Poised outside Stratstone of Wilmslow, on a typically cold September morning, was the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish. A car who's very name means, "to reduce to submission by superior force, to conquer, overpower or overwhelm". With beautiful lines, the car has a certain presence, graceful yet vicious, a contemporary interpretation of the Aston Martin style, taking influence from the DB4GT Zagato and "Project" Le Mans race cars.
The Vanquish is an 1800 kilo, F1 paddle shift, 460 bhp monster that can propel itself to 60 miles an hour in under 5 seconds. Combine this immense power with a top speed of 190 mph and you have probably the best GT on the market today.
Arguably one of the most sophisticated cars on the road, Aston Martin's current flagship takes full advantage of the latest materials and techniques. Built using a combination of aluminium and carbon fibre bonding, with revolutionary crash impact protection systems the Vanquish is also one of the safest cars on the road. After completing an exhaustive world-wide test programme, with fifty prototypes completing well over 1.0 million miles, the car is also unquestionably reliable.
The technological advances are not solely to be found within the body of the car, the interior specification package is also very impressive. As standard in all V12's you get the F1 style column mounted paddle shift gear selection system, a 1300 watt 13 speaker CD stereo, traction control and a wheel spin protection system. Aston Martin also offer a wide range of options including satellite navigation and an in car phone system.
From the very key turn, the Vanquish "bursts" into life, with the inexorably rapturous sounds of the hand crafted and precision tuned V12 48V engine (an upgraded and slightly modified version of the DB7 powerhouse ). From inside, the engine murmurs pleasantly, giving a noise level comparable with many luxury cars. This all changes when you start to engage the car more in a higher rev range, as the engine roars satisfyingly before you explode forwards.
In its drive, the Vanquish handles as well as any sports car gliding around tight bends and corners as though on a set of rails! This amazingly nimble ride and handling is due, mainly, to the new chassis, which, as well as having extreme strength, produces a low and centralised centre of gravity, giving a great deal of stability.
The power delivery is also a joy through all gears and rev ranges, giving an equal power distribution with no flat spots throughout. This power is clearly demonstrated when the car accelerates right through the 7000 rev range to 90 miles per hour, in only second gear. Alongside as the standard manual drive, the Vanquish features a "sport" and "fully automatic mode". In sport mode, the gear ratios are adjusted to give the car a sportier feel, when down-shifting, the engine is also revved, creating a great sound and also ensuring power is not lost through the gear change. In fully automatic, the onboard computers handle the drive completely, automatically changing gears as needed, the driver can also use “kick-down” to force the Vanquish into a lower gear, giving a burst of power. The addition of a winter programme also automatically reduces the car's power and torque, resulting in a much more controllable drive in icy or unpredictable conditions.
The car also a joy to drive at lower speeds, equally at home touring the countryside or in urban environments. In the latter case, the V12's surprisingly good visibility and steering ensure a confident drive with easy manoeuvring and parking characteristics.
The purchase package of an Aston Martin is also notable. If you are not happy with the standard (but extensive) colour and trim combinations, Aston promise, for a small fee, to match the colour of the car to any other manufacturers colour or even any sample colour from any source.
The attention to detail on this car is astounding, and illustrated perfectly when looking at the paintwork. Firstly the paint is applied followed by the lacquer, this is allowed to dry before the whole of the body work is hand sanded and re-lacquered and varnished giving a finish not seen on many other cars, the effect is a so smooth you can see mirror like reflections without any of the "orange peel" effects seen on even some comparable cars.
The interior is also beautiful with luscious leathers and trim hand crafted giving an opulent and high quality finish. From September 2002, Aston Martin are also using custom-built switchgear, to replace the current buttons and stalks, the majority of which appear to be lifted from a Ford Focus. The new set have been custom designed for the vehicle and promise to be every bit as high quality as the rest of the interior.
The Vanquish is available as either a two seater with rear shelf or, a two plus two. While the cabin is very spacious, the two rear seats (if opted for) are somewhat cramped, unlikely to comfortably seat two adults.
Pricing starts at around £165 000 (in line with a reasonable house ). While many would argue this is a massive amount of money for a car, you do get what you pay for with the Vanquish. A hand built performance vehicle with great heritage, as much a status symbol as object of desire. This is not a car bought for its practicality, but for its character. The Vanquish stands proud as Aston Martin’s flagship model, and as one of the very finest cars in the world (proven with a 12 month minimum waiting list).
The new V12 Vanquish is the most sophisticated and technologically advanced new model ever to be designed and developed by Aston Martin. Built at Newport Pagnell, V12 Vanquish will become Aston Martins premier flagship model complementing the already well established DB7 Vantage models.
Available in either two plus two or two seater form, V12 Vanquish will be powered by a 450 bhp (336kW) version of Aston Martin's 6.0 litre 48 valve, four cam V12 engine, and each car will be handbuilt and equipped, in true Aston Martin tradition to the exact and individual requirement of its owner.
Engine - Further development of Aston Martin’s low emissions, all alloy, twin overhead camshaft, 48 valve 6.0 litre V12 engine with new design inlet manifolds, camshafts, valve gear, crankshaft and exhaust system has resulted in an increase in power to 460bhp and an increase in torque to 400 lb.ft. With the catalysts located immediately adjacent to the exhaust manifold they achieve optimum operating efficiency within 30 seconds to further reduce emissions. To ensure that heat from the engine and exhaust system is insulated from the body structure the entire exhaust system and the front bulkhead is clad in a heat resistant material first developed within the aerospace industry. A unique engine oil to water heat exchanger accelerates and assists operating efficiency together with an ionised gas misfire detection system which provides continuous monitoring of each of the engine’s 12 cylinders.
Transmission - The six speed close ratio manual transmission which is installed in the new V12 Vanquish is linked to the electronic drive-by-wire throttle and controlled through twin paddles mounted on the steering column. Developed exclusively for Aston Martin, the advanced paddle shift gear change incorporates electronics matched to hydraulics to facilitate instantaneous gear changes. Sophisticated electronics also permit the manual transmission to operate automatically with the additional facility of a programme for winter driving conditions which automatically reduces the power and torque of the engine.
Brakes, Suspension and Steering - Anti-lock, ventilated and drilled 355mm (front) and 330mm (rear) diameter Brembo disc brakes are fitted to the aluminium alloy road wheels. These are combined with variable ratio power steering and independent front and rear suspension systems which incorporate forged aluminium wishbones and cast aluminium front suspension uprights. The rear axle is equipped with a limited slip differential operating in tandem with electronic traction control which senses potential wheel slippage and automatically reduces engine power and if necessary applies the rear brake system. The Yokohama 255/40 ZR 19 front and 285/40 ZR 19 rear tyres are mounted on 19" diameter wheels with 9" width rims at the front and 10" width rims at the rear. Individual tyre pressures and temperatures are monitored through an automatic electronic sensing system.