Aston Martin: Bonding with an auto icon

By Matt Greenop

Aston Martin's Vanquish is a bargain at $430,000

Without delving into the obvious quips about martinis, shaken, stirred or otherwise, Aston Martin has become an icon. And whether or not that owes a lot to a certain fictional character in a nice suit, it still deserves its status.

Among other manufacturers offering hyper-luxury or stunning supercar performance that elicit comments such as "you could have bought a house for that", Aston has carved its own niche with exceptional treatment of fairly rudimentary tools.

The Vanquish, and its new Vanquish Volante brethren, sit close to the top end of Aston Martin's leather-bound portfolio, topped only by the stunning, limited One-77.

The insurance value of one of the 77 built that resides in New Zealand is said to be more than $2.5 million. As that astronomical price tag is so far beyond the reach of all bar the ridiculously wealthy, we'll call Vanquish the flagship, with a bargain basement price tag of $430,000. That also might seem high, but you consider that the DBS, which it replaced, was carrying a $555,000 price at one point, it seems less alarming.

It is well-mannered and tractable in heavy traffic, but the Vanquish is at home in the country.

It's a driver's car, and most of those who plonk down their platinum to own an Aston have a reason.

For some, it might be the Bondness, for others it could be simply having seen one go by as a kid - it's an aspirational machine, and those who do pay up aren't likely to be shopping around.

This is why the more boutique luxury brands survive - some want the Aston cool, others the Ferrari fast, the Maserati style, or the Porsche heritage.

Greg Brinck of Auckland's Independent Prestige has been selling the Aston dream for more than 10 years.

"There's still a nostalgic link with the brand stemming right back to the early 60s with the DB5 in James Bond's Goldfinger," he said.

"Owners are drawn to the pure beauty of the car - you simply can't mistake an Aston Martin for any other car. Once they've driven it, they're then taken with the driving dynamics and craftsmanship of the vehicle - and of course the exhaust note of the V12 engine."

The Vanquish chassis and engine have been around for a few years, but it does have its own personality and carries touches that make it an even more exciting and engaging drive than its DBS predecessor.

The most striking is the use of carbon fibre. The entire body is carbon fibre, some parts richly coated in paint, others left untouched. The roof of the car driven here was left as carbon, as were the protruding side strakes, the door handles and mirror caps and the bar in the centre of the front spoiler - the mix of black and carbonised cool appearing effortless, despite complex processes that make the puffed-up rear guard sections in single pieces, as opposed to the usual moulded-and-joined approach.

It works brilliantly when combined with the 20-inch graphite-finished rims with diamond turning - huge enough at the front end with the 9-inch wide wheels shod in Pirelli P Zero rubber - 235/35s, while the gargantuan 11.5J rears wear 305/30s. Six-pot brakes and 398mm cross-drilled rotors hide behind these huge front rims, with four-piston calipers grabbing the rear 360mm discs.

There's some edgy technology working behind the scenes to keep the $430,000 on the road. The independent double wishbone suspension helps, and anti-dive geometry is used at the front, matched by anti-squat and lift angles on the rear and coilovers with monotube adaptive dampers. But click through the three stages of damping settings and whether you're on normal, sport or track mode, the ESP system, brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, positive torque control or the base traction control will step in and save your posterior.

It's also a fairly big beast and the six-litre, hand-finished quad-cam V12 under that massive front end pushes out 620Nm of torque and 421kW, enough to send it to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds and to a 295km/h top speed. That's a lot of welly, and with a paddle-shifted six-speed tiptronic transmission that's rear-mid mounted to control balance, and an alloy torque tube and carbon prop shaft feeding through a mechanical limited slip diff to those monstrous rears, it's nice to have a bit of help.

The interior is the Aston Martin combination of alcantara and hand stitched semi-aniline leather, but some design moves first made by the One-77 have found their way in.

The most noticeable is the deep, race style centre stack, which gives a sense of separation between driver and passenger and puts all focus to the front. The stack houses a newly minted entertainment system, with Bang and Olufsen speakers and a large touch screen rising on electric motors from inside the dash.

With the new Rapide S just landed and the stroppy V12 Vantage S next down the track, Brinck sees no sign of things slowing down.

"We're tracking well ahead of target thanks to stronger than expected sales of the Vanquish," he said.

"The Rapide S four-door has just been released here and, given the numbers of the earlier model that we have sold, we're expecting its popularity to continue."

Design changes in the Aston Martin Vanquish separate driver and passenger, and put the focus to the front.

- Hamilton News

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