Not even an International Man of Mystery could save Aston Martin’s glorious naturally aspirated V12. The Aston Martin Vanquish S is the swan song for Aston’s ‘Super GT’ and what a way to say goodbye to this generation Vanquish and the 5.9-litre V12 we’ve become so familiar with.
When production of the Vanquish S ends soon, it’ll take that legendary engine away with it. Everything else from here on out will either be turbocharged or electrically assisted. Aston’s new product lineup, comprised of the DB11 and upcoming Vantage will feature turbocharged engines. There’s also the Valkyrie hypercar, which will use a naturally-aspirated V12, but it’ll be mated to some electric motors. The Vanquish S is the last true natural V12 Aston Martin.
The Vanquish S essentially replaces the Vanquish in the lineup and can be had in either coupe or convertible (Volante) body styles. In the Aston Martin model hierarchy, the Vanquish is the current range-topper sitting above the DB11 and Vantage. It’ll also be the last car to hutilise the VH platform introduced with the first generation Vanquish in 2002. Basically, this car has got a 16 year-old platform and engine. Except over those years it’s been fine tuned and perfected to what it is today, the VH platform has gone through four evolutions by the time it was used in the Vanquish S.
Aston Martin calls this car a ‘Super GT’, combining the attributes of a grand tourer with supercar performance. There’s not much else on the market that offers a similar package to the Vanquish S, except perhaps the Ferrari 812 Superfast, but that’s considerably more hardcore and A LOT more expensive.
Prices start from $395,000 excluding on-road costs, so this review will be consumer advice for the masses then. There’s no justifying a car like this. Sure, there are arguably “better” cars to be had for the same money but I’d argue few are as charismatic as this. This isn’t a car you need, it’s simply a car you want. You see it, you hear it, you buy it.
Which is exactly what you’ll want to do when you first set eyes on it. It’s an undisputedly pretty car, perhaps one of Aston Martin’s best pieces of work in the company’s 115 year history. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best looking cars on sale today. It just looks right. It doesn’t shout for people’s attention, instead it very subtly commands attention. There’s a true timeless elegance to the design of the Vanquish that’s uniquely Aston Martin.
Where most people would point and stare at a Ferrari or Lamborghini, the Vanquish would make people smile and nod. It’s a car everyone loves and is somehow familiar with, whether it’s from those spy films or simply because it’s pure art on wheels.
The Vanquish represents where Aston Martin’s first century ends. The new DB11 and Vantage represent the new change the company is undergoing for their ‘Second Century’ phase. It’s a transition the Vanquish’s predecessors have had to go through with the first generation sharing Aston Martin showroom floors with the DB9. Before the Vanquish, the boxy and brutish Vantage of the 90s had to fight for the spotlight with the DB7.
The interior is a truly special place to be in. Open the door and a strong whiff of expensive leather greets you. The first time I hopped in when I collected the car I remember thinking “holy shit, this is posh”. Normally the Vanquish, like other Astons, come with a glass key fob but for the journos testing this car that’s beyond our reach, we’re stuck with the plastic ‘valet key’ which was already worn out despite the car only clocking 8000km.
Other than the unfortunate valet key there’s very few plastic bits inside. If it’s not leather or carbon fibre, it’s aluminum or some other expensive metal. I always assumed sitting in an Aston would feel like sitting in a delicate or fragile place, but it felt quite solid. It certainly didn’t feel like things were going to fall off. Extra points for the stunning stitching work inside. I wasn’t sure at first if I liked the mad excess of contrast stitching on the doors, headlining, and seats but it certainly made the interior different and eye-catching.
But if you’ve ever been in its modern rivals such as a Ferrari, Porsche, or even a Mercedes-AMG, the Aston’s technology is lagging behind. Take the navigation system as a prime example, which not only made no sense whatsoever, but was shown on a display screen smaller than most modern smartphones. The reversing camera was so pixelated it was useless, the buttons for the infotainment system would only work sometimes, and the tyre pressure warning kept coming on even though the tyres were perfectly fine.
