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Aston Martin Vanquish review (2013 onwards)
What - Aston Martin Vanquish
Date - October 2012
Where - Newport Pagnell
Price - £191,080
Available - Now
New era Aston Martin aims to further refine its brand appeal and become the 'best ever car it has ever made'. It's not far off, either...
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MSN Cars' best sports cars
We like - Beauty, more-rounded abilities, potency, ride and handling balance, rich interior
We don't like - Fly-off handbrake, too stiff at times?, familiar cabin details, some want 'all-new'...
Aston Martin wanted to do something special with the new Vanquish. It established the modern Aston look back in 2001 with the original Vanquish supercar. This 'new era' Vanquish sports car thus has to carry on the evolution, rather than freeze it in time.
It has. How? Well, instead of being made from aluminium, the body of this new Vanquish is actually made entirely of carbon fibre. This has enabled the firm to create a subtle new look for its range-topper, one not immediately apparent in the images but which is clear in the flesh.
It's beautiful. Truly beautiful.
Basically, the car has much crisper lines, tighter curves and far more form in its body lines. Designer Marek Reichman says it's the difference between the effect of sunlight on rolling hills and sheer mountain ranges. It's what makes the Vanquish look almost surreal in the metal, an amazing showcase of curves, lines and angles that shimmer, bend and exhaust the light that falls on them.
It's beautiful. Truly beautiful. And only seeing it in real life fully reveals this, to Reichman's frustration. Yes, it looks like an Aston Martin, but why wouldn't it? It also looks like a modern Aston Martin, one immediately distinguishable from its DBS predecessor, and that's not something you can say about a Porsche 911...
The rest of it? Things are more familiar - two-seat cabin, front-mounted V12 engine, rear-mounted paddleshift automatic gearbox (there's no manual this time). Aston Martin has worked hard on perfecting it though, even lowering the engine to improve safety and handling. It's not a technical revolution, then, but it is still a new car. A better one, though?
The 6.0-litre V12 engine is basically all-new. It shares the same dimensions (and capacity) as the old one but common parts are minimal. A key difference here is the addition of full variable valve timing, as debuted on the Aston Martin One-77. As soon as you get under way, you know why it's significant.
Unlike before, see, you don't need high revs to not be disappointed: there's much more torque lower down in the rev range. You sense its greater immediacy in normal running and it's much keener to get into its stride when accelerating - from 3,000rpm now, instead of the 4,500rpm of before.
The most awe-inspiring aspect of this engine is... the noise
This combines with a searing power boost to 565hp to generate serious speed. It can do 183mph, reach 62mph from rest in just 4.1 seconds (with a standard new launch control feature making this highly repeatable, albeit without the drama of a Ferrari system) and a power to weight ratio of 307hp per tonne makes it feel very potent indeed.
But, again, you needn't drive it on the ragged edge of revs to feel its potency - the Vanquish is a faster car in more relaxed running, too. The six-speed automatic, albeit lacking a ratio or two, also shifts more intuitively and the paddleshifts are satisfyingly responsive to use.
The most awe-inspiring aspect of this engine is not its power, though, nor its performance: it's the noise. It sounds absolutely incredible, from the first turn of the key. An advanced new exhaust system (again from the One-77) and plenty of detail engineering mean it makes the most mesmerising deep, rich and fulsome sound, from tickover right round to the redline. THIS is why people love Aston V12s, and the firm's made sure it's spot on here.
Ride and handling
There's a subtly different approach at work here. The old DBS was a car we loved, for its fiendish B-road ability. It was stiff and sporting, but uncommonly well suited to a good British back road. This is something Aston's sought to maintain with the new one - but it's also tried to enhance the comfort as well.
You feel the latter in town and at lower speeds. It seems as if there's far more cushioning in the suspension, far more use of wheel travel to iron out aggressive bumps. You can even sense a bit of air-sprung luxury car in its genteel approach at times, which will make Aston loyalists' jaws drop.
