2013 Aston Martin Vanquish first drive
Gran turismo, refined
Tyringham Hall, England — Somewhere, sometime in the near future, you're going to read a story on the Aston Martin Vanquish that will proclaim it as old. Oh, the plotline will read that the Vanquish may indeed be a new visual design for 2013, but its underpinnings are more than a decade old, the implication, of course, that this big English GT isn't as good as its rivals. Most specifically, they'll point to Aston's Trademark VH (Vertical-Horizontal) platform and point out that it has underpinned all Astons for almost a decade, an eon when you consider that even economy cars undergo a complete refresh on a three-and-a-half-year cycle. As with athletes, rock stars and airplanes, old is not an attribute when it comes to automobile engineering.
In fact, this is actually the fourth generation of VH and, since Ian Menards, Aston's director of global product development, thinks of his Vertical-Horizontal architecture more as a design "philosophy" than a design solution, there are significant differences between the framework of the 2004 DB9 and the 2013 Vanquish. Yes, the basic superstructure — aluminum beams, extrusions and panels — remains the same but the fourth-gen incorporates a much varied geometry, new bonding techniques (immensely important in an aluminum chassis) and even a rear carbon fibre subframe, not to mention what must be the world's most humungous cross-brace connecting the front two suspension towers. The result is a 25 per cent boost in torsional rigidity over the DBS, which the Vanquish replaces.
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It's an attribute that Aston is confident demonstrating as I found out on one of the worst paved roads on the planet. Supercar ride-and-drives are typically held on well-groomed racetracks or glass-smooth mountain roads, the grip and even pavement best showing off their vroom. Yet Aston's PR flacks gave us Glassmoor Bank in Whittlesey-near-Peterborough, a road with jumps whoops and rollicks so big, it resembled nothing more than a paved divot or a well-groomed dirt-bike track.
The Vanquish never once complained. Indeed, the most amazing thing about my two days spent in the brand-new 2013 Vanquish was not its booming, 6.0-litre V12, its sensuous exterior or the incredible grip afforded by the monstrous 20-inch (235/45 front and 305/30 rear) performance radials, but that its supposedly dated, 10-year-old VH4 chassis is as stiff and robust as anything from Maranello or Stuttgart. Throw in some variable damping, minimal roll during cornering and you have the very best of the gran turismo genre; a comfortable ride that also just happens to extraordinarily good at strafing twisty roads, even ones seemingly better suited to a Range Rover.
Carbon as a canavas
This is genuinely an impressive technical advancement from a company that so long traded on quaint English quirks and a heritage that most had assumed had seen its best days. But Aston didn't stop there. The Vanquish's entire body is now made of carbon fibre, a first for Aston Martin and still something of a rarity even in the supercar world. But, the primary goal wasn't weight savings, says Menards, since previous models were already built out of lighter-than-steel aluminum. Indeed, Menards thinks the greatest advantage is that a resin-impregnable cloth allows so much more design freedom than pounding a sheet of aluminum.
That design freedom means the Vanquish is the most beautiful two-door Aston this side of a DB5. Its muscular flanks, the extremely aggressive hood-line and especially the slick rear spoiler would have all been impossible in any form of metal says Menards. All Astons since the company's 2004 reinvention have been sleek and sexy, but the Vanquish is certainly the most seductive of the DBs (though I must confess, in a judgment surely to be challenged, that I still find the four-door Rapide even sexier).