Vanquish's suspension is fully independent and free of electronic trickery-just a well-designed upper/lower control-arm arrangement front and back, with a considerable amount of attention paid to shock/spring/bushing/anti-roll bar tuning. A cross-drilled, vented Brembo brake is found at each corner, and ABS is standard.

No matter how much we all love the Z8-and we do-there was something not quite right about "Bond, James Bond" driving a Bimmer.

His brief use of a four-cylinder Z3 in "Goldeneye" was a joke; the multi-talented 750i that was developed for "Tomorrow Never Dies" was better; and at least the Z8 used in "The World is Not Enough" is deservingly rare, fast and sexy. But ever since 007 gave up his Bentley for that impossibly cool DB5 in "Goldfinger," Bond fans will forever place him at the wheel of an Aston. In spite of how capable that amphibious Lotus in "The Spy Who Loved Me" was....

Bondophiles have good reason to rejoice, as Aston Martin and EON Productions have announced that Our Man James will in fact pilot the all-new Vanquish in the upcoming, as yet unnamed Bond film that began production this January and is due out around the end of the year. The movie should be good fun.

And the car is pretty damn special, too. The Vanquish's curvaceously bold shape is the work of Ian Callum, who up until recently served as Design Director for both Aston Martin and Jaguar. Interestingly enough, he's giving up the Aston job in order to concentrate fully on Jaguar, which has an extremely aggressive product roll-out plan in the works. His replacement? Henrik Fisker, who designed the aforementioned Z8. Small world.

The Vanquish, which began showing up in dealerships last October, is the production result of Project Vantage, Aston's 1999 Detroit show concept car. Designed by Callum when he was still at TWR and it was also the first hint Aston intended to develop a V12. Vanquish's shapes purposely recall Aston's DB4 GT Zagato of the early '60s, and there's a bit of Ferrari Daytona in there, too. But it's by no means a copy of anything and is already being hailed as one of the most elegantly styled front-engined gran turismos of all time.

There's none of the DB7, or any other Aston, to be found in the Vanquish's fresh-from-the-ground-up platform. The development team needed a structurally stiff yet reasonably lightweight platform. They couldn't get there by just adding steel reinforcements to a conventional chassis; at 183.7 in. overall, the Vanquish is no tiny machine. Both goals were met by the use of a central tunnel crafted of carbon fiber, surrounded by structural aluminum honeycomb panels and several extruded aluminum components.

Carbon fiber was also employed in creating a one-piece "door ring" as well as front and rear crash protection elements to give the chassis extra strength in these areas. Steel substructures and stampings are used when its strength/weight ratio is appropriate. The exterior bodywork is aluminum, and an amazing amount of the Vanquish is held together with structural adhesives, which are, in many cases, much stronger than welds or bolts. Even at that, the car's a relatively husky 4,000+ lb. The Vanquish comes standard as a two-seater, though a "+2" rear seat configuration is optional; no convertible is planned at this time.

Any GT worthy of the label needs a great powerplant, and the Vanquish certainly packs the house in that department. Its 460-bhp 6.0-liter V12 is a development of the 420-horse unit that first showed up in the DB7 Vantage last year. Though its perfectly balanced 60-degree dohc architecture remains much the same, the weight of several reciprocating components has been reduced in the name of quicker revs.

Compression was increased, and the cam timing is more aggressive. Even the engine's internal oil flow was smoothed out to reduce power losses. Peak horsepower arrives at 6500 rpm, and maximum torque checks in at an even 400 lb-ft; the big twelve will happily wail to its 7200-rpm redline. Having outfits such as Visteon (to help with engine management development, among other things) and Cosworth Racing (to cast your engines) as corporate cousins within the Ford stable is pretty handy, to say the least.

The high-tech philosophy continues with the transmission choice. The gearbox itself is a Tremec T56 six-speed, much like that found in a Dodge Viper. But, here it's controlled via a Magneti-Marelli supplied electro-hydraulically actuated paddle-shifter system, a further development of the Ferrari 360 Modena's F1 option. There's no clutch pedal, though there is a conventional clutch. Neat shifter paddles on either side of the steering column control up- and downshifts, while buttons on the center stack allow the driver to select reverse, winter and fully sport modes.

By Giancarlo Rosetti
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