What is it?
There is more to this new model year Aston Martin Vanquish than a new transmission, but if just looking at what it does for the car on paper gives an idea of the improvements it brings, out there in the real world the change is more dramatic still.
Read about the Aston Martin Vanquish - which has been updated for 2017 here
The reason Aston Martin appears to have been so far behind the curve fitting the now ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox to the Vanquish (and indeed the Rapide S) is that until now none has been available for a transaxle application. But now Aston Martin has designed its own casing into which ZF’s tried and trusted internals are fitted.
So just take a look at the numbers. With the old gearbox the Vanquish was good for just 183mph. Now it’s got another couple of ratios and can accelerate until it runs out of puff, it’ll do 201mph.
Meanwhile the closeness of the lower ratios and the extra speed of response have carved 0.3sec from the 0-62mph time. This may not sound like much, but down here in exotic world below 4sec, it matters.
The gearbox will also make owners feel slightly less like ecological master criminals. It’ll still only do 22.1mpg, but that’s a better than 10 per cent improvement over the 19.6mpg of old, as is the reduction in CO2 emissions to under 300g/km.
None of this is going to make your company car tax bill less painful to open, but the additional range it provides will be more than usually welcome given the car’s long distance aspirations and inadequate 78-litre fuel tank.
Aston Martin has also gone to work on the suspension, raising the front damper rates by 15 per cent and those at the rear by 35 per cent, a move that comes coupled with a thicker rear roll bar and new toe and camber settings.
Bespoke new Pirelli P Zero rubber mounted on lighter alloy wheels that remove a total of 7kg of unsprung weight from the Aston complete the picture.
What's it like?
In the past I have found the Vanquish a confusing, not to say confused car.
While the wondrous V12 Vantage S is a sports car down to its tyres and the DB9 a classic GT, the role of the Vanquish has always seemed less distinct. It is clearly the predominantly sporting car any Aston flagship should be.
It’s still nowhere near as sharp as the Vantage and the new gearshifts are more swift than savage, but the Vanquish is a car with a better power to weight ratio than a Porsche 911 GT3 and for the first time in its life, it feels it. Most of the time and quite unlike the previous Vanquish, it feels like the torque converter is locked so there is little or no mush in the system: you prod the pedal and now it responds in kind.
Even so, its pace is not going to frighten a Lamborghini Aventador, let alone the Ferrari F12. Aston’s flagship’s will do thrilling all day long, but if you want to go past that point where exhilaration turns to wide-eyed, white-knuckled fear, you’ll need an Italian or just a rather cheaper, more practical Porsche 911 Turbo S.
But if you are more interested in how a car feels than how fast it is from point to point, the Vanquish has more to commend it that ever. Its steering is the most lucid in its class and its chassis probably now the best balanced. Use one to exploit the other and there’s rare and sophisticated pleasure to be had here.
The price paid is ride quality. I’d tolerate some additional secondary interference as price worth paying for its additional agility, but the primary body movements over humps and dips are just disappointing.
On admittedly tough roads in the Scottish Highlands, the Vanquish felt under-damped and like it would lack the poise of its best rivals.
Should I buy one?
This is a much-improved car, albeit one that continues to trade heavily on Aston Martin’s historical strengths of charm and tradition rather than state-of-the-art ability.
True, the gearbox has removed the car’s single biggest failing but it would be more unkind than inaccurate to observe all it has really done is allow the Vanquish to become the car it should have been from the moment it was launched.
But when that car is as indulgent, satisfying and emotionally appealing as this one now is, such earlier and now irrelevant transgressions are easily overlooked.
Aston Martin Vanquish
Price £192,995; 0-62mph 3.8sec; Top speed 201mph; Economy 22.1mpg (combined); CO2 298g/km; Kerb weight 1739kg; Engine V12, 5935cc, petrol; Installation longitudinal, front, RWD; Power 568bhp at 6650rpm; Torque 465lb ft at 5500rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic