Aston Martin announced its new series-production flagship two months ago, in time for the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Headline news was the return of the Vanquish name, last used on a car much loved by the Aston faithful and still referred to as ‘the beast’ in less formal company circles.
It now describes a new car that’s less steroidal-looking than the original, but much more sculptured than a Aston Virage or Aston DB9; muscular, but not sufficiently ‘hench’ to undermine its seductive curves. It’s a significant and interesting machine in several ways. It’s Aston’s first series model with carbonfibre bodywork, for one. But it’s a pragmatic car, too – a ‘let’s fix what’s broke’ evolution rather than a clean-sheet, ground-up undertaking. You’d guess as much just by looking at it.
The Vanquish’s wheelbase is the same as that of the DBS and DB9, although the car is slightly longer and wider overall. It’s the first new Aston to use the fourth generation of the company’s ‘Vertical-horizontal’ platform, made up chiefly of bonded aluminium extrusions. A platform that, says Aston, has been redesigned and, benefiting from the latest bonding and anodising techniques, has made the Vanquish just over 50kg lighter than the DBS and 30 per cent more rigid.
The car’s V12 engine seems familiar and sounds exactly, even pleasingly, so when fired up. There aren’t many supercar makers who in 2012 would still be shouting so loudly about a 6.0-litre, normally aspirated, 12-cylinder lump with port injection. But to Aston, the character and response that its Cologne-built V12 provides is key to the emotional appeal of its cars. For the Vanquish, the mill has had a complete overhaul. It gets double variable valve timing, new cylinder heads with bigger intake valves, and new intake and exhaust systems. It is also wet-sumped and sits 19mm lower within the car. Power is up by 10 per cent, to 565bhp; torque has increased to 457lb ft.
“Chassis-wise, we’ve left well enough alone where we could,” says Paul Thomas, engineering manager for the Vanquish. “The hardware is mostly the same, with double wishbones front and rear. We’ve got slightly wider tracks, firmer spring rates, and a steering rack that’s about 15 per cent quicker than on the DBS. But there’s still plenty of comfort – particularly with the three-mode adaptive dampers. The car has to be grippy and precise and great to drive on a road like this. But it’s primarily a grand tourer. If you can’t do 300 miles in it in perfect comfort before getting to a road like this, we haven’t done our jobs.”
Aston hasn’t reinvented this car; it has just tweaked at the edges. Instead of producing a rival for the Lamborghini Aventador or Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, it has produced the new flagship V12 GT that its customers asked for, simple as that. Some will call that unambitious, but once we’ve driven it later this year, we suspect we’ll be calling it a very fine piece of work indeed.