Driven: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish

By Brandon Turkus

April 05, 2013

(photo credit: Chris Amos)
—Lake Orion, Michigan
“How fast is it?” “What’s the top speed?” “How much horsepower does it have?” “What kind of engine is in it?” Take an Aston Martin anywhere, we mean anywhere, and you’re likely to be bombarded with questions. After a long night of driving, we came to a stop to let some deer cross a rural road. We could have sworn one of them asked about power-to-weight ratios.
The bad news is, most of these questions receive unsatisfactory answers. The Vanquish will hit 60 in four seconds, will reach a top speed of 183 miles per hour, and has a 565-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-12. In a world where an auto show can see the debut of not one, but two 900-plus horsepower cars, and a $55,000 Mustang can hit 60 in about 3.8 seconds, one could argue the Vanquish doesn’t quite cut the public’s mustard.
[Click here to read our review of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550]
Yet when you’re behind the wheel, these figures and metrics and the fact that there are faster, cheaper cars available mean very little. Driving an Aston Martin isn’t a performance choice so much as a lifestyle choice. You feel a little bit taller, a little bit happier just standing next to a beauty like this. Driving an Aston Martin singles you out as a connoisseur, someone that could have a Ferrari, or Lamborghini, or Bentley, but recognizes that there’s more to life than 0-60 times and top speeds that you’ll never hit. That doesn’t mean this isn’t an inspiring car to drive, though, as we found out during a long weekend testing it.
Manipulating the carbon-fiber doorpulls, the doors swung open slightly upward, gracefully holding their position at nearly any angle. Closing the doors was accompanied by a futuristic “woosh” from the same hydraulics.
The cabin perfectly walked the line between sportiness and luxury. The seats were low, and featured plenty of support without feeling too tight. The backrest wasn’t quite tall enough, and there was no height adjustment for the headrest, so we had to sit a bit lower in the seat than we were accustomed to. What we found, though, was that the lower we slid, the better the seats felt. Slide down, bring the telescopic wheel out so it’s sitting in your lap, and gaze over that long, graceful hood. Few things can improve one’s mood faster.
The steering wheel on our tester was sourced from the One-77 hypercar. The black leather/Alcantara piece was rather big, but holding the almost square wheel felt natural, thanks in no small part to the healthy level of padding. The column-mounted magnesium shifters were well within reach of our fingertips, making grabbing a gear feel natural and easy.
As for the interior itself, it was gorgeous. Should that be a surprise on a car that starts at $279,995? Not particularly. The dominant material was leather, with the dash, doors, seats, steering column, and headliner all finished in the stuff. The contrast stitching—blue, to match our tester’s exterior—was beautifully done, with the kind of heavy stitch that screamed “class.” As for the hides themselves, they were soft and felt rich. We can’t say how many bovines laid down their lives to line the Vanquish’s interior, but we salute them (Ed. According to Aston Martin, seven hides are used just on the interior).
The center stack was the sole visible piece of carbon fiber in the interior. It’s not the CF we were used to, though. The weave was in a Herringbone pattern, with glass dials and touch-capacitive controls fitted on its face. Really, this cabin felt like it was worth every penny.
The engine, a masterpiece of a V-12, was so pretty we wanted to mount it over our fireplace. It may have just 565 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque, but unwinding it made us feel like we had many million horsepower at our disposal. There was a sense of broad, effortless power that few cars can replicate, and that is distinctly linked to a naturally aspirated twelve-cylinder. It was decidedly different than the force-induced freight train engine of the Bentley Continental GT, and it wasn’t a race engine masquerading as a production motor like a Ferrari V-12.
The Aston’s engine was unique and special in a way that engine’s aren’t anymore. And while it’s limited power was tasked with hauling a rather heavy car, it was expansively spread across the rev range. Even in sixth gear, at 70 mph, the Vanquish was capable of pushing driver and passenger back in the leather-lined seats. Dropping a couple gears at the same speed and depressing the throttle quickly moved the speedometer into triple-digit speeds. The Vanquish, while underpowered relative to the competition, can still make you forget about anything else on the road.
As much as the power impressed, it was the sound evoked by each of the exhaust pipes that defined the Aston’s character. If you haven’t seen the latest video from Chris Amos, starring our Cobalt Blue Vanquish, be sure to grab your best set of headphones and take a listen.

