If you read our February issue, you'll have already seen our take on Aston's DBS replacement, the Vanquish. And while we were one of the first to get our hands on 007's ride of choice, we didn't have the opportunity to flog it on a track.
Let me start by saying, flat out, this is the best car Aston Martin has ever built. It's the most complete, well rounded and capable.
We put the new halo model through its paces at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans. Nestled outside the city, NOLA's North Track is a healthy 2.75 miles, with 16 turns and a straightaway long enough to kiss 150mph on the speedo.
The track is extremely technical, rewarding smoothness rather than brute horsepower. Fortunately, the 2014 Vanquish will do exactly what you ask of it thanks in part to 50/50 weight distribution, but there's so much more to it than that.
With a number of Aston instructors on hand, six cars to choose from and a wonderful road course, it was a great opportunity to get a feel for the improvements to this new model. To start, the quicker steering rack means you can keep your hands at ten and two whether in a hairpin or sweeper.
The car responds predictably to inputs while the adjustable dampers were surprisingly capable. You can choose between Normal, Sport and Track, with the latter most suitable for our surroundings, ridding the Vanquish of any noticeable body roll, yet still able to ride the curbs and maintain its composure.
There's ample power from the 6.0L V12 and, thanks to some tweaking, it has useful torque in the lower rev range, making corner exits something to relish.
I'd like to also tell you how the Vanquish behaves with the traction control disengaged, but just as I was gaining confidence to unleash all 565hp, the sky unleashed a downpour of biblical proportions. So while we stayed out when others ran for cover, this wasn't the time to risk a visit to the trackside barriers.
On paper, the Vanquish shouldn't be so good in the wet. It's more than 3800 lb, has 305-section Pirelli rubber out back and the ZF gear shifts are pretty aggressive. But in the real world, the car was phenomenal. Approaching 150mph on the straight, I was blinded by water kicked up from the car ahead and large raindrops hitting like marbles. Fortunately, I knew where the track was and got on the massive 398mm carbon-ceramics whenever I saw brake lights flash ahead, letting the six-piston calipers slow the British beaut for a third-gear right-hander. We both came in a little hot and ended up sideways midway through the turn, but between genius electronics, a brilliant car and hopefully some of my own skills, I was able to modulate the throttle, counter-steer, correct and catapult the Vanquish toward the next turn. This is how an Aston Martin should behave and it gave me confidence I never experienced in the DBS.
The Vanquish isn't a dedicated track car, nor is it as good as its price suggests, but it still performs blissfully. In Normal mode it'll hold sixth gear as long as it can, remaining docile and tame. I'd take it on a road trip because the Vanquish is more comfortable than most of its competition. But push the Sport button and you're grateful Aston chose the exhaust from the One-77 because while it's easy to make a V12 sound great, it's difficult to get one to sound so amazing.
Also from the One-77 is a steering wheel option that should be standard. It's a work of art and it couldn't fit better.
So while you probably won't see an influx of Vanquishes at your local track day, you should expect to see more of them on the road than the outgoing DBS. It's still unreasonably expensive but the super GT meets its requirements. And while Aston's design progress is subtle, there's no reason to ruin a good thing: they continue to improve on it.
The new Vanquish is a fantastic evolution for the brand, and if you've liked every Aston before it, you'll instantly fall in love again.
2014 Aston Martin Vanquish
Engine 6.0-liter V12 48v, independent variable quad camshaft timing
Drivetrain six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic/sequential manual, limited-slip differential
Brakes 398mm carbon-ceramic rotors, six-piston calipers f, 360mm, four-piston r
Suspension three-stage adaptive damping, double wishbones
Wheels & Tires 20x9", 255/45 ZR20 f, 20x11.5", 305/40 ZR20 r
Exterior aluminum, magnesium-alloy and carbon fiber body
Torque 457 lb-ft at 5500rpm
Top Speed 183mph
Weight 3833 lb
MSRP $279995 (inc gas guzzler)