It is confident, beautifully well balanced and seemingly without vice
Don't worry. The new Vanquish has new three-stage adaptive damping, see. It can do all this in town but still clamp the body down stiffly when the roads get twisty, to three different levels adjusted by a neat button on the steering wheel (which gets a corresponding 'Sport' button on the other side, whose menacing glowing S logo alters settings from gearbox to ECU to the loudness of the exhaust).
On a good back road, it's exceptionally lithe and agile. You can chuck this around like a roadster costing a tenth of the price, power-sliding and confidently tracing lines through complex sequences with pinpoint precision. The steering isn't as chattery as before, no, but it's arguably even more incisive, while the extra front-end grip which gives such bite is complemented by more rear end traction that makes using 565hp so satisfying.
For a near-supercar, the Vanquish is also remarkably easy to drive. It is confident, beautifully well balanced and seemingly without vice. The standard carbon ceramic brakes are massively powerful and the broader spread of torque and ride isolation make it seem less livewire and more cohesive than the DBS. The edge is still there - and how - but the majority will also simply find it a nicer car overall, too.
Our sole concern is over some of the disgraceful road surfaces of the East Anglia test route. Over these, the Aston was more jittery and lively than we perhaps would have expected. Absorbent and not actually harsh, no, but it was the sort of energetic excitement that would have a passenger telling you off. One to investigate when we get to more representative roads.
The interior at first fools you. Stepping in, you notice the familiar doorhandles, the archaic fly-off floor-mounted handbrake and the unchanged dials, and sense it's simply a facelifted version of the old one. There's more to it than that, though - there are fundamental improvements here.
There's much more legroom for one, as Aston has redesigned the chassis to make the footwells bigger. The view forwards is better too, thanks to a seemingly wider windscreen opening and the relocation of the door mirrors away from the A-pillar base.
It's the fit and finish that's really been enrichened though, particularly the new centre console. This has touchscreen controls, like a smartphone, and the flowing one-piece structure is much classier than before. The controls are still not quite there - why is the climate control temperature readout so tiny? - but the experience is way beyond anything the DBS could offer.
one of the most alluring Astons ever, period.
It's well equipped, with everything included for the list price, from pumping Bang & Olufsen stereo to Aston's latest sat-nav system. You can even buy a 3G dongle and set it up as a mobile wi-fi hub. The choice comes in the much greater variety of materials on offer - Aston's upgraded its production systems to allow far more choice to create a bespoke model here, and has priced it to ensure people indulge.
It hasn't forgotten the usability, though. Not only is there more space, Aston has improved practicality too, with more cubbies to store stuff and greater overall ease of use. Even the boot's bigger: the carbon fibre structure has been shaped to make it 60% roomier than the old one, with a massive 368 litres on offer.
An Aston V12 is not a green car. The firm hasn't tried to make it so. There's no engine stop-start here, no low rolling resistance tyres (the very thought!), nothing. But it is a bit greener than before: 335g/km CO2 emissions being 10% down on the old one.
It does, however, meet emissions standards all over the world - and, as Aston Martin adds, we shouldn't forget this won't be an owner's main car. They'll probably have a diesel Audi or similar in the garage, meaning this is a weekend car. One that's likely to last almost indefinitely as part of their car collection...
The MSN Cars verdict
The Aston Martin Vanquish is a beautiful car: one of the most alluring Astons ever, full stop. We say that with complete conviction. We also like what Aston has done to round out its character, make it feel richer and more premium without dialling back on the incredibly well sorted basic dynamics that realise such satisfaction.
Our one concern is the fact it doesn't feel like a revolution. It is a better Aston Martin, one of the best ever, but it doesn't feel completely new or different to its predecessors. Elements of the cabin ARE the same, which is disappointing, and some iron-age elements such as that handbrake are unforgivable at this price.
But they shouldn't spoil it. For the price of a DBS, Aston Martin has given us a very capable machine that takes the familiar Aston formula to new highs - and clothes it all in one of the most beautiful body shapes of the millennium. Unless you absolutely want an experience that's completely all-new, what's not to like?
Need to know
Engine: 6.0-litre V12
Power, hp: 565
Torque, lb ft: 457
0-62mph, secs: 4.1
Top speed, mph: 183
Mpg, combined: 19.6
CO2, g/km: 335
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