cabin. The quilted leather, red with white stitching in the test car, looks (and smells) appropriately expensive, and there is no shortage of bespoke surprise and delight details.
The Vanquish is also, and this is more important, much more comfortable and spacious than the DBS. In fact the Vanquish is more practical everywhere than that poorly packaged car it replaces in Aston’s centenary line-up. The new car’s boot is 60 per cent bigger and you can order the Vanquish without the waste-of-time kiddies’ seats in the back. Who needs ‘em? The kids won’t.
Slide in and first impressions are immediately welcoming. Generous legroom, a fine driving position and seats built as much for comfort as cornering all gel perfectly together, while the pillars are reasonably slender (for a modern) and there’s a decent view out in all directions. All I needed to be really comfortable was a seat cushion tilt adjustment (rather than just height). Good under-thigh support is rapidly becoming a thing of the past in any car.
Thankfully our car did not have the square-ish steering wheel from the One-77, otherwise comparisons with the Allegro would have to be made, and Aston can do without those. Round wheels tend to be best. There are chunky paddleshifts (but you pay £2000 extra for the carbon variety) fixed to the column (rather than the wheel), but the main transmission controls are more milk float than supercar: just a row of plain push buttons on the dash for P, R, N and D. No joy in using them at all.
The navigation is much better than Aston’s recent efforts but what the firm calls “haptic” (touch-sensitive) buttons on the centre stack are a complete disaster and put the art of ergonomics back 50 years.
Start it up – you insert a chunky glass ‘key’ into an aperture on the dash – and the Vanquish immediately sounds as fine as you think a normally-aspirated 565bhp 6.0-litre V12 should sound. Magnificent in other words, and in a particularly British, non-Ferrari way.
The Vanquish feels unresponsive and sounds low-key when you first set off – no good at all. Then you find the little illuminated Sport button on the steering wheel and the fireworks begin. Only ever drive a Vanquish in Sport mode. The car is suddenly urgent, loud and responsive. Yet it manages to combine all this with a beautifully quiet and comfortable ride over all sorts of uneven surfaces – one of the car’s biggest claims to fame to being a truly accomplished high performance all-rounder.
Vanquish handling does its best to please all the people all the time too, and the result is spot on – as long as you accept the Vanquish (in standard trim) is as much GT as sports car and more comfortable grand tourer than out and out track car.
On the road it feels agile and never as big as it actually is. It’s not particularly quick to steer (2.75 turns lock to lock) but it’s easy to place accurately and reassuringly wieldy in any situation. It is unfailingly stable and well mannered too without any power-over-grip issues in the dry. With its comfort and refinement (and practicality) what a companion this car would be for that 2000 mile touring holiday somewhere glamorous.
And on the circuit? It looked good, sounded good, went fast, stopped well (carbon ceramic brakes are standard) and displayed no nasty habits. But at the same time it felt like the big, heavy, relatively soft front-engined GT car it is. Moreover a car with a six-speed automatic transmission in an eight-speed world whose changes can seem to take minutes rather than milliseconds. The gearbox is not quite worthy of the rest of the car.
Do not doubt, though, that the Vanquish can use its 565bhp and mechanical slippery diff to great effect when the lights turn green. Driven in anger it is fast and highly resolved in all the important ways… up to a point. And that point comes? Only a circuit and only when you are trying very hard indeed, but even so it arrives earlier than with some rivals. It didn’t help that at the same time we had an Audi R8 V10 Plus on the circuit and the Aston didn’t really see which way the German car went.
There is a large dose of civilised GT in the Vanquish, just as there is a big helping of generic Aston styling in its look. People who love this car – and it is such an easy car to go weak at the knees over – would surely have it no other way.