That’s not all that was wrong with the interior. It was quite difficult to see out the back of as the rear window doesn’t reach down far enough. But if it did it’d ruin the looks, so it’s a small price to pay. The rear seats were clearly not designed for any humans, you can’t fit anyone with a head in the back. Aston Martin calls it a 2+0 coupe, which is fair. The boot was a decent size though, perfect for a set of golf clubs or a weekday for you and a ‘special friend’.
That said, standard equipment is generous. As standard you get a banging 1000W Bang & Olufsen 13-speaker sound system, the not-so-high-def 6.5-inch LCD screen, sat-nav, reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity, parking sensors, cruise control, climate control, 20-inch alloys, and exposed carbon fibre exterior trim is standard. You can add more with the seemingly endless personalisation options from paints, interior trim, carbon fibre options, and even the squarish One-77 steering wheel.
But hey, for all its flaws at least it looks, smells, and feels expensive. It also felt like a special place to be in, which for many people is all that matters in a car like this.
I should point out I’ve loved Aston Martins since I saw Die Another Day in the cinemas, and saw Q introduce the ‘Vanish’ to Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond. When the DB9 came out it was about as perfect as cars got for me. So while the only Aston I’ve previously driven was the V12 Vantage S with its stupidly jerky single-clutch paddle shift gearbox, getting behind the wheel of the Vanquish S felt like a dream come true.
The experience was dominated by that glorious thing of an engine. The 5.9-litre V12 is a sonorous dinosaur of a thing. It’s still basically the same engine from the Ford-era but now has revised intake manifolds over the ‘standard’ Vanquish spec version of the engine. The noise from this engine and the stainless steel quad exhausts can only be described as mouthwateringly creamy and it’s best heard from 3000rpm to around 4500rpm where it has a Zonda-like howl. If you know me, you’ll know the Pagani Zonda is my favorite car in the world so for this to sound like a Zonda is just an extra bonus.
It doesn’t pop and crackle as obnoxiously as other performance cars these days, the noises that come out its rear-end are slightly more sophisticated and grown-up. That’s not to say they won’t make you giggle – oh believe me they will, they’re just not in your face. Take it into a tunnel, drop a few gears, abuse the right pedal and this car just makes the most fantastic noise.
This car is a full-on sensory overload. The Vanquish is a master at delivering on sight, sound, smell, and feel. I’m sure it tastes good too but call me old fashioned I don’t think it’s appropriate to lick a $400,000 car. It somehow manages to be both a relaxing and comfortable GT while being an adrenaline rush.
Power is rated at 444kW and torque is 630NM. Turbocharged rivals have better stats but none sound as good as this. Power is sent to the rear wheels only via an 8-speed ‘Touchtronic III’ gearbox from ZF. The result is a 0-100 km/h time of just 3.5 seconds, which isn’t record breaking but it is respectable. To achieve that time, the Vanquish S comes with launch control. It’ll top out at 323 km/h. To stop it, carbon ceramic brakes are fitted as standard.
I love how old school the Vanquish S felt. That’s not meant in a negative way, it’s so refreshing to drive a new car without any downsizing, turbocharging, or electrification. It’s the stubborn child that refuses to conform, it still has a hydraulic power steering system for God’s sake. The end result is a car that’s just oozing with charm.
You’d think driving a 441kW V12 rear-wheel drive Super GT would be intimidating, but it wasn’t. Having a front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout meant it had an air familiarity about it. It just felt like driving a very loud and powerful car rather than a spaceship. Because the steering was still hydraulic it was more weighted than other modern supercars but I liked that. It had proper feel and feedback. It was just nice to steer with, except at lower speeds in the city. Parking it for example required more effort than the much lighter steering in say a Huracan.
The ride, unsurprisingly for a car of this kind, was rather nice. This was designed to go on cross continental trips so a forgiving ride is a must. The S is a bit sportier than the regular Vanquish but even with the Sport Suspension turned on it wasn’t uncomfortable.
Put it into Sport mode by pressing the ’S’ button on the bottom right corner of the steering and the car awakens. The exhaust valves open up, throttle response becomes a smidgen sharper, and the double wishbone suspension adaptive dampers get firmer by pressing a separate button on the left side of the steering wheel.
