Road test: 2015 Aston Martin Vanquish
I’ve never made it a secret that I have a lot of love for Aston Martin. The company has been through more ups and downs in its 102-year history than the rollercoaster at Ferrari World, but it has held on for dear life in the face of huge adversity, and as a result, there’s something of the underdog about Aston Martin, which makes it the quintessential British manufacturer. But in recent times, my love and devotion has begun to wane and the rot started to set in with the Vanquish.
It didn’t help that the model replaced what is still my favourite Aston: the DBS, a car in which I covered many tens of thousands of kilometres over the years, not one of which could be described as arduous. Time with each DBS felt as comfortable and familiar as being with an old friend who always had one extra anecdote up their sleeve, just when you thought you’d heard everything. The Vanquish, when it came along in 2012, seemed a big step backwards. There were fundamental issues about its lack of any real excitement, but according to Aston Martin, they’ve been dealt with – and this latest iteration puts the Vanquish firmly on the supercar map.
The earlier-than-expected midlife refresh brought with it three extremely important upgrades: a new, eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, a new Bosch engine-management system and significantly stiffer damper ratings at both ends. The visuals have been left alone, but there are new, rather tasty alloy wheels and some additional upholstery colours available.
And so the time has come for me to see for myself whether these updates are enough to bring the Vanquish back from the brink. The United Kingdom’s wildly differing road surfaces should at least highlight the new suspension set-up’s flaws or strengths in a way no UAE motorway ever would.
I push the key fob, with its crystal glass cap, into the dashboard orifice and hear the familiar bark of the V12. The engine, always the highlight of any modern Aston experience, sounds as glorious as ever: a menacing rumble that, with increased revs, rapidly turns into a staccato thrash that’s utterly mesmerising and unique in the motoring world. I select Sport mode on the (thankfully not square this time) steering wheel and leave it switched on – if the Vanquish’s alleged sporting credentials will be found anywhere, it’s in this position.
I drive this thing until its tank is empty, covering 500 kilometres in one extremely enlightening day. Barrelling along English country roads that snake through lush green landscapes, commuting in heavy rush hour traffic, negotiating city streets and stupidly tight underground car parks, hammering along motorways and dual carriageways and eventually returning home to Wales, the “new” Vanquish proves its point. This is a car transformed.
While I’m still not sold on its over-styled external architecture (particularly noticeable in this white hue), I appear to be the only one. Other drivers stop in their tracks, mouths agog; pedestrians young and old stare in appreciation – if you forget the power a car has to turn heads after spending too long in the UAE, you need to drive an Aston Martin in the north of England and Wales. If I’d emerged, starkers, from the bowels of a flying saucer, I’d cause less of a stir than I do in this automobile.
For me, however, the really enjoyable part of this experience is the feeling that everything, at last, is working together in perfect unison underneath the Vanquish’s carbon-fibre bodywork. The new Bosch brains are the linchpin here, tying together engine and transmission in perfect harmony. The ZF eight-speeder has two more ratios than its forebear and its changes, via the steering wheel shifters, are lightning quick. You need to drop down from eighth to sixth or fifth when a sudden burst of acceleration is called for, but when you do, the gathering of pace is ferocious. The flip side of that coin is, at speeds over 140kph, this car’s rev counter is hovering at just 2,000rpm, making for a relaxing GT character when you want to simply cover ground.
That stiffer suspension seals the deal. It remains compliant and comfortable on poor surfaces, giving the Vanquish real poise on fast sweepers. But for all the advancements manifest in this car, its trump card remains its stupendous, roaring heart. That magnificent engine has lost none of its savage character – its soundtrack a truly nape-tingling sensory experience that, after all these years, shows no sign of becoming tiresome. And now, at long last, the rest of the car is a match for it.
Ignore the naysayers – this is a superb motor car that feels fresh, modern and sublimely well built; a shining example of how slow but steady evolution can result in a product with few, if any, peers. The love affair is back on – I couldn’t be happier.
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Updated: August 6, 2015 04:00 AM