I can faintly hear the piper at the gates of the New Year. As I approach the New Year in silence, I am contemplating my automotive experiences of 2013. Without a doubt, at the annual AMOC meet held at Lime Rock CT, driving the new Aston Martin Vanquish was the highlight.
It was here 3 years ago, Tom Papadopoulos of Autosport Designs Inc. threw me the keys to an Aston Martin Vanquish that they had fitted with a proper factory manual transmission conversion kit. Driving this meaty thoroughbred around the Berkshires confirmed my passion for this model. Though weighty at some 4,000 lbs., the drivability and handling was superb to say the least. Thinking I entered heaven for this brief time, the experience was burned into my memory forever. I will be good for now on.
Fast forward to 2013, Aston Martin offered me a drive of the all new Vanquish model. Again, at the AMOC meet at Lime Rock CT., I drove this new model over roads that are challenging, curvy, hilly, off-camber and uneven. Again, this grand tourer performed flawlessly. How can this be? At an estimated weight of 3,850 lbs., the Vanquish is no lightweight. The answer is simple; the Vanquish is the quintessential ‘Grand Touring’ in the truest sense. Let me explain this to you.
The Aston Martin Vanquish was designed to deliver comfort, luxury, performance and power. Though there may be some cars that are lighter and faster, they are no match for the Aston’s combination of these design elements. That being said, let’s move on.
Aston Martin’s are not ‘Badge Engineered’. Specifically, the world famous VH (Vertical Horizontal) platform now in its Gen4 stage has been re-engineered for a 25% increase in stiffness & rigidity over the outgoing DBS model. Believe it or not, the new Vanquish is actually lighter too! Aston Martin achieved this through bonding the aluminum components, and matching with aerospace standard carbon fiber components. In addition, the hollow aluminum casted front structure is 13% lighter than the DBS and allows the engine to sit 19 mm lower for a lower center of gravity. The end result is a perfect 50/50 front to rear weight distribution and keeping some 85% of the weight between the front wheels.
Coupled to this robust structure are the latest carbon ceramic brake discs from Brembo. These massive ventilated 398 mm front and 360 mm rear discs are matched with six-piston (front) and four-piston (rear) calipers. Lighter than standard steel discs, they offer shorter stopping distances. They are calibrated with the ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution), EBA (Emergency Brake Assist) and PTC (Positive Torque Control). All of which includes a track mode.
In case you are wondering why Aston Martin went to all this bother, it is not simply because of tradition. Harnessing the new V12 engine has been transformed to deliver an astounding 565 bhp @ 6,750 rpm and 457 lb. ft. torque @ 5,500 rpm. This is an increase of some 62 bhp over the previous flagship. Aston Martin’s bespoke engine facility in Cologne made their debut of the dual variable valve timing system, a bit late in the game perhaps. However, with enlarged throttle bodies, winged intake manifold and fully machined combustion chambers delivers the fully street-able power.
The engine is connected to an alloy torque tube which houses a lightweight carbon fiber propeller shaft which mates to the mid-mounted six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic transmission. A limited-slip differential is the obvious choice.
Holding this stiff chassis and massive power to the road is an independent suspension, coil springs and anti-roll bars, both front and rear. The monotube shock absorbers (dampers) are now a three-stage adjustable system. ADS (Adaptive Damping System), has three setting modes: Normal, Sport and Track. From my experience, the Normal mode is quite suffice, unless of course you are on a track. And now, with launch control for those who want that final tenth of a second from a standing start.
An Aston Martin is not complete, without looking like one should. The distinctive and timeless shape was influenced by the One-77 supercar. Following the golden rule of design for dimension and shape, the Vanquish is both constructed and designed with carbon fiber. Every exterior panel is made from woven aerospace carbon fiber. Structurally sound, the body is some 25% lighter than the former DBS model. Complex compound curves are flawlessly shaped without unsightly seams. Note the image of the rear deck lid that is constructed as one piece! The model I drove had the optional 2+2 seating, whereas I still prefer the standard 2+0 set-up.
Bearing in mind that this is a ‘Grand Touring’ car for comfort, there is 37 mm more legroom, 60% more trunk space and 140% more interior space than the outgoing DBS model. This is all achieved without losing any of the sleek body profile. To finish this fine coachwork, is the interior itself.
Every surface of the interior is of bespoke finish, harmonizing the leather, metal and glass. The finest leather has over 1 million stitches in unimaginable patterns. The touch of the glass control knobs is that of an heirloom. Precisely what Aston Martin is all about.
Though I did not attempt to prove the 0-62 mph in 4.1 seconds, or the 183 mph top speed, I did in fact drive the finest grand touring car available. On the street, there is no other.
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