Aston Martin Vanquish 2014 Review
The Vanquish Volante is the latest in a long line of V12 Aston Martin convertibles known more for their supermodel good looks and posing prowess than pin sharp handling.
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It's not some frivolous energy drink that gives you wings, it's a Big B. Bentley - with a racing pedigree but a profile that was long overshadowed by Rolls-Royce - has been back for a while building weapons of licence destruction under the umbrella of Volkswagen.
The Continental GT Speed coupe is the most powerful Bentley and driving it is an experience in more ways than one. It's wider than it seems, but your awareness of that width becomes a constant reminder of the price when faced with the dangers of oncoming traffic and intrusive gutters.
Given the average house price in Brisbane is about $445,000, paying $450,000 for a car is never going to fit an everyday-value equation based in reality - the V8 is a $370,000 ask and the W12 on which the Speed is based demands a $409,000 dent in the bank balance. But we are talking about the most powerful road-going Bentley on the books - and just how much is that worth under your right foot? Puh-lenty.
It’s accompanied by a cabin and features list commensurate with the rarified price - among the bits were 21-inch alloys, power-adjustable front seats and steering column, adaptive air suspension, two individual rear seats, a 15-gig capacity sound system that sounds almost as good as the engine (at idle), climate control, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime highlights, tyre pressure monitoring, parking sensors and a reversing camera, even the potential satnav tracking function and a Breitling clock that you could whack on your wrist and most would be none the wiser.
There's elements of tradition - "organ-stop" pull-controls for the vents that would fit into an early Bentley, knurled controls and embroidery on top-quality leather - with plenty of chrome mixed with carbon-fibre trim inside and out.
The Speed model sits a little lower and has a stronger, more muscular attitude than its mainstream stablemates, oozing menace. But the boot didn't want to open - either by the cabin switch or pushing the big B between the wings on the rump - but maybe I just looked like someone who shouldn't have access to the cargo bay.
Firing it up is when it gets interesting - a six-litre twin-turbo W12 makes an interesting noise at idle through its large oval exhausts, and on part throttle it's also appealing, getting less melodic and more mechanical as the revs rise, which they do very quickly.
It's accompanied by a slingshot sensation that is completely at odds with a 2400kg kerb weight - Bentley says 100km/h in 4.2 seconds and the old 100mph mark at 9 seconds and it feels as though it doesn't even have to try hard to get close.
The girth becomes a little more apparent in corners if you're lulled into a false sense of agility by the chassis - it is a hefty beast but make good use of the mammoth stoppers and better use of the AWD and outputs measuring 460kW and 800Nm out of the corners.
Epic departures normally reserved for fleeing despots are yours, minus (hopefully) the automatic weapons fire. Drive goes fore and aft - up to 85 per cent to the rear and 65 per cent under the snout - and mostly-seamless gearchanges from the eight-speeder (with awkward paddleshifters, leave it to the transmission in Sport mode) complete the nonchalant yet nefarious behaviour.
What is anything but evil is the ride - adaptive air suspension teamed with 21 inch alloy wheels and 30 or 35 profile tyres generally for not a good ride make, but the big Pom does a remarkably good job of ironing out the road surfaces.
Even in the firmest sport mode, regular ride critics of less purposeful machinery were complimentary, once they had the power of speech again as the car came to a halt.
While it is difficult to reconcile having the set of keys to something of that price that needs no utilities connected, land tax paid or a fence around it, the imperious driving joy that comes from getting behind the wheel puts some perspective - warped though it may be - on the GT Speed.
James Bond was a Bentley man in Fleming's books and the breed could still be a good match in the 21st century - suave but brutal.
|GTC Speed||6.0L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO||$187,000 – 214,940||2013 Bentley Continental 2013 GTC Speed Pricing and Specs|
|GTC V8||4.0L, PULP, 8 SP SEQ AUTO||$172,590 – 198,440||2013 Bentley Continental 2013 GTC V8 Pricing and Specs|
|GTC W12||6.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$190,740 – 219,230||2013 Bentley Continental 2013 GTC W12 Pricing and Specs|
|GT V8||4.0L, PULP, 8 SP SEQ AUTO||$156,970 – 180,400||2013 Bentley Continental 2013 GT V8 Pricing and Specs|
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