Aston Martin goes back to the future

DAVE MOORE
Last updated 05:01 02/07/2012

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In the past couple of years, the Italian design studio Zagato has created some renderings for Aston Martin, the results of which made the British sports car maker's products look more like GTR Nissans than Astons as we knew them.

It seemed the designers were not quite at the top of the form they showed in the sixties for Aston Martins, with the achingly beautiful DB4 GTZ. So it was a relief to eagerly open the first approved factory photographs of the new Vanquish to find that while it was obviously an Aston Martin, it was sufficiently changed to be exciting and subtly different.

The curves are different, the signature side-strake is longer, and there's the look of a pinched waistline, and these elements conspire to make this the most-changed production car design to wear the winged Aston Martin badge since the DB7 was introduced some 16 years ago. The V12-powered front engined rear-driven supercar will be offered as a two-seater unless you option a 2+2 configuration.

The car is designed and built on a new fourth generation version of the previous model's VH bonded aluminum and carbon fibre platform introduced in 2001, re-engineered for improved torsional rigidity.

According to Aston, the updated platform is more than 25 per cent stiffer than the DBSs, and lighter as a result of the use of carbon fibre in the rear structure and hollow-cast aluminum instead of solid aluminum at the front.

The front chassis structure is a full 13 per cent lighter than that of the DBS. Furthermore, most of the Vanquish Mk2's body panels are constructed from carbon fibre which helps make the car a full 55kg lighter than the DBS, at 1739kg, despite it being 14mm taller and 5mm wider.

The Vanquish retains the DBS's 2740mm wheelbase and remains 4720mm long, and Aston Martin says the car has a perfect 50:50 weight distribution. The heaviest part of the car, its massive V12 engine, is also placed 19mm lower than before, dropping its centre of gravity.

The refettled 6.0-litre V12 engine adds an extra 55hp and 50Nm for a total output of 565hp at 6750rpm and peak torque of 620Nm.

The car's transmission is a six-speed "Touchtronic 2" automatic with paddle shifters and a limited slip differential drive at the rear axle.

The factory says the car will get to 100kmh in about four seconds on the way to top speed of 295kmh, which is slower flat-out than the old DBS, but quicker in terms of acceleration. That's probably the result of the new car's Launch Control System – Aston Martin's first. Also, the car stops as efficiently as it goes, there are ventilated third-generation Brembo Carbon Ceramic Matrix (CCM) brakes.

The front discs are 398mm x 36mm CCM units with larger brake pads and six-piston callipers from the One-77 model, while the rear brakes use 360mm x 32mm discs with a four-piston calliper. The Vanquish gets new generation Pirelli P-Zero high-performance tyres developed especially for the car, along with new 20-inch light alloy wheels.

To aid ride and handling settings, the Vanquish gets the latest Aston Martin Adaptive Damping System (ADS) which allows switching between Normal, Sport and Track damping modes, which can almost instantly adjust ride and handling characteristics. There's also a plethora of dynamic aids including Dynamic Stability Control and Positive Torque Control.

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Aston Martin says the new Vanquish is an evolution of the DBS, with some additional styling niceties taken from the extremely exclusive – 77 units only – One-77 supercar.

Thus, while the car still looks as Aston Martins should, there's a more distinct waistline on the new car, the front and rear quarters' musculature is more pronounced and the front splitters, and side skirting is less severe and more in keeping with the basic "rightness" of the company's recent design history.

There's a familiarity about the interior, too, but only in its basic execution and layout. The surfaces are more technical than before and the textures more modern, while instead of dipping into a parts bin once shared with previous owners Ford and its other partners, Volvo, Mazda, Lincoln and others, the Vanquish's switchgear and controls are original and classy.

While the Vanquish only provides the extra vestigial seating of a 2 plus 2 if you ask – and pay – for it, Aston Martin says its new car has more space both for people and their accoutrements. Leg room, which was a little snug in the DBS is increased by 37mm, while owners and friends are offered extra shoulder and elbow room to the tune of 25mm and 87mm respectively, with knee room also opened out by 50mm while the dash plane is 20mm further forward than it was.

The car's boot volume has been boosted by 60 per cent, though at 368 litres it will be bespoke soft luggage that will make best use of that space. I imagine just such a product will find its way to showrooms as quickly as the new Vanquish will.

We won't speculate as to the pricing of the Vanquish in New Zealand as the distributors will only complain bitterly if we're off the mark.

While the Vanquish will reach British showrooms in late 2012 with stickers starting at £189,995 (NZ$372,000), it will not reach New Zealand until next year. As to a road test car, well I've already entered that on my calendar, right next to the entry for the completion of the Christchurch rebuild.

- Fairfax Media

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