Aston Martin creates the Vanquish S, a more focused version of its 'Super GT' car that distances it from its newer DB11 relation.
In the metal
As this is Aston Martin's most overtly sporting model in the line-up, the Vanquish S wears some additional, jutting addenda that both helps reduce lift and demark its status. There's an exposed carbon splitter up front and revised rear aero too with a new diffuser, out of which protrude four, rather than two, exhaust tips. That can all be added to via the extensive options list, offering some more extrovert graphics packs, though we're rather of the opinion that an Aston Martin should be like an understated, tailored, gentleman's suit rather than a showy, loud one.
Inside, the tailor's gone wild here, though as with any Aston, how mad you go is down to you. There's some interesting web-style stitching inside, and the 'Satin Chopped' carbon fibre trim fascia panel looks a bit '90's sponge-paint home décor effect in such surroundings; we'd stick with piano black or suchlike and a more simple stitch. Each to his own. At least the seats are comfortable and the driving position is good, even if the pedal box is a bit cramped if your hand-made brogues are bigger than an eight. The presence of a fly-off handbrake always signifies something special, and there's one here, while Aston's shiny, 'backwards' instruments with preposterously small numbers and an ambitious 240mph limit are familiar, if not entirely welcome. Likewise, the 'sqweel', Aston's awkward square steering wheel, which again, thankfully, is optional. As ever, the rear seats are for very occasional use only, and for the smallest of passengers.
It doesn't seem that long ago since we drove Aston's revised Vanquish with the eight-speed automatic transmission and engine tuned to suit, as well as changes to the suspension. It's been around two years though, and the S aims to elevate the Vanquish into a slightly different driving sphere. That is no bad thing given the Aston Martin DB11 now exists in the 'super GT' realm that the Vanquish used to occupy.
There's greater emphasis on the S's sporting appeal now, Aston Martin's engineers having gone through every detail to improve the response, feel and engagement of the company's glorious, naturally aspirated V12 petrol engine. There's a marginal gain in power, output now a satisfyingly rounded 600hp over the 573hp of old, though it's not the increased output that's really relevant, but the way the engine reacts. A new intake system frees up the breathing, to the benefit of response, while the power comes in earlier and harder across the rev range. Meanwhile, the re-tuned sports exhaust gives the 6.0-litre V12 greater voice. It's borderline obnoxious, which doesn't always suit; even without the S button on the steering wheel pressed those four exhausts blare with a sound that's a bit unbecoming; it's difficult not to announce your arrival.
If you can live with that slightly boisterous, if admittedly tuneful exhaust, then the rest of the package is rather compelling. The suspension might have been tuned for greater focus, but the way Aston Martin has managed to achieve this without sacrificing ride comfort is impressive indeed. There's greater control all-round, too, the Vanquish S more adept at exploiting its power. The traction is good even on leafy wet winter roads. New anti-roll bar bushing, revised spring rates and new damper internals all work to allow the Vanquish S to deliver greater feel and immediacy, allied to that still impressive ride quality. It feels significantly more sporting as a result, the keener front axle, decent feedback from the hydraulically-assisted power steering and the finer control the rear axle all obvious, elevating the Vanquish S into a far more immersive and engaging driver's car. The ZF transmission helps, its eight ratios giving excellent spread, and the engine devours them with alarming, enjoyable voracity as it chases its redline. Some bigger gearchange paddles would help you select them better, though, as the column-mounted ones are a touch small when you're stabbing at them so frequently.
What you get for your money
Think of the list price here as a mere entry-point, as the Vanquish S can be expensively tailored to suit your exact tastes and wants. Buyers know, understand and embrace that, even if it's beyond the capacity of mere financial mortals like us to comprehend. Must be nice, though there are cars with broadly similar performance for a lot less money, if not quite the prestige and charm of the Vanquish S.
As with many Aston Martins, the Vanquish is improving with age, the S revisions bringing a real sophistication to the ride quality and upping the engagement of the drive. That's entirely welcome, but as ever it's playing catch up; the Vanquish S is a great car, but there are newer competitors, not least Aston's own DB11, which will mean it'll be a committed Aston buyer who chooses it over anything else, however good it actually is.