Aston Martin Vanquish S review - should you buy one over a DB11?

Aston Martin isn't done with its naturally aspirated V12 just yet, as this 595bhp Vanquish shows

Evo rating
Price
from £199,950
  • Noise, poise, drama and charm
  • Not as rounded as the DB11

With over 3000 orders already taken and more or less unwavering critical acclaim, the DB11 is proving every inch the game-changer Aston Martin hoped it would be. And every inch a rod for its own back.

A good question to ask would be this: why would I want to buy a £192,995, 568bhp old-school Aston Vanquish when I could have a £154,900, 600bhp DB11, arguably the best GT currently on sale? A certain emotional pull and a last hurrah for that naturally aspirated 6-litre V12 can’t be ruled out but, against its new sibling, the Vanquish… well, it doesn’t.

Little surprise, then, that Aston has wasted no time distancing its old best GT from its new one and, adopting the idea that attack is the best form of defence, the elevation of the Vanquish to Vanquish S presses home the point that it’s a ‘super GT’. That is, at least one better than a regular GT (read DB11) if you’re into the best part of £200k for the thrill of driving.

The new Vanquish S costs £199,950. That’s for the coupe you see here. You’ll have to spend a little longer at the cashpoint if you want the drop-top Volante as it’s £211,950. Either way, wringing the last drop of dynamic goodness from the Vanquish to earn the S badge has proved a comprehensive exercise in subtle and not-so-subtle alterations for Aston chief engineer VAE (Vehicle Attribute Engineering) Matt Becker, previously of Lotus. We’ll come to those.

Thanks chiefly to a redesigned and larger intake manifold, peak power is up from 568bhp to 595bhp at 7000rpm, and although there’s the same 465lb ft of torque at the same 5500rpm, more of it is available at lower revs, engineering a little more life into the throttle response at medium revs to complement the harder punch higher up.

In addition, revisions to the Touchtronic III eight-speed auto make it shift faster while being smoother around town. With the launch control engaged, the 0-62mph time of 3.5sec is three-tenths quicker than the regular Vanquish’s and opens up a small but psychologically necessary gap to the 3.9sec of the twin-turbo V12 DB11. Top speed is unchanged at 201mph, again one better than the DB11’s.

The S gets its own sexed-up sonic signature, too. The technical explanation breaks down to a little louder, more high-frequency content and an extra helping of throatiness – measures once more designed to feed excitement and distinguish the sound of the Vanquish S from the classy but comparatively muted V12 exertions of the turbocharged DB11.

Aero plays an important part in the new model’s dynamic make-up, the aim being to increase grip at the front while maintaining stability at the rear, so improving handling balance without compromising high-speed stability.

A redesigned splitter reduces front lift from 66kg to 18kg at 150mph, Becker explaining that the underside profile is shaped like the leading edge of a wing to accelerate the flow passing beneath the car, while the small ‘winglets’ at the splitter’s corners not only increase downward pressure on the upper surface but guide the airflow past the front wheels, reducing turbulence and drag, resulting in a drop in Cd from 0.372 to 0.369.

Spring rates are increased by a modest ten per cent front and rear and the dampers re-valved. The rear anti-roll bar is also three per cent stiffer. Tweaked geometry and revised damping software are the only other changes. Becker is adamant that you can have extra response, grip and agility and retain a comfortable ride; the two things aren’t incompatible.

And out in the Shropshire hills on the Welsh border, that proves to be largely the case. But it isn’t the first thing that nails my attention. The Vanquish S sounds sensational: sophisticated and multi-layered but, more importantly, suitably violent and very, very V12. The DB11 seems positively couth by comparison and doesn’t come close to matching this level of drama or intensity.

The chassis is equally rewarding, supplementing huge grip with fast responses and acutely executed changes of direction. The steering is well-weighted with fine precision about the straight ahead and reassuring feel on lock, while body control is exemplary, finessed by damping that’s taut yet supple.

The Vanquish S makes no attempt to steamroller rucked and rutted road surfaces into submission but, rather, it tracks the undulations with no wasted body movement and uses its damping to desensitise their impact. It would be a great car in which to attack a big distance, and if it didn’t do it with quite the effortless energy and cosseting charm of the DB11, it would be acceptably comfortable, easy on the nerves and constantly engaging. 

