It’s a shame there aren’t more hyper-wealthy types in Clifton, because the Vanquish looks sharper parked in front of the suspension bridge than it does anywhere else in the UK. A liberal smattering of them in dark metallic shades would certainly aid the view, but then I’m biased. There’s no point trying to cosy the car and bridge together in terms of importance: even a Vanquish seems utterly inadequate in front of arguably the finest example of Victorian engineering.
The changes made to the Aston’s chassis aren’t revolutionary, but they are certainly effective. It sits 5mm lower than the standard car, has a 20 per cent quicker steering rack and firmer springs and dampers. It’s certainly a little lumpier around town, but then the basic car’s no limo. Aston has managed to bring extra control where the car desperately needed it without having it crash across anything less than a croquet-lawn surface. But it’s a crime jerking the car around town, so we head out on the M4 to Wales and some very fast, empty roads.
The Vanquish isn’t too bad on the motorway. That strange driving position remains (wheel too far away, seat too high) and tyre noise from the Yokohamas is pronounced – they like to report back the surface grade at all times. But the hi-fi’s excellent and the new winged bucket seats are more supportive than the standard items. The view is also far more attractive because the grey plastic centre console is now covered in leather. Only now do I realise how much I disliked the old one.
Three years ago we drove a standard Vanquish over this road and it didn’t acquit itself too well. At speeds that would barely have woken some rivals’ chassis it bottomed out and became very lively. It was an 80 per cent car. This version is a 90 per cent car. It controls its mass so much better, changes direction with more commitment and accuracy. It is also much more accelerative. An altered differential ratio makes as much of a performance difference as the added power and torque, perhaps more. Aston claims 9.8sec to 100mph, and that’s probably a little on the cautious side. There’s no reason to doubt the claimed 200mph top speed.
The engine seems smoother, too. Mechanical refinement has never been a weakness, but from idle to the 7200rpm limiter this is John Travolta-slick. You spend more time delving into the power plateau, too: above 4000rpm (with the secondary exhaust valves trumpeting a noise that you just wouldn’t credit from Siamese Ford Duratec V6s) it provides reason enough for many people to chose Aston over Ferrari. The only problem is that you leave all the commotion behind, so you have to lower the windows to hear it yourself.
Downshifts are excellent: timed to perfection and hardly disrupting the car’s chosen line, but going up through the ’box – which you’d assume was an easier activity – isn’t so great. The shifts seem ponderously slow and even when in sport mode they aren’t anything like fast enough to justify the harshness.
But in other areas the Vanquish deals with Aston’s current predilection for heavy controls better than the DB9 does. Because this is a more robust, speed-driven experience, the heavy brake pedal is more in keeping with the overall character. They’re decent stoppers, too: 378mm front discs clamped by a six-piston calliper and 330mm (same as before but 2mm wider) out back. They do fade considerably under duress, but if you adjust the pressure applied accordingly they continue to work.
It’s a compelling car, the Vanquish S. I’ve driven much faster, more competent machinery, but very few that I’ve disliked giving back as much as this. The changes are subtle; the cumulative effect they reap more significant than I’d expected. Depreciation aside, it would be a delight to wake up every morning with a Vanquish S on your driveway and know that it now drives almost as well as it looks. They just need to get Brunel to look at those upshifts.