ENGINE 5935cc V12, DOHC, 48v / POWER 444kW @ 7000rpm / TORQUE 630Nm @ 5500rpm / WEIGHT 1739kg / 0-100KM/H 3.5sec / PRICE $500,000 (est)
Effortless grunt; handling balance
Getting long in the tooth; odd-shaped steering wheel
ASTON Martin’s ‘second century plan’ has just brought us the DB11, but it still has other cars for sale. You know what we used to say; sometimes they look a bit alike and do alike. Of them all, though, spare the biggest thought for the Vanquish, whose patch the DB11 encroached on most as that car replaced the DB9. The Vanquish was Aston’s most powerful series production model and flagship super GT, and it needs to stay on sale – and stay selling – until its replacement arrives in 2019.
Some at Aston feel it wasn’t totally on-message for the segment anyway.
“It was more GT than super GT,” says Aston. One problem is that the Vanquish’s non-Aston rivals include the Ferrari F12, which is rather loud, rather urgent and rather 545kW.
Basically, big shoes to replicate. So Aston has looked to inject a bit more ‘super’ into the Vanquish’s GT mix.
There's a few tweaks, then – let’s have a look. Power is up from 424kW to 444kW, and while peak torque stays the same at 630Nm, it’s spread across a wider range. There are new exhausts and more carbonfibre A on the outside, including bits that reduce frontal lift, and there are suspension alterations.
I say tweaks, but even the smallest changes are rather in-depth. Front and rear springs are both 10 per cent stiffer and rear roll stiffness is up by three per cent. Additionally, the dampers have been retuned so that while the primary ride (body control) is much improved, the secondary ride (over small imperfections) doesn’t take a hit.
Alterations have also been made to the compression and rebound damping resulting in less understeer and greater agility. The steering – still hydraulic – is said to offer better connection and a more progressive build-up in weight. Oh, and they’ve added an S to the name.
I haven’t driven a Vanquish for a while, but I can tell there’s more noise on start-up. More all the time, in fact, from the 5.9-litre V12. The note is a bit more howly and hollow, but it never gets too tiring. I rather like it at a subtle 3000rpm upshift or downshift – actually all the revs you need on the road most of the time.
Yes, the Vanquish is still down on the F12’s power, but I can’t imagine the circumstances in which 444kW is insufficient. Unlike the turbocharged V12 of the DB11, you do have to work the motor a bit to get a huge shove in the back, but it rewards the effort.
The eight-speed auto is the same as before, but there’s a new, firmer coupling between the engine and the propshaft (the gearbox is at the back), which makes gear shifts feel much more urgent, positive and quicker.
The chassis changes? Subtle, but real. The ride is composed and controlled, a little fidgety on pitted motorways and thumpy across cat’s eyes, but not quite to the extent that you’d end up complaining about it excessively. There’s a DB11 if you do.
The steering is lovely, albeit delivered via a heavily squared ‘wheel’. Once you’ve decided which one of its many sides to hold, the feel is great and it transmits messages about what turns out to be a lovely handling balance.
This time of year is a surprisingly good one to test very fast cars in the UK; a road covered in more muck and grease than my lunch table the other day undoes the efforts to give a car mammoth grip and traction, which you’d never run out of in the dry, and makes a car’s handling limits accessible at sensible speeds.
Whereupon you find the Vanquish S has the ideal balance of the best recent Astons: settle the nose, enjoy the steering as you turn and feel the chassis come alive as you squeeze the throttle on the exit.
It’s a gorgeous thing to drive. If the DB11 teaches you anything, it’s that old-school Astons feel less gorgeous to sit in these days, but while the Vanquish is ageing, it’s doing so gracefully – and by enough to tide it over for another couple of years, dignity and appeal intact. M