|Transmission||8 speed ZF|
|Engine||5.9L naturally aspirated V12|
The Aston Martin Vanquish had, up until now, been one of those cars that had evaded me. I had had previous opportunities to drive one but, for one reason or another, things had come up which prevented me from doing so.
I had read plenty about how it was an ageing chassis (the familiar VH architecture that had spawned all three Aston Martin models, beginning with the DB9), the gearbox was not good enough for it to rival its competitors and that the interior felt dated.
What was always undeniable however was, from the outside, this was a beautiful car. Muscular, taught, brutally simple. It’s also one, in my view, looks just as good as a coupe as it does a convertible. In many cars the loss of a roof means a slight detraction from the car’s lines. Not in this instance however; the way the fabric cuts into the rear three quarters actually enhances the car’s haunches, while the way it stows under the rear tonneau is very elegant.
The Test Drive
The car I drove was specified with the exterior carbon pack. This meant the gloss black paint is delightfully offset with carbon everything else: front splitter, side sills, rear diffuser, side strakes and wing mirrors. It added a real sporting presence that complimented the car’s lines.
Inside, things were a little less conventional and, as a result, much more striking. I had always found the interior or Aston Martin’s to be a little enclosed, so had always wondered why so many had been specified with black or dark grey everywhere; this just added to that feeling and, ultimately, made them feel more dated that they actually are. In this example, I think they got it just right. The splash (perhaps more than a splash…!) of yellow injects a lightness, contrast and youthfulness to the interior that I really appreciated. I understand this combination is not for everyone, but it really worked for me.
Straight ahead of you is the steering-wheel from the One-77 hyper car, as is the centre waterfall dash in a beautiful carbon twill. Whilst it doesn’t have a huge touchscreen infotainment system, you actually appreciate the work that went into creating the centre console; it is a timeless design. The dials are beautiful to look at although there is no demarcation for the rev limit, which means it’s too easy to bang into the limiter when taking manual control of the gears.
From the outside, on start up this car makes that characteristic large displacement bellow, before it then settles to a purposeful idle. On the inside however, things are much less muted. In fact, despite this car being a convertible, the sound of the exhaust note, whether at idle or when on the move, hardly penetrates the cabin. I found this somewhat underwhelming and, ultimately, a little disappointing. I understand Aston have a titanium exhaust that can be retrofitted (a £10k extra) and, of course, there are numerous aftermarket companies that will do something similar, but given the V12 howl is so definitive, I couldn’t help but feel this was a mistake.
Many have complained about the gearbox in the Vanquish. This example is one of the latest produced, means it had the eight speed ZF gearbox. Contrary to many reviewers, I think it fits the personality of the Vanquish perfectly. In automatic mode, this car is an effortless GT and the quick shifting transmission makes it exceptionally easy to drive. It clearly has very intelligent software and always seems to know which gear you need to be in to maximise the torque of the engine. As a result, pick up, even in comfort mode, is effortless.
On the steering wheel there is a sports button and a damper button. Pressing the first increases the exhaust note (although not by a huge amount), tightens the steering, increases the speed of the gearshifts and stiffens the suspension. The latter can be slackened once more by pressing the damper button. Straight away, the Vanquish feels more taught and urgent, with almost no pedal travel required at all to deploy the 650Nm and 568bhp through your right foot. By pulling one of the paddles behind the steering wheel, you can take control of the transmission and shift gears yourself. It is here, perhaps, that there this more room to complain. Upshifts are excellent, even with the accelerator peddle pressed hard to the floor, but it’s the downshifts that provide the chink in the armour. There can be a delay between pulling the left paddle and the car changing gear, which means you have to perform the manoeuvre slightly earlier than with a double clutch in order to execute the change when you want it. Additionally there is no flare of revs to accompany the movement. On top of that, the action of the paddles themselves is not especially pleasant – there is a quite a bit of travel to them while the noise they make on gear change can sound a little inexpensive.
So does this pose a problem for the Vanquish? In short, what one hand giveth, the other taketh away. Don’t forget this car is built as a GT first, super sports car second. This means it is a 7-8/10 car. It’s one happiest cosseting you in town or whilst cruising quickly on open motorways or A roads. If you start to push the car harder, i.e. more than 8/10, it’s lesser sporting credentials will come to the fore and there could be some frustration there.
Overall, if you look at the Aston Martin Vanquish how it was intended, you will find a beautiful, beguiling motorcar. It’s large displacement, naturally aspirated motor is addictive in the way it deploys its torque, while you will never grow tired of admiring the waterfall dash or the look of the haunches in the wing mirrors. There are, of course, a number of areas where you can tell this car has roots from a different era and plenty of parts from under Ford’s stewardship. So if you can get past the slightly cheap looking and sounding indicators behind the steering wheel, or the electric window controls situated on the doors, you will realise this is a car with a real character; a very special GT indeed.
The Aston Martin Vanquish Volante I tested was on sale for £117,000 which, given it was over £200,000 brand new, represents significant value for such an effortless example from one of the desired marques in the industry.
With thanks to Nathan at Stratstone for the test drive.