Not many cars leave the factory with an exhaust character worthy of the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish's 5.9-liter V12. The noises that rip through its stainless-steel pipes are so loud and engrossing that everything around us is reduced to background hum, including the fire truck that's approaching, sirens blaring.
We see the lights and slow up. And then, every man aboard the truck, yep, even the driver, takes a long look at the Flugplatz Blue Vanquish.
Surely, this single act justifies at least $100 grand of the Aston's $294,535 price tag. Here's an exotic sports car so beautiful and rare that, for a moment, it matters more than the grease fire raging in someone's kitchen.
A Delicate Flower With Carbon-Fiber Petals
As manly as it sounds, the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish is one of those cars you're afraid to breathe on unless you're rich enough to own two. An innocent trip to the local coffee shop escalates to a white-knuckle situation when a 10-year-old Civic parks alongside us and an (otherwise kindly) older lady unsteadily opens her door toward the Aston.
The Vanquish looks like a delicate thing, too, with a full complement of carbon-fiber composite body panels that distinguishes it from lesser Astons. Slam the driver door and a shudder courses through its thin skin. It's wispier than you expect a $300K car to be.
Aston paints all those body panels for no extra charge. You'll pay more to see naked carbon fiber. Our test car has an optional $3,190 exposed roof panel.
Underneath, the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish shares its all-aluminum architecture with lesser Aston models, though the engineers have modified it for their new flagship, substituting carbon fiber in the molded section that forms the trunk to increase both cargo capacity and torsional rigidity.
Further stiffening its structure are a new front subframe that allows the dry-sumped engine to sit three-quarters of an inch lower in the chassis, and a new suspension brace that crisscrosses the longitudinally mounted V12. Stiffer is always better, but the brace looks unforgivably plain with its flat white coat of paint and haphazard welds.
Go On, Touch It
We shut the hood on that missed design opportunity and slide into the cockpit.
Immediately, our hands are all over the gorgeous leather. It's clearly of a high standard. Our car has a sensible black decor, but better colors are available. Or phone up Aston Martin's Q division to see if they'll craft some custom emu hides.
Regardless, the standard Vanquish seat is devoid of lateral bolsters that might trip up your ingress or hold you in place around turns. Aston offers a more confining, fixed-back driver seat in other markets, but a seat that racy won't meet U.S. safety requirements. Never mind, though. The standard seat is comfortable and puts you in the right position to look down the road. Sight lines are excellent, more sedan than supercar.
The glass-trimmed key fob goes into the glass-trimmed ignition slot and we hold it there for two beats as the V12 roars to life. We never tire of this routine during our time with the Vanquish. Glass PRND shift buttons on either side of the ignition are pretty, but they border on blasphemy in a performance car. Then we spot the carbon-fiber paddle shifters on the steering column. They're sublime.
A counterclockwise tachometer shares the Vanquish's instrument cluster equally with a 240-mph speedometer. The latter is illegible unless you're airing it out on unrestricted Autobahn (80 mph is at 8 o'clock), so there's a digital readout, too.
It Feels Fast
Said tach stops short of the lofty redlines in other V12 cars like the 2013 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and 2012 Lamborghini Aventador. Actually, there's no marked redline at all, though the rev limiter cuts in at 6,800 rpm during our instrumented testing.
So high revs aren't on the menu for the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish's 5.9-liter V12, which, with 565 horsepower at 6,750 rpm and 457 pound-feet of torque at 5,500 rpm, is the most potent version of this engine in the Aston lineup (the Cosworth-tuned version in the limited-run One-77 made over 700 hp). Instead, the torque comes on smoothly and easily from low rpm, accessible to anyone who wants it. At a law-abiding 70 mph, the engine loafs at 2,000 rpm and the barest hint of throttle is good for another 10 mph.
Wood it and the V12 sounds brutal and wonderful, echoing off skyscrapers and canyon walls. The 305/30ZR20 Pirelli P Zero rear tires squirm with every upshift. Without question, Aston has built a car that feels fast.
And It Really Is Quick, Right?
The 2014 Vanquish is the first Aston with launch control. More than a half-hearted "watch this" diversion, it actually gets the car out of the hole quicker.
Predictably, there's a pre-launch protocol to weed out the unskilled and unsober: Foot on the brake, press the stability control button to engage Track mode, select 1st gear with the left-hand paddle shifter, press the checkered flag button, wait for the launch control message to appear in the trip computer, release the brake pedal and then the Vanquish does its thing. It rips off the 1-2 upshift for you, but you have to grab 3rd and everything after. The Vanquish arrives at 60 mph in 4.2 seconds (or 3.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip) and clears the quarter-mile in 12.3 seconds at 115.1 mph.
