Aston Martins: The power, the glory and the price tags

The Vanquish and Rapide are gorgeous cars, but may be only for Lotto winners

Today we come to the subject of proportional value. It’s a bit like our recent feature on buying a nice car instead of a nice house – just as a €2 million home could be considered good value if it has 15 bedrooms, a private beach and a helipad, so it raises the question of whether you really can justify spending close to €400,000 on a single car.

That’s a cash value which would allow most of us to build our multi-car dream garage (and probably the actual physical garage in which to keep them) but it’s also the price tag, individually, for either of these Aston Martins. Well, almost.

The Vanquish (that’s the coupe) would cost you around €390,000 once you’ve paid your VRT and had your new plates printed. The four-door Rapide could probably be brought in for as little (ahem, cough) as €300,000, though that’s without taking optional extras or any personalisation options into consideration. Whatever way you look at it, these are cars you could buy instead of a house and not actually make an appreciable saving.

As with so many houses, both are existing structures which have been significantly refurbished within. Both sit atop Aston Martin’s VH (Vertical-Horizontal) chassis, a mixture of aluminium and carbon-fibre joined together by aerospace-specification adhesive and rivets, which dates back to 2002 and the original Vanquish.

In motoring terms, that’s positively Georgian. By contrast, the suburban semi of the motoring world, the VW Golf, has been through four new chassis since then.

Replacement platform

Of course, VH was designed to be both long-lived and versatile, but these cars will likely be its swansong. Aston is working on a replacement platform, similar in concept but which should save even more weight and be even more versatile.

Speaking of swansongs, this must surely be the opening notes of the closing number for Aston’s venerable V12 engine. It dates back even further than the chassis, right back to the late 1990s DB7; and while the capacity is identical between these two cars, the Vanquish boasts more power: 576bhp to the Rapide’s 560hp.

Soon, Aston will begin using a variant of the Mercedes V8 turbo AMG engine (thanks to Mercedes now having a 5 per cent shareholding in the British sports car maker) and while Aston insiders insist there’s plenty of life left in the V12, it must surely be closer to death now than birth.

It is, though, still somewhat intoxicating – impressive for an almost-two-decade-old engine based on a Ford Mondeo V6.

Slide the crystal key into the starter slot in the dashboard and it coughs into life with an animalistic roar, a sound that would have grizzly bears looking anxiously over their shoulders. Its 575hp figure leaves the Vanquish lagging well behind its V12 rivals, the Ferrari F12 and Lamborghini Aventador, but thanks to its mostly carbon-fibre body, it's not slow. The 0-100km/h sprint comes in at a claimed 3.8 seconds. Yes, the Ferrari and Lambo would be quicker, but it's hard to imagine needing to go appreciably quicker on the public road.

It’s also hard to imagine a more enjoyable driving experience. Well, almost. The steering, feeding a constant flow of info through to your fingertips via the square-sided wheel (lifted from the One-77 supercar) is glorious and even on wet, narrow Irish roads, the Vanquish feels sure-footed and capable.

It’s aided in this by a new gearbox. It’s the eight-speed unit built by ZF, familiar from various BMWs, Jaguars and Land Rovers but there is a significant difference here: in Aston tradition, the gearbox is slung between the rear wheels – as a transaxle – which helps to improve the weight distribution and makes various efficiencies in the transmission. It wasn’t a simple gearbox swap out, as Aston and ZF worked together for over a year to install it. The effort shows: it’s a vast improvement on the old six-speeder.

It’s spookily predictive as to what you want and when you want it and yet feels mechanical and interactive when you take control and use the paddles yourself. Believe it or not, it also improves efficiency, although 298g/km is hardly going to have you elected as your local Green Party candidate.

The Vanquish does have an Achilles’ heel though and it’s the ride quality. In spite of switchable, adaptive dampers, it just rides too firmly to fulfil a role as a proper long-distance GT. That constant jiggle and the engine noise, would prove wearing on a long haul.

That’s where the Rapide steps in and suddenly, unexpectedly, surpasses its more glamorous sibling. With its longer wheelbase, it rides much more gently and its slightly soft spring rates (combined with the same adaptive dampers as the Vanquish) makes it much easier to handle when pressing on or even when just driving around town.

It has the same gloriously precise steering, but you can actually fit real people in the back and actual luggage in the boot. It’s like a Vanquish with the compromises removed, two bonus doors and a lower price tag.

Beautiful cars

To return to the initial question: can cars at this price level be worth it? Well, that's a hard one. Certainly, Aston needs to raise its interior game. While the cabins are attractive, well made and comfortable, they lack the polish and finish of a Bentley Continental or Rolls-Royce Wraith. The improved Garmin-based sat-nav is still too fiddly and has poor graphics. Small things, but they add up.

Still, these are beautiful, noisy, fast cars with terrific handling and a much more palatable image, to these eyes, than a more ostentatious Ferrari or Lamborghini.

The Vanquish is utterly beautiful and blisteringly quick but the slower, more practical, more user-friendly Rapide wins it for me.

Worth it? Only if you have a lottery win, but then isn’t that the point?

Factfile: Aston Martin Vanquish

Pricing: Approx €390,000

Power: 576hp

Torque: 610Nm

0-100kmh: 3.8secs

Top speed: 323kmh

Claimed economy: 12.8 litres per 100km (22mpg)

CO2 emissions: 298g/km

Motor tax: €2,350

Verdict: Gorgeous to look at and to listen to, but hamstrung by a nuggety ride quality

Our rating: 3/5

Factfile: Aston Martin Rapide

Pricing: Approx €300,000

Power: 560hp

Torque: 630Nm

0-100kmh: 4.4secs

Top speed: 327kmh

Claimed economy: 12.9 litres per 100km (21mpg)

CO2 emissions: 300g/km

Motor tax: €2,350

Verdict: Almost as gorgeous as the Vanquish, but much more engaging to drive

Our rating: 4/5

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