2013 Aston Martin Vanquish

2013 Aston Martin Vanquish 2013 Aston Martin Vanquish
First Drive Review

England can feel like the land that time forgot. The quaint villages dotting the countryside are short Sunday strolls apart, the roads connecting them no wider or smoother than necessary for horse-drawn carts. Ask a woman her weight, and she’ll give it to you in stone before slapping you. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Aston Martin can sometimes seem like the car company that time forgot. Replacing the DBS for 2013 as Aston’s sportiest, most expensive offering, the Vanquish wears styling that is directly, obviously traceable to the 1994 DB7. Behind the familiar face rests a 5.9-liter V-12 that debuted in 2000 and a central architecture dating to the 2004 DB9.

This is not to suggest, however, that Aston is sitting completely still. Although the aluminum structure remains largely the same as the DBS’s (and DB9’s and Vantage’s and Rapide’s), the front-end structure is significantly lighter and is redesigned to allow the engine to mount 0.7 inch lower than in the DBS. Every body panel is new and now made of carbon fiber, contributing to a 25-percent increase in torsional rigidity and a weight reduction of about 150 pounds, according to the manufacturer. Still, figure on a curb weight of about 3850 pounds. Updating the big V-12 with variable timing on both the intake and exhaust cams (now hollow), larger throttle bodies, a revised intake manifold, and a few other tweaks bumps output from the DBS’s 510 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque to 565 and 457, respectively.

Aston Martin still describes the Vanquish as a grand tourer, but a sporty grand tourer—the more laid-back being the DB9. The ride is quite firm, tending more toward sports-car stiff than GT supple. On smooth roads, the unyielding suspension contributes to surprising nimbleness and neutrality. Over rough tarmac, the Vanquish maintains its composure even in fast, lumpy corners, only—but readily—getting squirrelly with a midcorner throttle kick. The dampers offer three settings—normal, sport, and track—but even in normal, there’s hardly more body roll than there would be if the axles bolted directly to the subframes. And “track” is a rare bit of truth in advertising; nobody will ever want to use it anywhere else.

Hydraulic steering assist survives in the Vanquish. It’s a nice reminder of the way things still are in fewer and fewer cars. Quick, with a sporting but restrained weight that builds nicely in proportion to cornering forces, the rack allows appropriate feedback for something that its maker is unwilling to call a sports car, but the line goes a bit fuzzy at the limit. We do dig the available squared-off steering wheel, borrowed from the limited-edition One-77.

When compared with other V-12 sports cars in its pricing stratosphere, the DBS always seemed underpowered. Now, with 565 horses, the Vanquish…still seems underpowered. The Lamborghini Aventador has 691 hp. The Ferrari F12’s 730 beats Aston’s output by 165 horses. At least Aston’s flagship is no longer outmuscled by BMW’s SUVs. Nonetheless, we estimate the Vanquish should hit 60 mph in 4.0 seconds, which, if well off the pace of today’s hottest smart-phone wallpapers, does minimize the risk of being embarrassed by Mustangs and Camaros. And Aston’s V-12 is a thing of aural beauty; a sharp bark on startup and a guttural swell to redline can almost make you forget that Ferrari’s V-12 GT has 29 percent more power. Almost. Twenty-nine percent is a lot.