The super sports car debuted some brilliant tech for the British marque.
If you're looking for style, elegance, panache, and all the other characteristics that the latest perfume commercial claims to be able to endow you with, you could splash some smelly spray over you, or you could buy an Aston Martin. Few automakers have the provenance and culture of Aston Martin, and the fact that the DB5 still looks gorgeous more than half a century on is a testament to the class of the marque. The British brand has been diversifying with hybrids and SUVs and will eventually switch to full electrification, but when your history is littered with current and future classics, it's always worth looking back.
That's what Aston is doing now, as it reminisces on the 20th anniversary of the V12-powered Vanquish.
The original V12 Vanquish was first revealed 20 years ago at the 2001 Geneva Motor Show, where it debuted publicly as the "most sophisticated and technologically advanced new model yet designed, developed, and built by Aston Martin." Drive-by-wire throttle and F1-style shift paddles were cutting edge technologies at the time and instantly made the Newport Pagnell-built V12 Vanquish the marque's flagship model. At the time, the press called it "one of the most superbly designed front-engine GTs of all time," with "a ravenous appetite for corners." Some went so far as to call it "an automotive masterpiece," and looking back, we can't really argue.
The V12 GT's story began long before 2001 with a concept called Project Vantage, which was developed in the mid-1990s and shown for the first time at the 1998 Detroit Motor Show. Designed by Ian Callum, it was a beauty and featured a new 6.0-liter V12 with 460 horsepower. Thanks to an aluminum tub and composite body panels, it was light too, and something far more advanced than anything the sports car manufacturer had built up to that point. Development on the program continued until the autumn of 2000 when a pre-production version was shown to a select few journalists. A short while later, the finished product was ready for reveal.
As much as the car's technical achievements were part of its success, the gorgeous design is what drew people in. Available as a strict two-seater or a 2+2, the Vanquish "was shaped to reflect the pedigree, heritage, and tradition of Aston Martin." Key features of the design included the distinctive grille and lower intake along with large fog lamps and turn signals. The sculpted hood led back to a similarly curvaceous profile that boasted a low roofline and large rear haunches. A short tail with a subtle rear spoiler gave the car a classic look that still holds up against modern designs.
Of course, we have to spend some time on the engine. With two overhead camshafts, 48 valves, and six liters of displacement across 12 cylinders, the engine's specs read like an engineer's pornographic novel. It developed 460 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 410 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm, allowing it to reach a top speed of 190 mph. Better than the V12 in the DB7 of the time, this engine received a long list of new goodies: inlet manifolds, camshafts, valve gear, crankshaft, and exhaust system - all of which helped increase power by 7%. Interestingly, while Aston is proud of the whole package, its in-house heritage center and new car dealership, Aston Martin Works, offers a manual conversion for those who don't like "flappy paddles."
Enhancements continued into 2004, where the Paris Motor Show saw the unveiling of the V12 Vanquish S. This could do more than 200 mph and developed 520 hp, while subtle suspension and steering changes further enhanced handling ability. Small changes to the body, like a rounded and more open front grille, improved cooling, while the front splitter and rear trunk lid were redesigned for better aerodynamic efficiency. All told, the changes resulted in a drag coefficient of 0.32, 20% quicker steering response, and a rise in torque to 425 lb-ft. To handle the added output, the brakes were upgraded with six-piston calipers in front while the rear discs swelled by 2 millimeters.
Finally, the V12 Vanquish S Ultimate signaled the end of new car production at Newport Pagnell in February 2007. To send the facility off in style, just 40 of the Ultimate were made by special request, with these boasting special Ultimate Black paint and semi-aniline upholstery with coarse stitching. A leather headliner and black chrome interior finishings were complemented by personalized sill plaques. At the same time, an undisclosed number of runout V12 Vanquish models were also made for the Middle Eastern market.
The V12 Vanquish may not be the Aston Martin you dream of owning now, but without it, masterpieces like the visually arresting V12 Zagato, the ludicrous Vantage V12 RS, and the breathtaking One-77 may never have seen the light of day. Also, James Bond might never have outrun a Jaguar XK when he needed to most.