The Vanquish looks like a light-heavyweight boxer sewn into his own waistcoat. The fitted tension in the lower fuselage, the sucked-in, negative spaces ahead of the rear wheel arches, are spectacular. The Vanquish draws some of its blood-vent styling, the side strakes, from the company's limited-edition One-77 project. The Vanquish's proportions aren't quite as radical and cab-rearward as those of the One-77, but it's still pretty much a heart attack on sight. Among the flourishes is the Vanquish's rear-spoiler hoop that, being made of carbon composite, required a unique and proprietary tooling process.
Other bullet points for the 2014 Vanquish include an additional 55 horsepower (565 hp at 6,750 rpm) and 37 pound-feet more torque (457 pound-feet at 5,500 rpm) over the DBS. Aston's all-alloy 5.9-liter, mid-front-mounted V12 gets a sprucing up with variable timing on both intake and exhaust sides, as well as freer-breathing intake geometry.
Meanwhile, the Vanquish features an even more ominous, impudent exhaust note. Any time the revs rise past the thresholds for the exhaust bypass valves, the Aston's sound transforms from a somewhat truck-y thud to a concussive, fiery staccato. The off-throttle overrun sounds like ripped bodices flapping on a flagpole.
Refinements over the DBS—the Bond car in the last two movies, incidentally—include a 25% increase in torsional rigidity, says the company, and about a 150-pound reduction in curb weight, which comes in around 3,850 pounds. With the car transferring power to the ground through a single-clutch mid-rear transaxle, the Vanquish doesn't cycle through gear ratios with quite as much impact as a car with a dual-clutch automatic manual transmission, the Ferrari V12, for instance, which also enjoys a 165-hp advantage. With the new-for-2014 launch-control system, the Vanquish is probably capable of hitting 60 miles per hour in about four seconds, as compared with the Ferrari's three flat.
But once the Vanquish is rolling and the road opens up, the sheer, horsey power of the thing is a joy. Romp the throttle at mid-rpm in third gear and you'll get a huge, hydraulic shove in the back, like God has hit you with a water balloon. Sploooff!
For a grand touring car, the Vanquish can get downright flinty in the suspension (the 20-inch, no-profile Pirellis don't help). Sprung with double wishbones, coil springs and adaptive monotube dampers, the car offers a choice of three drive modes—Tour, Sport and Track—with escalating thresholds for the car's engine, transmission, suspension and stability logic. My recommendation is the Tour setting, which allows for a comfortable though quite vivid ride.
The car's steering (hydraulically assisted) is obviously highly developed, keen and responsive, and yet well short of dartiness. The Vanquish is at its absolute best tracking straight and true at high speed, an avenging spirit with diamond eyes. The brakes, as near as I could tell, would stop a train: Dazzling 15-inch-plus ceramic discs beam through the wheel spokes.
The one gripe I have with these cars—the center stack and the navigation display—remains unresolved. While the climate and audio controls have been given a techy updating—with peculiar, mini-donut-like rotary dials for climate and audio functions—the navi display remains small, faraway and low-res, integrated into a pop-up panel atop the dash. It's the one dissonant element in a cabin that's just insane with quilted Alcantara and stitched leather.
Look, I'm all for suspending disbelief. It's fun (every time Bond flashes his Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M in "Skyfall," down a shot). But I'm just not buying Bond's return to the DB5. If my job routinely involves running gunbattles and desperate escapes, I'm going to want heavier tackle.
That, the Vanquish is.