Aston Martin Vanquish (2001 - 2007) review

BY ANDY ENRIGHT

Introduction

Now that the depreciation curve of earlier cars has levelled off, it seems a good time to take a closer look at the Aston Martin Vanquish. Possessed of possibly the greatest engine note of any modern car, the Vanquish looks an intriguing bit of business for little more than new BMW M3 money. The Vanquish in many ways represents Aston Martin in transition, dragging itself from an era of appealing but rather parochial powerhouses into an altogether more modern era. As such, there are parts of the car that seem resolutely modern whilst other aspects seem rooted in the past, making it possibly the most interesting Aston Martin road car in recent years. It's also one of the most exciting, and with used values now looking distinctly tempting, it's worth further investigation.

Models

Models Covered: (2 dr coupe, 5.9 petrol [S, Ultimate Edition])

History

Like the alien invaders in HG Wells' War Of The Worlds, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage of the Nineties ruled like a mighty colossus, swatting rivals contemptuously before being killed off by quite an unlikely assailant. Whilst the aliens succumbed to the common cold, it was emissions regulations that did for the Vantage. Though it was mourned at the time, it's replacement turned out to be a car that marked a huge step forward for the Newport Pagnell company, the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish. The Vanquish had a controversial birth. Having been given a big build up in time for its UK debut at the 2000 Birmingham Motor Show, it created more headlines by not appearing at the NEC. Apparently Dr Ulrich Bez, the Chief Executive of Aston Martin, wasn't happy with the fact that the Vanquish was using dashboard air vents from a Ford Ka. Reports claimed the good doctor wasn't prepared for a £164,000 flagship supercar to share parts quite so obviously with a £7,000 shopping special. When the car did finally appear, most agreed that while the interior of the Vanquish might still be a spectacularly hit and miss affair, the exterior was a piece of styling of quite magnificently studied brutality. This was enough to carry the day. The standard Vanquish rapidly saw itself outgunned by newer and more powerful rivals - many, such as the Bentley Continental GT, costing a good deal less. Cue the Vanquish S which, in December 2004, tacked another 70bhp onto the original car's 450bhp. The Vanquish persisted until 2007, but rapid development of the Aston Martin product portfolio saw models such as the DB9 and even, to an extent, the V8 Vantage render it rather obsolete. In 2006, plans were announced for the DBS, a stop-gap Vanquish replacement based on the DB9 that would act as flagship until an all-new car was developed for 2010. The last of the 2,578 Vanquish models (chassis number 502593) was also the last of the end-of-the-line 50 'Ultimate Edition' cars. It rolled out of the soon-to-be-demolished Newport Pagnell factory in July 2007.

What You Get

Every body panel is sleek, and is constructed from aluminium with each individual panel hand-tailored to the central structure to ensure a perfect fit. The main structure itself is formed from extruded aluminium sections which are bonded and riveted around a central transmission tunnel made of carbon fibre. One-piece composite sidewalls and carbon-fibre windscreen pillars are also bonded to the central structure to form the safety cell. It all sounds more like Williams Formula One than clubby old Aston Martin and is an indicator of the investment parent company Ford sunk into the once-quaint British firm. Despite the attention paid to the chassis, it's only fitting that the engine should receive some fettling too. Developments to the old DB7 Vantage's 48-valve 6.0-litre V12 engine generated a 7% increase in power and a 2.5% increase in torque. The interior of the car features superbly crafted Connolly leather seats jarring with some obvious Ford parts bin minor controls and some weak plastics masquerading as aluminium. It's possible to specify the car as a 2+2 or a two seater with additional boot space. The S can be identified by an aerodynamic splitter to help high speed stability and a revision to the grille for better cooling. The bootlid was changed at the back with a high-mounted brake light fitted but otherwise the car is unmistakeably a Vanquish, those huge rear haunches and gaping maw at the front giving it a much bigger rear view mirror intimidation factor than the sleek DB9.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

When you get into the Vanquish, listen for a whine when you open the door to signify that the gearbox is air charging correctly. The engine should fire cleanly from cold and when selecting first gear on the paddle shift, the gear should engage with a light 'thunk' before pulling away cleanly. Any juddering or hesitating to select gear suggests a shot clutch or faulty gearbox software. One trick that Aston Works Service let some owners in on was a reset mode for the software that learns individual driver styles. Effectively you hold both paddles in a sequence with your foot on the brake and the system then takes 30 seconds to relearn the gearshift's relation with the clutch bite point, making changes a good deal quicker and less clunky.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2005 Vanquish S) Most services will cost around £1,500 although there is quite some variance in pricing charged between key dealers so it'll pay to phone around. Rear tyres run to around £700 a pair so don't get too happy with the right boot at the lights. Panel damage is extremely expensive to repair so look for clean panels and unkerbed rims.

On the Road

Whilst it's rare to encounter anybody who felt the old V12 Vantage was somewhat under-endowed in the power department, the 450bhp boasted by the Vanquish seemed more than enough at launch but rivals soon overtook it. More suitable is the 520bhp boasted by the Vanquish S that sits at the top of the Aston Martin hierarchy. Even 450bhp will propel the 1820kg Aston from rest to 60 in under 4.5 seconds before reaching a maximum speed in excess of 190mph - a velocity theoretically capable of covering London to Glasgow in 100 minutes. Do not try this, however. You will probably find Her Majesty's Pleasure far less accommodating than the cockpit of the Vanquish. If these figures sound familiar, it's because the Ferrari 550 Maranello was the vehicle Aston Martin's engineers used as a key benchmark throughout the development of the Vanquish. Indeed the 550 was completely stripped to its component parts in order to understand what made it such a relentlessly excellent product.

Overall

The Aston Martin Vanquish might no longer be at the cutting edge of supercar development but most prospective owners won't care. Where more modern rivals are increasingly sanitised and nannying, the Vanquish remains something rather feral and thrilling and with early examples costing little more than a decently specified BMW M3, seem to offer a lot of metal for your money. Buy very carefully and don't choose the cheapest car you see. Steer clear of damage repaired cars as the Vanquish is notoriously difficult to return to 100% after a prang.