Car of the Year 2002: 2nd Place Aston Martin Vanquish
It is the car that has won back the heart of steely superspy James Bond, but can the newest in the Aston Martin lineup take on the likes of the Ferrari 550 Maranello or the new Lamborghini Murciélago? The Vanquish’s name suggests the British marque’s steadfast determination.
At $228,000, the V-12 GT is the most expensive car ever offered by the exclusive automaker. It is also one of the most powerful and most technically sophisticated, with its bonded aluminum and carbon fiber monocoque chassis and its Formula One–style, paddle-shifting 6-speed manual transmission.
The Vanquish generates an impressive 460 hp and 400 ft lbs of torque, but despite the use of lightweight materials for the body and the chassis, the GT is a surprisingly hefty package at 4,037 pounds. Even so, it is no slouch off the line, launching from zero to 60 in little more than four seconds. Stomping on the accelerator provides a joyous sense of thrust, matched by the deep rumble of a well-tuned exhaust system.
That is, if you can figure out how to start the car. It is a complicated process involving the ignition key, the brake pedal, and the two steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. Shifting is also a bit disconcerting—at least for the first couple of minutes. There is neither a clutch pedal nor a shifter, just the two paddles. Once you get used to them, however, shifting becomes instinctive. Aston Martin claims that the paddles operate even faster than Ferrari’s sequentially shifted manual, and the Vanquish system is notably less jarring.
On the road, you get a sense of heft, not surprising for a car so heavy, but it’s a bit more than you might expect or want. Overall, Vanquish delivers a firm and well-settled ride, with steering that is precise and sensitive. The seats are firm and provide more than enough support, even in the most aggressive maneuvers.
There are a few troubling touches to the interior—too much plastic for a car of this caliber—but these minor indiscretions are forgotten when you point the nose, step on the accelerator, and set out to Vanquish anyone who might unknowingly pull alongside.
Engine: 6.0-liter V-12
Power: 460 hp at 6,800 rpm
Torque: 400 ft lbs at 5,500 rpm
Zero-to-60 time: 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 190 mph
Transmission: 6-speed sequentially shifted manual using wheel-mounted paddle shifters
Wheelbase: 105.9 inches
Curb weight: 4,037 pounds
Base price: $228,000
“The best Aston Martin since Sean Connery was a pup. Muscular, distinctive styling, and a glorious-sounding 12-cylinder that will make even Ferrari drivers look over their shoulders to see what’s gaining on them.” —Patrick C. Paternie