We normally call a mid-life refresh a facelift because of the subtle visual changes most manufacturers apply, but for the new Aston Martin Vanquish for 2014 (labelled as the 2015 model), Aston Martin has kept the big changes under the skin.
Those changes amount to a new eight-speed gearbox, replacing the old six-speed auto, a slight power boost of 3bhp to 568bhp and a stiffer suspension set-up. As a result, the Vanquish can now call itself the fastest series production Aston Martin ever, with a top speed of 201mph and a 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds.
On paper that’s a half-second improvement, and on the road the new gearbox makes a world of difference. The 6.0-litre V12 builds to a crescendo of acceleration at its top end and the old six-speed auto often struggled to deliver the quick shift you were after to cap it all off. This eight-speed changes that, with a smooth, fast upshift that allows for a seamless wave of brutal acceleration.
Adding those two extra ratios has improved economy, too. We drove the Vanquish 750 miles from Inverness to London and averaged just over 20mpg. The company says the official motorway fuel economy figure is 31mpg, and in our experience a 350-mile cruising range is definitely possible.
The Vanquish remains a compelling choice for cruising, too. There’s a bit of wind noise and some roar from the huge tyres, but even after nine hours behind the wheel, the comfortable seats ensure you can step out of the Vanquish feeling surprisingly fresh. And that’s despite the stiffer suspension set-up.
Aston Martin says the dampers on the Vanquish are 15 per cent stiffer at the front and 35 per cent stiffer at the rear than before, but choose Comfort mode and you can happily take on bumpy roads without too much fuss.
It’s only when you hold down the suspension button on the steering wheel to switch to Track mode that things get a little bit uncomfortable.
Combined with the firmer dampers is a tweak to the steering and a new brake booster that is designed to improve feel at the top of the pedal travel. All these changes, plus the new gearbox, result in a more rounded performance car.
Even around town, where the previous brakes felt a bit wooden at slow speeds, the new set-up is much more user friendly. You don’t have to touch the steering wheel paddles for the gearbox to learn your driving style, so you rarely find yourself in a gear higher than the one you actually want.
You feel confident stepping on the brakes, the steering is quick and the new dampers help keep the car flat through tight bends. It never seems to struggle for grip, either, with the newly tweaked traction control subtly cutting power before the wheels even slip.
While there are no sheetmetal changes, Aston has introduced new paint colours, plus fresh wheel and interior options. The car in our pictures has 10-spoke forged alloys that are 7kg lighter than standard Vanquish wheels, and there’s also a new dual tone cabin.