It was that majestic, almost triumphant note that heralded the Vanquish’s arrival. It was a rich, smooth, strong sound that seemed to emanate from everywhere in the lavish cockpit. Moreover, it was loud from outside the car, as the two exhaust pipes belted out acoustic entertainment like few other cars could.
It wasn’t all fanfare when driving the Vanquish, though. Turning off Sport and letting the auto trans handle the shifting, the entire experience became positively benign. With the revs below 2500 rpm, the Vanquish was unexpectedly quiet. This was where the big V-12 really shined, as it had so much power available at such low engine speeds that it could get its driver around town with the Bang & Olufsen stereo drowning out everything but meaningful engine noise.
This combination of being easy to live with and a riotous amount of fun wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for Aston Martin’s excellent choice of transmission. The Touchtronic 2 was not the Sportshift 2 that’s found in the V8 Vantage. That transmission causes the kind of rage in us that few Major League Baseball coaches can replicate. This Touchtronic 2, though, was just a gem of an autobox.
In manual mode, activated by a simple tug of one of the column-mounted, magnesium paddles, it delivered snappy upshifts that were accompanied, at least in the first three gears, by an ear-pleasing burp when run hard. Downshifts were fired off just as quickly and smoothly. Pulling the left paddle a couple times, it dropped multiple gears without so much as a hiccup. For a traditional, torque-converted auto, the Vanquish’s gearbox was pretty much the ideal transmission.
That last statement wouldn’t be true if the six-speed box weren’t so darn livable when driven easily. When left in automatic, it short-shifted its way to the desired speed, responding well depending on the amount of throttle used. Diving in, even in automatic, the six-speed would let the engine’s revs climb up. Yet there was no jerkiness in low-speed maneuvering. The Vanquish wasn’t a car to be feared when tooling through parking lots or subdivisions at low speeds. It wouldn’t roll back when starting on a hill, like some dual-clutches would. Regardless of which mode we selected, the automatic was always willing to cooperate.
A set of massive carbon-ceramic brakes was responsible for reining in all the fury generated by the Vanquish’s powertrain. These brakes were a point of contention during our testing. Southeast Michigan was seeing lows in the 30s and highs that rarely crested 50 during our testing, and until the brakes had time to warm, they were dull and offered little feeling through the pedal. Heated up, though, these things could stop a space shuttle in its tracks. During the filming for our POV driving video, we braked from 60 to zero as quickly as possible; our eyes still don’t feel right.
Stopping power wasn’t the only thing that improved as the brakes warmed up. Feeling through the pedal improved, as did the linearity and predictability of the brake pedal’s travel. After a couple days of driving on numb brakes, we took to purposefully warming up the brakes before setting out on any lengthy drive.
The ride in a GT car is an area that can have the greatest impact on the whole experience. GTs should be able to carve through corners, cross racetracks, and be supremely comfortable on a 500-mile cross-country haul. The engineers in Gaydon should be commended for the work on the Vanquish. The ride was quite firm, but even on rough pavement, it was rarely jarring or uncomfortable.
The Vanquish utilizes a standard, three-stage adaptive damping system, arranged in a double-wishbone setup in both the front and back. Mounted in the rigid aluminum and carbon-fiber structure, the suspension setup delivered the kind of sporty ride that enthusiasts demand. Combined with a perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the Vanquish was an easy, forgiving, and predictable car to push hard. There was always a sense that there’s more grip from the big Pirelli tires than we’d ever actually need. Part of this confidence stemmed from the level of feedback transmitted to the driver.
The Vanquish didn’t so much overwhelm us as casually inform us of what the car was doing. There was a lot of feedback to be had, but rather than several voices yelling different things in different languages (suspension giving one sensation, tires giving another, chassis giving another), the Vanquish talked to us with an almost chorale-like togetherness. The result was a car that was easy to understand, and consequently, easy to drive aggressively.
In Normal mode, the suspension was still firm. That’s fine, as it fit the car’s sporting character. What’s surprising is how well the Vanquish managed even Detroit’s third-world roads. There was very little vertical motion, while most impacts were absorbed without drama. There are decidedly smoother cars out there, but few can be as comfortable as this Aston Martin while still delivering a sporting driving experience.
The adjectives that could be used to describe Aston Martin’s latest supercar are as numerous as the dollars it takes to put one in your driveway. The Vanquish is the superlative grand tourer, composed across such a variety of circumstances that it’s almost foolish not to use one every day (if you have the chance). Its looks intrigue anyone that sees it, and the note of its V-12 engine is enough to convince any non-car person that these four-wheeled menaces might not be as bad as they think. Quite simply, if you have a chance to drive one, you’d be crazy to pass on it.
2014 Aston Martin Vanquish
Engine: V-12, 6.0 liters, 48v
Output: 565 hp/457 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 4.0 sec (est)
Top Speed: 183 mph
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 11/23 mpg
Base Price: $279,995
Price As Tested: $303,635