Aston Martin's been hustling the boutique car business for 99 years, and DNA from the brand's crowning achievement - the ultra-rare One-77 - has finally trickled down to a more attainable branch of the family tree.
On the eve of its centenary, Aston expelled the DBS moniker and welcomed the Vanquish back to the stable. This sexed-up DBS replacement receives visual cues consistent with the manufacturer's orthodox design language, but the new flagship also claims 75% new mechanical content plus a leaner, punchier presence.
The skeletal framework introduces carbon weave structures fore and aft of its bonded and extruded aluminum tub. There are also cast aluminum hollow subframes to replace the solid aluminum bits.
The lighter structure is 25% torsionally stiffer than the outgoing DBS, and it accommodates a powertrain lowered 0.75" for more agile cornering.
Nestled deep into the engine bay is Aston's tried 'n true 5.9-liter V12, reworked with variable valve timing and a higher 11:1 compression ratio, which aids flexibility and takes output to 565hp, 457 lb-ft. Official specs indicate 0-60mph can be reached in 4.1sec.
Power is routed through a carbon fiber propshaft sheathed in an alloy torque tube, and the six-speed automated manual transaxle is situated close to the cabin for better mass centralization.
Carbon ceramic stoppers come standard (as expected with a starting price of $279,995), while niceties like a 1000W, 13-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system are also included gratis - although there's still a lengthy options list.
Getting to know the new flagship involves an endearing combination of familiar rituals and new features. Aston aficionados will recognize hallmarks like the upward sweep of the "swan wing" doors, how the V12 fires by sliding a glass-capped key fob into the dash, and the counter-clockwise sweep of the tachometer.
Fresh interfaces have also been introduced, such as One-77-inspired details like the imaginatively stitched Bridge of Weir Luxmil leather, a center stack with haptic feedback for multimedia settings, and an optional steering wheel that's both oddly huge and surprisingly square.
The V12 spins to life with anxious verve before settling into a mellow, sonorous hum, and the dash-mounted drive select button instigates first gear, one of six relatively tall cogs for the taking.
As with Aston of yore, the mill produces a fantastic sound as it winds through the powerband, this time acoustics are enhanced by exhaust geometry lifted from (you guessed it) the One-77.
While the fully automatic setting for the transmission sometimes produces unexpected shifts, tapping the paddles yields cog swaps zippy enough to quell most complaints about the car deserving a dual-clutch gearbox.
On the storybook backroads of rural England, the Vanquish feels "at one" with the tarmac below, even in the cushiest of its three-position adaptive damper settings.
While there's plenty of bespoke Pirelli rubber transmitting surface irregularities (255 up front, 305 rear), most of these roads were exceptionally bumpy for piloting a stiffly sprung sports car at breakneck speeds. At least the steering, which has been quickened and imbued with greater feel, conveys enough information to encourage fleet driving despite dreary road signs announcing the number of recent fatalities in the vicinity.
The carbon brakes scrub off speed effectively once you're past the initial pedal tip-in, which lacks the bite of more aggressively tuned competitors.
Cabin volume has been expanded despite an essentially unchanged footprint, and the extra breathing room proved a welcome addition during our all-day stint. We enjoyed generous lashings of foot stomping, seat squishing, horizon chasing acceleration as the tacho closed in on the soft power cutoff around 7000rpm.
The haptic system in our test car was still being calibrated, yet the layout worked intuitively enough, with attractive menu functionality to complement the new buttons. However, the flip-up 6.5" LCD screen still felt archaic, and the Garmin-sourced nav system didn't provide information via the new interface.
The Vanquish dispatched a delicately modulated feast for the senses, which is exactly the experience we expect from the stylish British manufacturer; our time behind the wheel left us both placid and invigorated, like a spa visit on "go" pills.
While sharper and tighter than its predecessor, the Vanquish lacks the knife's edge focus that defines its higher-strung counterparts from Italy and Germany. But for drivers seeking panache and power in an elegant package, Aston's flagship delivers oodles of charisma on its own terms - and for that, we hope the brand sticks around for another hundred years.
2014 Aston Martin Vanquish
Layout longitudinal front-engine, RWD
Engine 5.9-liter V12 48v, independent variable quad camshaft timing
Drivetrain six-speed sequential automatic, limited-slip diff
Brakes 398mm carbon-ceramic rotors, six-piston calipers f, 360mm, four-piston r
Suspension three-stage adaptive damping, double wishbones
Wheels & Tires 20x9", 255/35 ZR20 f, 20x11.5", 305/30 ZR20 r
Exterior aluminum, magnesium-alloy and carbon fiber body
MSRP $279,995 (inc gas guzzler)
Power 565hp at 6750rpm
Torque 457 lb-ft at 5500rpm
Top Speed 183mph
Weight 3833 lb