Aston Martin strikes the right balance

"It's the best car we've ever made," says Dr Ulrich Bez of the new Vanquish. I resist the temptation to ask Aston Martin's boss whether its new flagship GT is better than the £1.2m-plus One-77 hypercar or the less extreme, but almost as exclusive, V12 Zagato now on sale.

To be fair, Bez isn’t referring to the hand-formed special edition cars that push the brand even higher into über-exclusivity. He’s referring to how the new £190k DBS replacement gives buyers access to some of the technologies previously only available on its special edition cars.

Like the One-77, the Vanquish is built from carbon fibre and aluminium. It has an elegant waist, muscular haunches and side strakes which extend into the doors. Its carbon fibre body panels mean previously unachievable forms are now possible; so the door side strakes look as if someone just pinched them out and the lip of the rear spoiler rises upwards in a sculptural fashion above the LED rear light “blades.” Unlike the more brutal-looking DBS it replaces, the new Vanquish manages to be both elegant and athletic. This visual balancing act is important because the new Vanquish has been built to be much more agile but without sacrificing the comfort required of a long distance grand tourer. And the results are stunning.

From a sporting perspective, there’s no doubt 2012 belongs to the British athlete so it’s a good year to introduce a quintessentially British sports car. Unusually, the car is launched to the world’s press in England on some very challenging roads between Newport Pagnell and Newmarket. Brave indeed because some of these Fen roads undulate like a sound wave rollercoaster which is a difficult surface for any car to get to grips with, let alone a supercar.

As I drop into the driver’s seat I find myself looking at a square steering wheel. For accuracy, I should say it isn’t actually square but squircular. It’s the same steering wheel found in the One-77. I grow accustomed to it but I don’t love it. Thankfully you can choose not to have it – though Aston Martin says more than two-thirds of Vanquish sales so far have seen buyers chose it so what do I know?

Despite having essentially the same footprint, the interior of this Vanquish is bigger than the DBS it replaces. As absurd as it sounds, the cockpit is not only luxurious – soft cream leather, chrome and carbon fibre – but roomy. Aston Martin has gone to great lengths to squeeze every millimetre of space it can out of the cabin. Instead of a glovebox there is more legroom. As any Aston Martin owner will tell you, the glovebox in the DBS was so small that you could only ever keep the owner’s manual in it, which – trimmed in leather – was such a lovely thing it was kept away in the house anyway. The centre console is narrower; the dial turn audio controls (and the paddle shifters) have a rubberised feel, while glass buttons vibrate their feedback when you operate the greatly improved infotainment system. The result is an interior that looks and feels a great deal younger.

Hit the start button and the engine thunders into life. The resonant 565bhp 6.0-litre V12 engine has an even better note and sits lower in the chassis to improve handling. I hit launch control then push the accelerator down “beyond 80%.” There’s a beat pause and then off it goes with virtually no wheel spin. So well-controlled is it that I lament the lack of drama. Of course, with figures showing 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds, this is a very quick car. But as anyone who drives such cars regularly will tell you, straight roads are for Americans; Europeans like corners. Here the Vanquish is surprisingly adept. Make no mistake, the Vanquish feels like a big GT but now, much less so through the bends. It’s agile and feels more responsive and while the ride is firm, it is comfortable in normal mode and more characterful in sport mode with the baffles constantly open.

Is this Vanquish the best Aston Martin ever made as Bez claims? It’s certainly better than the DBS it replaces. Do you need one? Of course not. Nobody needs a fast and beautiful supercar. But then that is not the point. Is it?

THE FACTS: ASTON MARTIN VANQUISH

PRICE: £189,995
0-62MPH: 4.1 secs
TOP SPEED: 183mph
CO2 G/KM: 335g/km
MPG COMBINED: 19.6mpg

THE VERDICT:

DESIGN *****
PERFORMANCE ****
PRACTICALITY ***
VALUE FOR MONEY ***

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