Driven - Aston Vanquish lacks fizzComment on this story
It had to be silver, of course. Only then could I indulge any James Bond fantasies that might squeeze past the steely objectivity by which I should be assessing the new Aston Martin Vanquish.
The revered British marque has, again, provided transport for 007 in the imminent Bond flick Skyfall, though I don't know if that will have the ability to blend invisibly into its surroundings as the last big-screen Aston Martin did.
Even if it can, we should still be able to hear it, because a 5.3 litre, 421kW V12 engine is hard to keep quiet.
The Vanquish is meant to be the maddest, baddest Aston Martin of all, apart from the rare and ultra-expensive One-77 which no journalist has yet driven; oh, and the limited-production V8 Vantage Zagato. There's also the V12 Vantage, which uses an earlier version of this Vanquish V12 in the smaller body normally reserved for the gentler V8 engine. That sounds quite mad, too.
A few ifs and buts there, then.
STRAIGHT FROM THE TEMPLATE
But the important thing to know is that this Vanquish conforms to much the same template as all Aston Martins since the millennium, which means a powerful front-mounted engine, a structure made from extruded, welded and bonded aluminium, and a sleek body of unmistakable visual identity.
It has the hunched look, crisp edges and side strake spearing back from the wing vent already seen on the One-77, and all the outer panels bar the bumpers are of lightweight carbonfibre, whose glossy weave is exposed around the body's lower perimeter. Under the bonnet is a V12 engine of unchanged size but new components, able to breathe better than before and deliver more muscle at low speeds as well as that useful 421kW at full chat.
Inside, the aura is familiar to anyone who has looked at the interior of a recent Aston Martin, but calmer thanks to a new centre console in which the former rows of daunting buttons have been ousted by touchscreen panels. There are two tiny, largely pointless rear seats, and a boot much bigger than the old DBS's.
WHERE’S THE DRAMA?
I expected a fire-spitting, Tarmac-tearing monster when I set off in the Vanquish, but that is not its way. Its engine sounds magnificently crisp and rich, but the evenness of its vast power delivery makes even the searing 4.1-second 0-100km/h time seem less dramatic than it should. Even the launch control function, which automatically gives the best getaway, feels oddly anti-climactic as the Vanquish just squeezes itself into hyperspace.
The automatic gearbox is partly why; its shifts are quick and smooth, whether self-generated or driver-triggered via the manual paddleshift controls, but they blunt the drama. There's a Sport mode, but it makes little difference beyond a slight alertness increase and ringing ears from the exhaust-silencer bypass.
It feels good in the turns, though, with quick, tactile steering and the fabulous balance typical of a powerful rear-wheel- drive car. The Vanquish soon takes on the nimbleness of a smaller machine, but none of the three suspension modes - Normal, Sport (again) and Sport Track - can quite cope with big undulations.
SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED
That's the only time the Vanquish feels unruly. Otherwise it's a big, beautiful, beautifully built powerhouse and a very appropriate Bond-flavoured grand tourer, but to me it's too close to what I expect the forthcoming new DB9 to be like. It should be a touch more raw. Shaken it can do, on a poor road. I'd just like to be stirred a little more.
ENGINE: 5935c, V12 cylinders, 48 valves, 421kW
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive
PERFORMANCE: 294km/h, 0-100km/h in 4.1sec, 14.4 l/100km, CO2 of 335g/km
-The Independent on Sunday