The Vanquish is back at the top of Aston Martin's model range. Jonathan Crouch celebrates.
Ten Second Review
With a carbon fibre body and a 565bhp V12 doing the business up front, the Aston Martin Vanquish isn't going to hang about. As the replacement for the DBS at the top of the range, it's beautifully appointed inside and is priced (comparatively) reasonably too.
There are two things you need to know right from the outset here. Firstly that I've yet to drive the new Aston Martin Vanquish, so what I'm doing here is delivering a preview based on the facts as I know them so far. The second is that I absolutely loved the original Vanquish model, despite convincing myself ahead of time that I wouldn't. It's one of those big-hearted cars that you'd have to have no soul not to enjoy. Yes, with the benefit of hindsight it's clear that some parts were crude, but then wasn't that always the way with Astons. That original Vanquish was a landmark car. It was the model which married the old thud and blunder Aston Martin cars of years gone by with the far more sophisticated and advanced modern machines, of which this Vanquish is a perfect exemplar. Let's get down to detail.
You didn't really expect anything other than a 6.0-litre V12 plumbed into the nose did you? Well, aside from the fact that this 5935cc unit is technically a 5.9, it's hard to get disappointed. Significant re-engineering of this iconic V12 includes a revised block and head including the debut of dual variable valve timing. There's an uprated fuel pump, enlarged throttle bodies, a revised 'big wing' intake manifold and fully machined combustion chambers that help the engine to a peak power output of 573PS (565bhp) at 6,750 rpm. The engine has also been developed to deliver greater torque low down the rev range to make the car feel even more willing and muscular from very low revs. The result is an improved 0-62mph time of 4.1 seconds. The top speed, where legal, is 183mph. As is the modern custom with all Aston Martin sports cars, the engine is hand-assembled at the dedicated Aston Martin engine plant in Cologne, Germany. Drive is transmitted to the road via a six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic transmission. The body is 25 per cent stiffer than the outgoing DBS and, thanks to the use of hollow cast aluminium, the front chassis structure is 13 per cent lighter. To take full advantage of its precise and rigid new architecture, the Vanquish employs a battery of sophisticated technologies including, for the first time on an Aston Martin, a launch control system. The Vanquish also gets Dynamic Stability Control and Positive Torque Control to help harness its potential and deliver a rewarding, controlled, refined Grand Tourer experience. The latest iteration of Aston Martin's Adaptive Damping System (ADS) allows the driver to switch between three distinct damping modes: Normal, Sport and Track, delivering instant adjustment of the car's ride and handling characteristics.
Design and Build
You wouldn't mistake the Vanquish for anything but an Aston Martin. True, you could mistake it for a DBS or a Virage but that's an issue you've probably got your own views on. It's clear that the company has tried to incorporate some of the styling cues from the One-77 limited edition hypercar, but that car's key styling feature, namely its wasp-waisted flanks, don't make the transition to the Vanquish. What is evident is a beefier, less feline look to the car, very much in keeping with the old Vanquish model. In other words the testosterone has increased a bit. All body panels are carbon fibre which, coupled with the aluminium superstructure, should make the Vanquish a relative lightweight, but in fact it weighs 1739kg, just a kilo less than the notoriously portly Nissan GTR. By contrast, a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta tips the scales at 1525kg dry while the Lamborghini Aventador weighs 1575kg. That said, these are two-seat cars where the Aston is a bit bigger, offering nominal 2+2 accommodation. Ferrari's massive FF V12 weighs nearly 1900kg. The interior is beautifully finished with a striking centre stack design. A direct descendent of the One-77 console, the Vanquish set-up retains familiar elements such as the ECU engine start button and gear selection buttons, while introducing a new infotainment system and a significantly more user-friendly design. The dash dials have been revised and owner feedback has informed the inclusion of digital displays for trip and speed readouts. The seats are wonderfully sculptural and trimmed with quilted leather, plus there's the trademark glass starter button. About the only off-key element is the rather large, bland and plasticky-looking steering wheel.
Market and Model
The Vanquish is offered in two specific styles; 2+2 for when you might need to wedge a couple of very small people in the back, and 2+0, for those who'd never countenance such an indignity. There really isn't a lot of leg or head room behind the bulky front seats, so I'd certainly be tempted to do away with the vestigial seats in favour of a little more useful storage. The Vanquish has the sort of in-car electronics systems that befit a range-topping Aston Martin. To whit, buyers get an infotainment system that incorporates a 1000W Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 13-speaker audio system and a Garmin satellite navigation system that's controlled via a 6.5" LCD Screen. Then there's iPod, iPhone and USB integration, Bluetooth audio and phone streaming and an integrated wi-fi hub. That's on top of cruise control, heated seats, a tracking device and that delicious leather and alcantara interior trim. Price in standard trim? You'll need to square away £190,000. The options list is bound to tempt a few customers and aside from the usual cameras, door openers, sill plaque and alloy wheel choices, Aston Martin offer the opportunity to pare the paintwork back and reveal the beautifully-woven carbon fibre body. You can choose a naked roof, mirrors, side strakes and door handles while you can extend the carbon theme indoors to the centre stack and shift paddles.
Cost of Ownership
If you can afford to drop what will likely be over £200,000 on a supercar, most cost of ownership figures tend to lose their immediate relevance. The big issue will be depreciation, and the limited number in which the Vanquish is built and its position at the head of the Aston Martin range should do a little to cushion depreciation, but it's worth bearing in mind that a Vanquish that cost £174,000 new in 2004 now retails at around the £60,000 mark. If you can afford to write down almost half of the car's value over a typical three year ownership period, then you shouldn't find too many other impediments to an extremely happy tenure.
The Vanquish nudges Aston Martin a little further forward. It's a case of steady evolution to the naked eye, but this car is more revolutionary than many imagine. The carbon fibre body, the electronics integration and the completely redesigned interior all combine to make this the biggest step forward from Aston Martin since the DB9. Not that you'd know it. Were it not for the badge at the back, I'd wager few people could distinguish this car from a DBS. Still, Aston owners probably care not a jot. They'll be safe in the knowledge that they've got one of the most brutal and evocative cars on general sale with one of the greatest sounding engines and performance to spare. Aston Martins sit in a very specific niche that rivals can only gaze upon in envy. Long may that continue.