You have to love a car named Vanquish. Like Challenger, Viper, and Diablo, a great name hints at the vehicle’s persona. In this case, it suggests you’ve not only defeated an opponent, but obliterated him from existence. It’s a proper name for a flagship, which will be the Vanquish’s role when it replaces the DBS.
And what a promising flagship it appears to be. Underneath its carbon-fiber bodywork and around the 5.9-liter V-12 sits a chassis built primarily of aluminum, the construction of which comes from the knowledge gained from the exceedingly rare and prohibitively expensive One-77. Much of the Vanquish, including its overall shape, echoes that car.
The guise isn’t exactly new for Aston Martin, whose design evolves at a slowly measured pace, but, hey, the same is true for the Porsche 911. The Vanquish’s svelte design conveys an elegant sort of aggression, like an ivory-handled pistol. But here, enveloped in matte orange paint and dotted by bits of exposed carbon fiber, it screams for attention — an ivory-handled bazooka, perhaps. Though astoundingly attractive, the color belies the car’s Grand Touring intentions, which became apparent at our test track.
With launch control — an Aston first — the Vanquish reached 60 mph in 4.0 seconds and the quarter mile in 12.3 seconds at 116.2 mph. Its best lap around the figure eight — 24.6 seconds — was 0.1 second slower than the most recent DB9 we tested, which had less power and was 7 pounds lighter. We attribute this performance to the Vanquish’s softer setup, even with the three-stage adjustable dampers in Track mode — a setting with dubious merit–and an unexpected amount of mid-corner understeer, the onset of which the car communicates clearly. It makes for remarkably easy limit handling, but not necessarily the most exciting driving experience. Fortunately, committing to the throttle locks the diff and produces some of the smoothest, most relaxed drifts any V-12 Grand Touring car could hope to execute.
While its track performance is somewhat underwhelming, a drive up a long, curvy mountain road reveals a completely different machine. There, you can revel in the relaxed nature of the car, while admiring the speeds at which it is capable of cruising and the control it affords its driver. The somewhat wonky-looking but ergonomic flat-sided steering wheel (a One-77 hand-me-down) agreeably communicates with the front wheels, gently relaying information and demanding little effort as it comes off center.Tapping the button marked S floods the surrounding air with a marvelous V-12 acoustic signature of the I-can’t-believe-this-is-legal variety. We can be thankful Aston hasn’t added turbochargers to its ubiquitous V-12, making up for any power deficit it possesses with an induction and exhaust symphony sent from heaven. The 5.9-liter engine, whose 5935cc displacement Aston optimistically rounds up, makes more power and more torque than the outgoing DBS and sits lower in the chassis. The Vanquish is one of the most powerful Aston road cars ever — a shadow is cast by the One-77 and the similarly rare Vantage V600 — but similarly priced cars, most notably the Mercedes-Benz SLS, offer more power and less weight.
While the Vanquish uses light materials in its construction, it uses a lot of them, resulting in 3897 pounds of car. Driving briskly, you get the impression that the Vanquish is rather heavy, yet it doesn’t feel unwieldy. The mass doesn’t grow the faster you drive, but neither does it shrink. It does seem to slightly dull the response of the V-12. The six-speed automatic transaxle exacerbates the sensation, seeming to operate only in slow motion. Downshifts slowly bring the engine up to the appropriate rpm. Around town, it makes for a powertrain that feels soft and relaxed, not quick to do anything, not wanting to be bothered by the trivialities associated with haste. The powerband feels out of reach, and with it the excitement the orange bodywork so clearly promises.
Leaving it in a single gear allows you to explore the powerband more clearly, as well as the varying levels of aural sweetness it produces. Be careful how much you explore, though, as the tachometer still lacks an indicated redline. The rest of the easy to admire interior is bathed in beautifully stitched leather. The charcoal gray gauges are reminiscent of a modern watch face, and, in another dash of the contemporary, the touch-sensitive HVAC and audio controls provide haptic vibration when you press them, but occasionally take a few taps to respond.
In keeping with its Grand Touring intentions, the Vanquish offers greater headroom and more legroom than does the outgoing DBS. The cockpit is large, but outward visibility, especially through the windshield, feels bunker-like, although not intrusively so. You get the sense that the tall center console can barely contain the V-12 that sits just ahead of it. That V-12 is right there, brooding and beating and waiting for the chance to fill its intake plenums with oxygen, then scream.
The most rewarding parts of the Vanquish are moments like these. Not destroying a road with the tires spinning, but driving it briskly and reveling in the sound the engine makes, guiding a large rear-drive GT car from apex to apex, and then admiring it from a distance after you’ve parked. Take the Vanquish for what it intends to be, not at what the carbon-fiber neck beard and name might hint, and you have an unmistakably special car, especially in sound and shape — and special in the lust and desire it evokes.
“Vanquish” remains a fantastic name, but here it might not be the indicator of performance and destruction you’d hoped. But shh — I won’t tell if you don’t.
|2014 Aston Martin Vanquish|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$301,030|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||5.9L/565-hp/457-lb-ft DOHC 48-valve V-12|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3897 lb (51/49%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||184.7 x 75.2 x 50.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.0 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||12.3 sec @ 116.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||104 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.97 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.6 sec @ 0.71 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||13/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||259/177 kW-hrs/100 mi|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.28 lb/mi|