When the road straightens, the collision of bellowing V12 music and sustained surge is as glorious as it is addictive. And when the straight runs out, the rapidly accumulated speed is wiped away by the monster brakes like raindrops from a windscreen.

Old-school Aston? Absolutely. The DB11 may be the better, more rounded, more modern proposition, but the Vanquish S, as Aston intended, is the bigger rush.

Most Popular

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn
MAT Stratos – front tracking
Lancia

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn

It’s been a long time coming, but this Ferrari F430-based reimagining of the Lancia Stratos is finally here
11 Jun 2021
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition – slide
Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act

Immense performance from about the coolest modern muscle car out there. It’s expensive, but there’s nothing else quite like it
12 Jun 2021
Tesla Model S Plaid deliveries begin – 1006bhp super saloon now reaching customers
Tesla Model S Plaid
Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S Plaid deliveries begin – 1006bhp super saloon now reaching customers

The long-awaited Tesla Model S Plaid has finally come to fruition, with first US examples hitting the road
11 Jun 2021
2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?
Audi RS3 manufacturer spy 1
Audi RS3

2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?

Audi Sport is putting the final touches on its new RS3 hot hatch and saloon
10 Jun 2021
BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance
BMW M5 CS – front cornering
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance

Nonsensical on paper, but sublime in practice. Never has a modern supersaloon been more tactile or more engaging
14 Jun 2021
2021 Maserati GranTurismo to go EV-only – IC option ditched
2021 Maserati GranTurismo spy – track
Maserati

2021 Maserati GranTurismo to go EV-only – IC option ditched

GranTurismo coupe and its soft-top GranCabrio sibling to be reborn later this year, but controversially without the proposed combustion alternative...…
11 Jun 2021
Posaidon’s 217mph Mercedes-AMG E63 RS is faster than a Porsche 918 Spyder
Posaidon Mercedes-AMG E63
Mercedes E63 AMG

Posaidon’s 217mph Mercedes-AMG E63 RS is faster than a Porsche 918 Spyder

Three new Posaidon power upgrades are now available for Mercedes-AMG’s E63 S, bringing hypercar numbers to the four door supersaloon
9 Jun 2021
Used car deals of the week
Used car deals 11 June 21
used cars

Used car deals of the week

Here's what caught evo’s fancy this week on the second hand car market
11 Jun 2021
Best small cars 2021 – pocket rockets reviewed and rated
Best small cars 2021
Best cars

Best small cars 2021 – pocket rockets reviewed and rated

You don’t need 200bhp or more in a small hatchback to have fun – these ‘warm’ small cars are the proof
7 Jun 2021
Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement mule spied – will it emulate the McLaren Artura?
Ferrari F171 spy 2021 – front
Ferrari

Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement mule spied – will it emulate the McLaren Artura?

Ferrari’s going hybrid and V6 for its next mid-engined supercar
9 Jun 2021
BMW announces entry into LMDh class from 2023 – to fight Audi, Porsche and other big names
BMW Le Mans header
BMW

BMW announces entry into LMDh class from 2023 – to fight Audi, Porsche and other big names

The 2023 LMDh class is shaping up to be a big one, with BMW getting back in on the action with its own racer, but only in the USA
11 Jun 2021
HKS in development of a supercharger kit for new 2021 Toyota GR 86
HKS Toyota GR 86
Toyota

HKS in development of a supercharger kit for new 2021 Toyota GR 86

Japanese tuner HKS is in development of a supercharger upgrade package for the new GR 86
9 Jun 2021
Can the Renault Clio Trophy beat a modern supersaloon for daily transport?
Jethro opinion header
Opinion

Can the Renault Clio Trophy beat a modern supersaloon for daily transport?

The boot struts have gone saggy and the hatch slams onto my head three times a week, but the Clio Trophy is hard to resist
8 Jun 2021
2021 Alpina XD3 and XD4 update revealed – extra torque from Alpine’s quad-turbo diesel SUV
Alpina XD3 and XD4 2021 – header
Alpina XD3

2021 Alpina XD3 and XD4 update revealed – extra torque from Alpine’s quad-turbo diesel SUV

The updates to the Alpina XD3 and XD4 are largely of the aesthetic kind, but more torque and new chassis calibrations are also part of the package
10 Jun 2021