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Aston Martin Vanquish (2015) review

2014-11-30 Read: 308x

First Drives

How refreshing... Despite protestations as to the startling dynamic benefits wrought by nigh-on undetectable engineering upgrades, model-year facelifts are, almost without exception, precisely that these days; a nose job with attendant bruising. Here on the 2015 Aston Martin Vanquish, however, we find exactly the opposite.

A brace of new exterior colours, new ten-spoke alloys offering a 7kg weight saving and new leather trim colours including the deeply suspicious Fandango Pink aside, everything that differentiates the 2015 Vanquish from its predecessor is dedicated to upping the driving entertainment quota and the commensurate size of the passenger-seat wet patch.

What's new on the 2015 Aston Martin Vanquish?

Most significant is the first incorporation of ZF’s 8HP automatic transmission into a transaxle layout. Three percent lighter than its predecessor, the new eight-speed Touchtronic III gearbox adds two further ratios to the equation and boasts 130-millisecond shift speeds.

Meanwhile, a new Bosch engine management system has gearbox and AM29-spec V12 chatting away with the easy enthusiasm of a first date destined to wind up in the sack. And the 6.0-litre V12’s peak power and torque both rise a whisker, to 568bhp and 465lb ft respectively.

All of which, allied to gear and final drive ratio changes, makes the Vanquish swifter and, relatively speaking, more frugal and cleaner. The 0-62mph dash has been reduced by a stout half second to just 3.8 seconds – making this the quickest accelerating series-production Aston in the company’s 101-year history – and top speed rises to 201mph. Simultaneously, CO2 emissions tumble some 10% to, erm, 298g/km, and average fuel consumption is up to 22.1mpg.

Chassis changes too

Commensurate undercarriage enhancements include the stiffening of dampers by 15% at the front and a whopping 35% at the rear, and 20% stiffer rear suspension bushings. Both brake booster and DSC stability system have been retuned, and the steering ECU has been revised, as has the torque tube to reduce transmission noise in the cabin. Yeah, right... Like you’re ever going to hear transmission noise aboard a Vanquish.

The unique vocal signature of Aston’s V12 remains all-consuming. It instantly and irrefutably becomes the defining attribute of any machine within which it is installed...

With a start-up tang of such metallic intensity overlaying the basso profundo rumble of tick-over it’s always something of a surprise not to actually smell blood curdling as the engine barks into life... And, thereafter, a fabulous range of noises vacillate between John Landis’ peckish American Werewolf and that never to be bettered simile: Tom Jones picking up the soap in Strangeways’ showers…

Mercedes-Benz's creeping influence at Aston...

And therein lies entirely the cause of my misgivings on clocking the size of the Mercedes vehicle fleet supporting these Vanquish launch proceedings. To wit: £500 million of investment over the next five years is clearly terrific news, but just how strong is Daimler’s influence at Aston already, how much more dominant is the former set on becoming in the future, and is that glorious noise destined to become an early victim of desperately needed profitability?

Design director Marek Reichman is quick to head me off at the pass. The main thrust of the Mercedes AMG tie-in is, he avers, of an electrical-plus-ancillaries nature, intended to assuage such issues as persuading diversely sourced ECUs and gearboxes to talk to each other properly. And, whilst he is a little cagier about future plans for the V8 engine (which will, I suspect, be AMG-sourced and Aston-fettled), he insists the V12 will remain as much an Aston Martin engine as it ever was, and that the noise will remain one of the most sacrosanct attributes of the cars it powers.

Inside the Vanquish's cabin

Hope so, because the dosh could be well spent elsewhere. Unlike the powertrain, the interior’s crying out for a major overhaul. A gratuitously jaunty angle to the air vents aside, there’s nothing wrong with the basic architecture, which has lost none of its visual strength. The thing is, that’s precisely what’s lacking in the attendant switchgear and instrumentation...

No matter, because to drive the Vanquish is to forgive it almost everything. Untainted by turbocharging and now abetted by gearshifts as deft as a world-class cutpurse, the powertrain is a masterpiece of smooth, relentless urgency. Peak torque arrives long before maximum power, and the only real reason to properly bend the rev counter needle is for the noise. So this happens.A lot.

A choice of ‘Normal’ or ‘Sport’ powertrain modes opens an attitude crevasse; the engine surprisingly slow on the uptake in the former, but wide awake in the latter. Pulling and holding down one irritatingly undersized steering wheel paddle elicits automatic block downchanges to the lowest available ratio. But where’s the fun in that when you miss out on the successive, suspicious-guard-dog bark attendant to the selection of each fresh cog?

Ride and handling

The most blatant manifestation of Aston’s response to requests for a more extreme Vanquish experience is, however, in that stiffened suspension. A deal of pliancy has been sacrificed even in ‘Normal’ mode, making the car feel notably less gran turismo in its capacity to tackle poorer surfaces. ‘Sport’ mode merely adds rocks to what is already more gristle than blancmange, whist the ‘Track’ setting is stiff enough to shake the ticks off a sheepdog.

Let’s hope we still have a few years before Aston succumbs to electric steering, because the current offering is rather wonderful in the manner of a system which is so sorted it requires absolutely no contemplation. It’s beautifully weighted, properly accurate and imbued with lashings of the feel and feedback required when asking a big car to dance to your tune.

The Vanquish boasts stacks of mechanical grip, and may be leaned on to a quite exceptional extent for such a large machine; the more you ask of it the more firmly it tucks its rump into the road surface, settling in with admirable poise. Allied to that delicious helm, this equates to an unexpected degree of agility, the pleasure of placing such a large hooter with such accuracy on smaller, tighter roads marred only by suspension verging on over-tough for the British B-road.

Stick to wide, sweeping A-roads, however, and the Aston is entirely at home, covering ground with magisterial poise, and noise, and responding to your growing confidence in the depths of its abilities with ever increasing pace.

Verdict

A tad more revolution in this evolution, then, and a properly intoxicating one at that.

Statistics

How much? £192,995
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 5935cc 48v V12, 568bhp @ 6650rpm, 465lb ft @ 5500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 3.8sec 0-62mph, 201mph, 22.1mpg, 298g/km CO2
How heavy / made of? 1739kg/carbonfibre and aluminum
length/width/height in mm 4728/1912/1294

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