Aston Martin rolled out the red carpet to launch its V12 Vanquish, with six of the $430,000 cars lined up outside a stately home, and a date with a stud stallion at Newmarket on the day's drive agenda plus a drive route over undulating, often luridly bumpy back roads.
Features and build methods developed from other Astons put this Vanquish a step ahead of its blistering DBS predecessor. The carbon fibre body - revealed in all its polished glory at the launch but normally covered in layers of gleaming paint - shrouds a much stiffer bonded aluminium chassis. That houses a more efficient, much more powerful normally aspirated V12, its 421kW and 620Nm good for zero to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds via a six-speed auto transmission.
The cabin benefits from lessons learned in other cars, the glass fascia a thing of beauty too easily marred by fingerprints, the acres of leather fairly screaming money, and the supremely comfortable seats developed from the Rapide frame are good for hours in the saddle.
The company line
Aston engineer Paul Thomas says Aston decided against a double clutch transmission as it weighs 30kg more, while an eight-speeder is "too shift-busy. With only six-speeds you only need three gears - second to fourth - to drive in a spirited manner given 80 per cent of our torque is available from around 1750rpm."
What we say
The rear seats are designed for tolerant midgets or luggage, which with the 368-litre boot makes this a reasonably practical GT. It's also a breathtakingly handsome one.
On the road
The Vanquish is an astonishing piece of kit, delivering better handling in these conditions than the DBS, more power, yet a more refined experience despite the hooligan shout from those pipes. Press the naughty button to open exhaust valves that release a soundtrack so potent my chest needed a shave by lunchtime.
The suspension absorbed the big hits, isolated the sharp ones and delivered a whiff of rear bias that encouraged an increasingly rapid approach to bends, assisted by prodigious levels of grip and phenomenally effective carbon ceramic brakes.
So quick is this Vanquish, yet so planted, so confident and predictable and so composed on even lumpy surfaces, that on one gnarly test stretch we were astonished to see 150 on the speedo - before realising it actually read miles per hour. Yet the car felt as assured as if we were wombling along at 80, a speed at which it's equally special. This Vanquish feels stiffer than a Vantage and more compliant than a DBS while handling better than both.
Why you'll buy one
It'll go faster, further in greater comfort than ever before without turning a classically elegant hair, yet sounds like pure testosterone.
Why you won't
Your spouse won't sell the house and kids to fund it.