Body composure was surprisingly good around corners; I guess the all carbon fibre body and aluminium monocoque helped with that. Despite the plentiful carbon fibre parts the Vanquish still weighs in at more than 1700kgs. It’s also got a limited slip diff, so on drier roads I’m sure it’d be a bit more stable, especially with Pirelli P-Zero 255/35 at the front and 305/30 at the rear.
However, as it was winter here and on my last day there was snow in Tokyo, the back was a bit more playful than I would’ve hoped. Over the time I had the Vanquish it was sunny, cloudy, windy, raining, and snowing. But apart from the rather lively rear, which was easily corrected by myself (cough-mainly the electronics-cough), it didn’t break a sweat in these conditions.
The narrow windscreen did conveniently block out traffic lights so I couldn’t see when they had turned green, which was a minor annoyance. Despite this being a ‘grand tourer’ the relatively small 78 litre fuel tank only lasted around 300 kilometres. I would’ve expected a car of this type to have a bigger fuel tank at least. On the plus side, it works as a daily drive though by not being too wide or big and it wasn’t so low it’d scrape everywhere.
There are other supercars for the same price such as the Honda NSX, McLaren 570GT, and the Lamborghini Huracan LP580-2 but I didn’t include them as they’re not ‘direct’ rivals to the Vanquish S though potential buyers could cross shop them.
|Brand/Model||Engine||Power/Torque||Fuel, L/100km||0-100 kph, seconds||Price – High to Low|
|Rolls Royce Wraith||6.6-litre V12 twin-turbo petrol||465kW/800NM||14.3||4.6||$475,000|
|Mercedes-AMG S65 Coupe||6.0-litre V12 twin-turbo petrol||463kW/1000NM||11.9||4.1||$445,000|
|Ferrari Portofino||3.9-litre V8 twin-turbo, petrol||441kW/760NM||10.7||3.5||>$400,000 (est.)|
|Porsche 911 Turbo S||3.8-litre flat six twin-turbo petrol||427kW/750NM||9.1||2.9||$418,000|
|Aston Martin Vanquish S||5.9-litre V12 petrol||444kW/630NM||13.1||3.5||$395,000|
|Bentley Continental GT||6.0-litre W12 twin-turbo, petrol||467kW/900NM||14.6||3.7||$360,000|
The Pros and Cons
|• Just look at it
• The V12 engine goes and sounds like nothing else
• Balanced ride and handling
• Interior feels special
• Seriously, just look at it
|• Infotainment was unfathomable
• Expensive car has expensive running costs
• Rivals arguably better and more modern
What do we think of it?
I love this car. If I had $400,000 or so to spend on a ridiculous luxury toy, the Vanquish S would be a the top of my list.
Not only is it prettier than literally every other car on sale right now (I will take no arguments on this), it also has one of the last true great engines. That naturally aspirated V12 for all its flaws is an absolute charmer. The noise, the noise, the sweet sweet noise is to die for.
It’s a shame after the Vanquish S ends production in a couple of years we won’t have cars like this anymore. For now, we should celebrate cars and engines like this. Yes, rivals are better value or are more advanced. But few can match the way this car makes you feel. Perhaps that’s just me and what I like from a car but the Vanquish S is a fitting swan song for this engine.
I love this car, warts and all. Now I’ll have to go on with life having a Vanquish-shaped hole in it.
|Vehicle Type||Grand Touring Supercar|
|Tested Price||$430,000 (est)|
|Engine||5.9-litre V12, petrol engine|
|Transmission||8-speed auto ZF Touchtronic III with manual mode|
|0 – 100 kph, seconds||3.5|
|Kerb Weight, Kg||1,739|
|Length x Width x Height, mm||4730 x 1910 x 1295 mm|
|Cargo Capacity, litres||368|
|Fuel Tank, litres||78|
|Fuel Efficiency||Advertised Spec – Combined – 13.3L / 100km
Real World Test – Combined – 21L / 100km
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||N/A|
|Warranty||3 year, 100,000km|