New Aston Martin Vanquish S 2017 review
Pumped-up Aston Vanquish S GT car takes old-school V12 engine out in style
It isn’t the quickest or most sophisticated luxury GT on the market, but the sledgehammer 6.0-litre V12 and beautiful ride quality make the Vanquish S unique. Plus, even though it’s a brand-new model, it’s the last of the old-school Astons to launch before the Mercedes-influenced engineering manifests itself in Gaydon. At nearly £200,000, it certainly isn’t cheap, but you’re buying a piece of the brand’s history: the last car to be powered by that glorious V12.
Aston is currently revelling in the success of its new DB11; order books are bursting and a drop-top version is also on the horizon. But the brand’s new GT is causing a small problem, because it treads lightly on the toes of the ageing Vanquish.
This pumped-up and jewellery clad second-generation Vanquish S has been brought in to help give one of Aston’s most established models a bit of breathing space alongside its younger brother. The recipe is quite simple – to add a little bit more of everything. The suspension, performance, styling and price tag have all been enhanced to mark it out as Aston’s flagship super-GT.
Visually, there’s no mistaking it for anything else in Aston’s range. Carbon fibre has been added to the front splitter and rear diffuser, but as well as looking pretty, the new front end is designed to help eradicate lift and reduce understeer.
Up front is Aston’s glorious 6.0-litre V12 – making its last outing – without a turbo in sight. This Vanquish S will be the final naturally aspirated series Aston Martin to roll out of the gates of the Gaydon HQ in Warwickshire. The engine has been fettled, though, fitted with a revised and freer-breathing intake system that’s allowed the company to squeeze out an additional 27bhp, bumping power up to 595bhp. Torque remains unchanged at 630Nm.
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The changes don’t come cheap, however, and the Vanquish S now carries a price tag just under £200,000. That’s pretty much a match for the McLaren 650S, although it still undercuts the Ferrari F12 by over £40,000.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the engine that is the Aston’s signature piece. Thumbing the key fob into the centre console brings it to life with a metallic howl, which soon settles to a burbling idle once it’s up to temperature. Select drive and the Vanquish S pulls away smoothly, gliding through its gears at the earliest opportunity to keep things as calm and serene as it can.
But it’s the quality of the ride that quickly catches your attention on the move. While a raft of chassis tweaks has been implemented to give the S a more focused edge, the smooth and supple suspension remains one of its trump cards. Very rarely does the Aston feel flustered; it flows with the road, remaining surprisingly forgiving in its most docile of road settings. Even in S guise, the Vanquish hasn’t lost its impeccable GT cruising ability.
Body control is fluid with any movement reined in well, but you can tie the Vanquish S down even further by putting it into one of its two more aggressive settings: Sport or Track. In either mode, the ride becomes noticeably firmer, with the latter making for pretty bumpy progress on the UK’s notoriously rough roads. The steering is smooth, accurate and consistently weighted – always giving you a clear indication as to how much bite the front end has left. The composed nature of the Aston also means the idea of driving a 595bhp, rear-wheel-drive supercar on a cold, damp and greasy December morning isn’t as daunting as you’d imagine. The fat rear tyres find decent bite despite the considerable forces being put through them, while the predictable and linear power delivery from the 6.0-litre V12 means there are no nasty surprises with the way the Vanquish S accelerates.
It never feels outrageously fast – not in the same way as a McLaren 650S – but what the Vanquish lacks in outright punch it makes up for in noise. Push on past 4,000rpm and the V12 really comes alive.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox has also been tweaked to deliver smoother and sharper changes. Upshifts feel quick enough in isolation, but they can’t quite match the rapid-fire changes you get in the McLaren or Ferrari. Trying to match Aston’s claimed 3.5-second dash from 0-62mph also means you have to sit through what feels like a heavyweight boxer punching you in the chest as you jump from first to second gear.
Look around the cabin and the Vanquish S also starts to show its age. The decorative blue leather certainly gives our car a unique feel, but the quality of the switchgear – particularly the indicator and wiper stalks – and the quite frankly rubbish sat-nav and infotainment system don’t make you feel like you’re sitting in a £200,000 supercar.
Still, Aston’s deal with Mercedes to provide the electronic and cabin components seen in the DB11 will address these very criticisms.