We can hardly wait to have a go behind the wheel

Even though it paid only an appropriate flying visit to Auckland, Aston Martin's next top model managed to attract five buyers.

And with a $430,000 price-tag before you even start ticking boxes, it does pose the question: What bloody recession?

The Vanquish, replacing the outgoing DBS, was in New Zealand for a very short visit to Independent Prestige last week, in pre-production form, before heading for Australia. The unfortunate upshot of this is that Driven couldn't drive it, but when the first cars appear here at the end of the year we definitely will be.

If the DBS is anything to go by, it will be a monster. That car - given an outing in the James Bond movie Casino Royale - was so close to track-ready it was almost too hard-riding for the road, but packed in features like carbon ceramic brakes and a 380kW V12 that made it forgivable.


Vanquish is more curved and lighter than the DBS, with some drivers' next top modelsubtle styling changes - there's not much else with Aston's range - and a lot of extra power from the bellowing six-litre V12.

The sides cut further inwards, making the guards seem even wider, side strakes have been extended and LEDs replace the previous rear lights - all features lifted from the hyper-rare $2 million-plus One-77 supercar.

These changes help give the front a more aggressive grin, while the rear spoiler has been replaced with a thick duct sculpted into the boot lid, giving the rear a more purposeful appearance and offering downforce. As well-formed as they may be, the panels have a huge weight advantage - carbon fibre has trimmed some fat. And with bonded aluminium chassis, torsional rigidity has improved by nearly a quarter.

It still packs a naturally aspirated V12, but now it's making a monster 421kW - enough to slingshot the car from 0-100km/h in a shade over four seconds, and a touch less powerful the One-77.

Aston Martin claims a top speed of 295km/h, should you get the (legal) opportunity to really stretch its legs. The transmission has been revised, retaining a six-speed auto, although amid reports of its nimble nature there have been rumblings about a manual variant.

The interior is typically stunning, with quilted leather seats and hood lining, carbon accents, polished aluminium everywhere and the Garmin-driven satnav and control centre which disappears fluidly into the dash when not required.

Vanquish can be ordered as either a strict two-seater or as a 2+2 - realistically it's not the most practical car in the world, and all but the shortest and most flexible will be able to actually use the back seat. It has made another leap forward in practicality though - the boot has been extended to 368 litres, 60 per cent more than the DBS, but it's an awkward shape and difficult to get in much luggage to.

But if you're paying more than $400,000 for a high-style GT car, the major considerations are more likely to be which shade of the many, many Aston Martin greys to choose (or whether to pick a colour, heaven forbid); which combination of leather, accents and stitching for the seats and door skins and if the polished carbon fibre roof is going to be a pain to clean.

Aston Martin distributor Independent Prestige will have another car arriving before Christmas, says general manager Greg Brinck, and the first customer cars will land early in the new year.

He says that the hype around Vanquish, which was carefully introduced around events like America's Pebble Beach Concourse, had managed to build considerable interest before the car had even been officially announced.

Aston has gone from strength to strength here, and is on target to the continue the trend that saw more registrations banked last year than in 2010.

The range has narrowed slightly with the exit of the short-lived but highly entertaining Virage - which sat between the DB9 and DBS, but has been made obsolete by tweaks to DB9 models that made the pair two similar.

There's even a model under the key $200,000 mark now, the Vantage V8.

It is the flagship that counts though, and with Vanquish buyers lining up already, and enthusiastically ticking boxes to personalise their cars, even with the $430,000 price-tag, it does pay to remember that the DBS cost more than $550,000 when it first appeared here five years ago.