As the black clouds gathered on the skies outside of New Orleans, we all stared warily at the darkening mass and waited for the inevitable clap to announce our anointment of rain. Instead, the only clap heard was the plangent wail of Aston Martin’s naturally aspirated V12 Vanquish engine shifting rapidly through gears, howling on corners of the NOLA Motorsports Park and just making a general loudmouth of itself. Each driver had only experienced a handful of laps in the Vanquish, so there was much hand-wringing as we contemplated the horizon suspiciously.

Then came the celestial clap, and the dark Louisiana sky broke dousing the track with a thick deluge of rain. Biblical rain. That dense, redolent wall of downpour that only happens in the south. Within seconds, bricks of water were falling from above and submerging the track and nearby swamp. Considering Aston Martin had not yet let one soul take a non-supervised lap, we all knew the chances of getting out on this newly constructed track were plummeting with each drop.

Which is a shame, because the Vanquish beckons to be driven in ways few cars do. Its beauty is superlative, and is what allows Aston Martin to price its vehicles so damn high. Because at $280,000 base (quickly $300K+), even for supercars you are treading in rarified terrain. Based on Aston’s storied aluminum monocoque chassis, the Vanquish gets all new body panels, all carbon fiber for the first time. And yes, that’s Aston’s familiar 6.0L 12-cylinder pumping as the Vanquish’s heart, but its been extensively upgraded to 565 horsepower, a considerable leap from the 510 of the DBS which it replaces. After a 5-year hiatus from Aston Martin’s stable (originally built from 2001-2007), it’s clear they want the Vanquish to resonate anew.

You have to know what you’re getting into when you purchase an Aston Martin. There is no room for delusion. What you’re getting is a level of luxury and refinement matched only by the handbuilt likes of Bentley, with a pricetag matching its top-level GT Supersport. You are spending Ferrari and Lamborghini money, but falling short of the Italians’ mind-numbing performance specs. While the Aventador is a mid-engined sportscar, Ferrari’s F12 Berlinetta is a near perfect match to the Vanquish as a Super GT, and yet compare the F12’s lofty 730 horses with the Vanquish’s and the firepower is unbalanced.

Hit the Jump to continue reading our testdrive of the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish…

“The Vanquish achieves that rare balance of sinister potency with heart-fluttering comeliness…”

So what separates the new 2014 Vanquish from its strongest competitors is its packaging, and oh what a package Aston has assembled for its latest halo vehicle. The car is simply stunning, building off large rear haunches that lend the Vanquish a burly muscularity that is exquisitely offset with the elegance of its linework. It achieves the rare balance of sinister potency with heart-fluttering comeliness — an effect many go for, but very few achieve to the level of the Vanquish. The striking side strakes give its silhouette a sharp character line, their incisiveness only possible due to its carbon fiber construction. The massive 20-inch 20-spoke alloy wheels continue the razor motif. Inside the car is a womb of full-grain leather, faux suede, aluminum and carbon fiber. The hand-stitched interior takes 70 hours to complete, the appointments utterly refined. New glass touchscreen buttons to control the climate and infotainment system have haptic feedback, vibrating when used. The center stack — influenced by Aston’s limited edition One-77 hypercar — slopes cleanly to the armrest, uncluttered by unnecessary knobs or buttons. The squared-off steering wheel, also lifted from the One-77, is aesthetically interesting but feels ultimately gimmicky; a flat-bottomed steering wheel make sense for easy entry and egress, but the flat sides seem counterintuitive and actually force the wrists into an uncomfortable driving position. But the wheel is only an option, one I would avoid. Of course you can look forward to Aston Martin’s Emotional Control Unit (ECU), otherwise known as the key. The $2,800 heavy crystal fob is inserted into the center dash like a missile launch system and held, firing up the Vanquish’s 6.0L V12 in a heady rush of internal combustion that will send tingles up your spine. It is moments like this that underscore the Aston Martin experience. There are no words; they are the defining qualities of a singular animal that justify its pricetag.

“There are no words for the Aston Martin experience; they are the defining qualities of a singular animal that justify its pricetag…”

Two major aspects of the driving experience can be modulated: the drivetrain and suspension. The Sport setting re-maps the throttle, exhaust note (raising it to an elegiac level) and gearbox, quickening up shifts by 37%. Suspension affects Aston Martin’s Adaptive Damping System, a brilliant piece of engineering that allows the driver to toggle between a honey smooth Comfort setting or a much stiffer, race-oriented Track setting (or the preferred Sport, somewhere in between). The mechanics of these modes is spot on, as the Comfort setting befits what one would expect from a $300K Grand Tourer while the Track setting is tighter than a cocked slingshot.

Unfortunately for us, the Louisiana Weather Gods smote our corporeal desires and made it so we were unable to really test most of these components anywhere close to their limits. The NOLA Motorsports Park’s one straightaway did allow us to confirm the joy of the V12’s shotgun potency, but we remain obscured to the Vanquish’s true cornering and handling abilities. Of course if Aston Martin wants to prove to us their latest flagship has true performance mettle, they can always send one our way for a few weeks time. We promise we won’t complain.

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