By: IOL Motoring Staff

Gaydon, Warwickshire - Aston Martin has revealed details of a number of upgrades to the Vanquish GT and Rapide S four-door, aimed at improving performance - both in terms of speed and handling - as well as reducing fuel consumption.

Reduced exhaust back pressure and some engine-management tweaks provide an extra 2.2kW for the Vanquish and 1.5kW for the Rapide S, up to 424kW for the GT and 412kW for the sedan, while torque is up by 10Nm to 630Nm at 5500rpm in each car.

But the big news is the debut of the new ZF Touchtronic III eight-speed automatic gearbox in both models - the first time that this state-of-the-art gearbox has been incorporated into a transaxle layout - reducing 0-100 times for each car by half a second, from 4.1 to 3.6 seconds for the Vanquish and from 4.9 to 4.4 seconds for the big four-seater.

Which makes the Vanquish the hardest-launching series-production car yet from the world's coolest brand.

Revised gear and final drive ratios also make the cars more frugal, with the maker claiming an average 11 percent reduction in thirst, down to 9.16 litres per 100km, while the taller final-drive ration pushes the top speed of each model past the iconic 322km/h mark - 200 miles per hour in the old language - for the first time.

The new transmission is not only three per cent lighter than its six-speed predecessor, it's also better packaged, so it fits exactly into the same space, while delivering shift speeds as quick as 130 milliseconds.

New software allows for a wider selection of driving modes, such as 'Drive', 'Drive Sport', 'Paddle Shift' and 'Paddle Shift Sport'.

There's even a multiple-downshift routine: hit the brakes and hold the 'down' paddle back, and the car will go down through the gears as quickly as possible without over-revving the engine, blipping the throttle every time to make the shifts almost seamless and make you sound like Mario Andretti.

Adaptive drive recognition, meanwhile, tailors the shift points to the individual driver's style, but resets to default mode every time you switch the car on, so it's always ready to fit in with your mood.

CHASSIS UPGRADES

A revised torque tube reduces transmission noise, new stability program and electronic steering software tune the chassis' response to the new characteristics of the new transmission, with uprated dampers on the new Vanquish - 15 percent stiffer in front and 35 percent stiffer at the rear improve road-holding under pressure.

Both cars get 20 percent stiffer rear suspension bushes and a retuned and brake booster, while the heavier Rapide S also gets larger front brakes.

Stylish new 10-spoked rims save almost seven kilograms in unsprung weight.

There's also a range of new paint and interior trim colours, including the special metallic red that was previously only available on the V12 Zagato, a very, very dark blue leather option, a two-tone interior in tan and red for the Rapide S and a new headlining option in a mix of quilted leather and alcantara synthetic suede.

The revised Vanquish and Rapide S will be released in South Africa during the second quarter of 2015.

PRICES?

"Definitely north of R4 million for the Vanquish," says Aston Martin SA head honcho Rens Rademeyer, "and more than R3 million for the Rapide."