That's quick, but less expensive rear-drive V8 sports cars like the McLaren MP4-12C (3.5-second 0-60, 11.0-second quarter-mile at 131.5 mph) and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (3.8-second 0-60, 11.6 at 122.7 mph) are quicker and faster.
Mind you, those are two of the best V8 engines in existence. And the Vanquish is longer and taller, and therefore heavier. It weighs nearly 3,900 pounds, while the smaller SLS is 3,800 and the MP4-12C a mere 3,200 pounds.
Plus, the Vanquish has a conventional six-speed automatic transmission with commendably quick shifts, but it's still no match for the rapid-fire gearchanges of an automated manual gearbox, standard on the other cars. You can get a sequential gearbox on the 2012 V8 Vantage, but not on any of Aston's V12 cars.
In the small field of automatic-equipped V12 coupes, the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish knocks down the low-hanging fruit: It's quicker than the 5,200-pound, all-wheel-drive Bentley Continental GT (4.7 0-60, 12.9 at 109.8). Yes, it's a small field.
Fun on a Back Road
No one buys a front-engine 12-cylinder coupe because they want to drive fast on twisty roads. But the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish handles well anyway, and you can easily eat up a morning on a lonely stretch of curves. (Gas mileage, by the way, is commensurate with driving pleasure: Our best tank nets 13 mpg, our worst 9.2 and our average is 11.3.)
The steering isn't as heavy as you expect. The 2014 Vanquish is the first Aston with electric power steering, and it's well tuned, offering good precision and loads of feel.
The Vanquish's front end tucks in nicely through corners. Refreshingly, there's some actual body roll as you lean harder on the tires, because Aston hasn't yet deployed an arsenal of chassis technology to work behind the scenes on your behalf.
Adaptive damping is standard. Only the most compliant mode, Normal (there's also Sport and Track) is suitable for rough Southern California roads. The suspension can still come unglued over serious bumps and ruts, which is unnerving if you're pushing hard through a corner.
Check That Slalom Speed
Surface conditions are better at our test track, and here the Vanquish lays down an impressive 72.1-mph run through the slalom and 0.96g on the skid pad.
"It has an effortless competence and a gracefully predictable manner at the limit," our test driver says. "The only other car that comes to mind with similar attributes is the MP4-12C."
The McLaren goes through the slalom at 73.2 mph. The SLS and Continental GT are both in the 67-mph range.
Surprisingly, the stability control is non-defeatable, but it's virtually hands-off in its Track mode. You can't miss the standard carbon-ceramic brakes, and though the pedal feel is soft, they grab hard and get better as they heat up. Zero-to-60-mph stopping distances start at 115 feet and are still dropping by our seventh run, when the Vanquish stops in 105 feet.
So What's the Problem?
So you're about to call in debts and take a fourth job so you can buy your own 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish. But there are a few things we haven't told you.
Apart from the leather, which is wonderful, the interior is a disaster. The plastic bits — control stalks, window buttons, everything — are refugees from Aston's days in the Ford empire, and they look as if they belong in a Ford. A couple of the buttons even fell off in our hands. Granted, our test car is preproduction, but the materials won't change in the production cars that arrive this spring.
The navigation system is basically an aftermarket Garmin unit fitted at the factory. It would be a great addition to a Honda Fit, but its simple graphics and low-resolution display are a travesty in a modern six-figure luxury car.
Center stack controls are a combination of dials and touchpad-style buttons. It's a weak attempt to modernize an Aston Martin interior, and the buttons require too much pressure when you're making adjustments on the fly.
And then there's the lack of storage space. We're not talking door bins that are too small or a puny center console. We're talking about a complete lack of a basic glovebox.
It's Not About the Numbers
As a weekend car, the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish is an enviable choice. It's not some one-dimensional exotic that you can only enjoy on a racetrack or in a 30-mph caravan of equally fearful Aston owners. It's quick, it sounds fantastic and it handles well. It's also very popular with, well, everyone and guarantees that you will always have friends.
But even if you had the money, it's hard to imagine spending $300,000 on one for the simple reason that there are so many phenomenal cars available for less dough. The best of these is the McLaren 12C, but you could easily make a case for the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG or even the latest Audi R8. And if you just want face-stretching performance, there are cars like the 2012 Chevy Corvette ZR1 and 2013 Nissan GT-R that offer more punch.
Clearly, the most desirable trait of the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish is its exclusivity. You aren't likely to see another one on the road, ever. And there's certainly nothing that wears Flugplatz Blue like this Vanquish.
Had we asked the guys on the passing fire truck what they thought, they likely would have said it's the most incredible car they had ever seen. Is that worth $300,000 to you?
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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