The phrase "Gran Turismo" may be most closely associated with a certain digital racing game by many members of the PlayStation generation, but the term harkens back to the proper concept of grand touring. That is, covering big miles with style, with performance, and with luxury. Those directives are often contradictory, and so we see some GT cars that are as razor-sharp as the Ferrari F12 (video) and some as cossetingly smooth as the Bentley Continental GT.
In many ways, the Aston Martin brand typifies the gran turismo concept, with nearly all of its cars slotting somewhere in the middle of that broadly defined genre. For years, the Aston DBS had been the quintessential GT. The Vanquish is that car's sportier successor, familiar in many ways but new, with a lightweight carbon fiber body, completely refreshed interior, smarter infotainment options, and a bigger trunk to boot. Oh, and it's absolutely lovely to behold.
Is this the new grandest of grand tourers? Let's find out.
Far and away the most magnificent component in the 2014 Vanquish Coupe is the 6.0-liter V-12 engine slung low behind the front wheels. It burbles with a refined civility while idling through town and roars like a lion when the roads open up in the country. But let's save that for later, as it's the exterior of the car that makes for a truly captivating first impression.
In shape and details it's unmistakably cut from the same cloth as the DBS that came before, which itself wasn't all too dissimilar from its own predecessor, the previous-gen Vanquish. Familiarity isn't necessarily a bad thing when dealing with brands such as this, and the new Vanquish looks fresh and modern and ever so slightly more sophisticated than its predecessor. It has all the same agressive vents on hood and fenders as before, expanses of bare carbon fiber on display here and there as statements of purpose, but it's all a bit less angular than the DBS. Less of a fitness model, more of an underwear model, if you would.
The biggest swath of naked carbon is the front lip, but strip off the paint and you'd see every body panel is made of the stuff. Ours was dipped in the lovely green you see here, dubbed "Appletree," a bit lighter than your typical British racing colors. On paper it seems like a subtle color, but on the curves of the Vanquish it's a real stunner, especially in verdant springtime surroundings.
The long hood is slender and light, exposing that massive V-12 beneath, which well and truly fills the engine compartment. The rear half, at least, with the portion ahead of the front wheels being largely covered by a black plastic panel hiding a lot of... nothing. A rearward-placed motor offers better weight distribution, after all. (Update: An Aston rep wrote in to let us know that this portion ahead of the motor also plays a crucial role in the frontal crash structure.)
Doors, on the other hand, feel fairly heavy, but that weight is well-balanced and supported by dampers. As on the Rapide S and other Astons they open with a slight upward tilt, better clearing pesky curbing that could otherwise be a problem in a low-slung car like this. The doors terminate just before the swollen fenders at the rear, hinting at the 565 horsepower conveyed through these 20-inch wheels.
The rear of the car is high and gives the illusion of thinness thanks to a dark carbon fiber panel along the bottom that's penetrated by dual exhaust tips. Brake lights look like slices in the curving bodywork of the tail, flanking a trunk that has a somewhat narrow opening. Nevertheless, it will accomodate two sets of golf clubs with ease. Important stuff for a grand tourer.
The quilted leather seats that receive you are comfortable for long stretches of road, but could perhaps do with a bit more bolstering for those twisty bits between. Our review car was outfitted with the same steering wheel that graced Aston's One-77 hypercar, which is a lovely bit of familial patronage, but I wasn't particularly fond of the shape. It's wrapped in a mix of leather and Alcantara, which feels nice beneath the hands, but it has an oddly angular shape. It's thick and closer to square than circular, sometimes making it feel like you're trying to shuffle-steer a dictionary when working the car hard. Thankfully, a more traditionally shaped (read: round) wheel can be selected instead -- if you can do without the One-77 lineage.
Twin dials of the old-school mechanical variety dominate the instrument cluster, speed and tachometer, though small LCDs are inset giving information like a digital speed readout, trip computer, and fuel consumption. A third small LCD between and above the gauges shows the current gear, turning red when it's time to upshift. Other than that subtle indication, there's no red line on the tachometer, encouraging you to rev that V-12 for all it's worth.
The center stack of the car, wrapped here in a subtle (and optional) carbon fiber weave, is tastefully laid out, far cleaner than the inside of the Rapide S. Along the top are buttons that control the six-speed automatic transmission: P, R, N, and D. (A "manual" mode can be toggled by commanding a shift with either of the paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.)
The majority of the controls are flat, capacitive buttons that offer a sort of crude haptic feedback. That is, the dashboard hums and vibrates a bit with every press, an attempt at offering a modern look with the tactility of physical controls. The net result looks good, but isn't particularly satisfying to use. Also, the lack of dual-zone climate control can be a bit of a problem if your passenger has different temperature needs than you. The optional ventilated seats help, though.