New Aston Martin launched with latest 007 movie Skyfall is a gentlemanly powerhouse
A ride worthy of 007 PHOTO: ASTON MARTIN

The original 2001 Vanquish rode into view on the coattails of the 2000 James Bond movie Die Another Day. Fittingly, the second-generation Vanquish will do likewise with the latest 007 thriller, Skyfall.

Being Aston Martin's top-of-the-line model, the Vanquish packs a 5.9-litre V12 that produces 573bhp, which is 56bhp more than the sportiest DBS. While the newcomer looks similar to the DBS in its styling, it is actually 75 per cent new.

For instance, all the external body panels are made of carbon fibre, whereas the DBS uses the same exotic material only for its bonnet and fenders. Besides reducing weight, the carbon fibre also allowed the automaker to create some complex bodywork that normal metal stamping would never achieve. The rest of the Vanquish spaceframe is made of aluminium.

The sharper, racier lines of the Vanquish were inspired by the $5-million One-77 limited edition, but it still looks like a development of the DBS design. With Aston Martin's CEO, Dr Ulrich Bez, being an ex-Porsche man, this steady design evolution might be taking its cue from the 911, which has retained the same basic shape for decades.

To match the aggressive aesthetics of the Vanquish, Aston's engineers have tuned its V12 for a lot more power and torque, complete with an angrier growl from the tailpipes. Yet, precious little of that angry exhaust note gets into the cabin, thanks to superb soundproofing. You have to wind down the windows to really hear the music being played by the 12-cylinder machine. Then again, this is in keeping with the gentlemanly character of Aston Martin, a brand that is less brash than Italian supercar makers.

With launch control, the sprint to 100kmh can be done in 4.1 seconds, with barely a chirp from the rear wheels. Such strong acceleration is very respectable for a coupe tipping the scales at over 1.7 tonnes.

Transmitting the power to the tarmac is Aston's Touchtronic 2 gearbox, the latest-specification torque converter automatic with paddle-shifters. The gear changes are smooth and decisive, making this auto one of the best in the high-performance segment.

The greatest advantage of a naturally aspirated V12 engine is how it enables the driver to decide precisely how much horsepower to apply via the throttle pedal. This makes it a pleasure to tackle the numerous B-roads along our test route, because the power works as one with the handling. The driver is always in control, even when pressing on from point to point.

Part of the credit must go to the well-tuned suspension, which translates into good ride quality when the road gets bumpy. The ability of the Vanquish to absorb major undulations without bottoming out is truly remarkable. Even more remarkable is how the selection of Sport or Track mode accentuates the drive experience without making the car unbearable over rough tarmac.

The only problem perhaps is the size of the Vanquish. It is agile but it occupies plenty of road space. On a wide motorway, however, the Vanquish is in its element, covering great distances effortlessly and entertaining the driver whenever he wishes to overtake in a hurry.

The new Vanquish is indeed worthy of Bond. It is powerful, delightful and looks like a million bucks, which is literally how much it would cost in Singapore.

SPECS

ASTON MARTIN VANQUISH 5.9

Price without COE: $950,000

Engine: 5,935cc 48-valve V12

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual select

Power: 573bhp at 6,750rpm

Torque: 620Nm at 5,500rpm

0-100kmh: 4.1 seconds

Top speed: 295kmh

Fuel consumption: 14.4 litres/100km (city-highway)

Agent: Aston Martin Singapore