Aston Martin Vanquish: Shaken, but not stirred

The Vanquish is meant to be the maddest, baddest Aston Martin of all.

The Aston Martin Vanquish is priced from $430,000 and arrives in NZ early next year. Photo / Supplied
The Aston Martin Vanquish is priced from $430,000 and arrives in NZ early next year. Photo / Supplied

It had to be silver, of course. Only then could I indulge any James Bond fantasies that might squeeze past the steely objectivity by which I should be assessing the new Aston Martin Vanquish.

The revered British marque has, again, provided transport for 007 in the latest Bond flick Skyfall, though I don't know if that will have the ability to blend invisibly into its surroundings as the last big-screen Aston Martin did.

Even if it can, we should still be able to hear it, because a 5.3 litre, V12 engine is hard to keep quiet.

The Vanquish is meant to be the maddest, baddest Aston Martin of all, apart from the rare and ultra-expensive One-77 which no journalist has yet driven; oh, and the limited-production V8 Vantage Zagato. There's also the V12 Vantage, which uses an earlier version of this Vanquish V12 in the smaller body normally reserved for the gentler V8 engine. That sounds quite mad, too.

A few ifs and buts there, then. But the important thing to know is that this Vanquish conforms to much the same template as all Aston Martins since the millennium, which means a powerful front-mounted engine, made from extruded, welded and bonded aluminium and a sleek body of unmistakable visual identity.

It has the hunched look, crisp edges and side strake spearing back from the wing vent already seen on the One-77, and all the outer panels bar the bumpers are of lightweight carbon fibre, whose glossy weave is exposed around the body's lower perimeter. Under the bonnet is a V12 engine of unchanged size which is able to breathe better and deliver more muscle at low speeds, as well as that useful 573bhp at full chat.

Inside, the aura is familiar to anyone who has looked at the interior of a recent Aston Martin, but calmer thanks to a new centre console in which the daunting buttons have been ousted by touchscreen panels.

I expected a fire-spitting, tarmac-tearing monster when I set off in the Vanquish, but that is not its way. Its engine sounds magnificently crisp and rich, but the evenness of its vast power delivery makes even the searing 4.1-second 0-100km/h time seem less dramatic than it should. Even the launch control function, which automatically gives the best getaway, feels oddly anti-climactic as the Vanquish just squeezes itself into hyperspace.

The automatic gearbox is partly why; its shifts are quick and smooth, whether self-generated or driver-triggered via the manual paddleshift controls, but they blunt the drama. It feels good in the turns, though, with quick, tactile steering and the fabulous balance typical of a rear-wheel-drive car. The Vanquish soon takes on the nimbleness of a smaller machine but none of the three suspension modes - Normal, Sport and Sport Track - can quite cope with big undulations.

That's the only time the Vanquish feels unruly. Otherwise it's a big, beautiful, magnificently built powerhouse and a very appropriate Bond-flavoured grand tourer but it should be a touch more raw. Shaken it can do, on a poor road. I'd just like to be stirred a little more.


-Independent

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