RE: Aston Martin Vanquish MY15: Review

RE: Aston Martin Vanquish MY15: Review

Wednesday 6th August 2014

Aston Martin Vanquish MY15: Review

More gears and more mpg for Aston's updated eight-speed equipped Vanquish



The wheel-mounted S-button is glowing red for sport mode and I long ago lost count of exactly which of the eight tightly-spaced ratios I'm in.

Sinister Aston + epic scenery = win
Sinister Aston + epic scenery = win
Barrelling through the Scottish Highlands six litres and 12 cylinders are providing a pretty spectacular musical score, the sound inside tempting the use of words like 'operatic' to describe volume and fury. With all these gears to play with the carbon shift paddles are getting plenty of use; down three clicks for the hairpin, up two for the following straight, stability control triggering flatulent flutters of exhaust noise as the wheels unweight over crests with the throttle still pinned.

Amid all this scenic beauty and the amazing experience of driving an Aston Martin through it navel gazing something as utilitarian as a gearbox might seem a little geeky. But the observant among you will have picked up on something significant in that opening paragraph - having said it didn't see the point Aston Martin has after all upgraded the Vanquish with the ZF eight-speed gearbox known and loved from baby BMWs to Range Rovers, Jaguar F-Types, Porsche Panameras and beyond. For Aston Martin though this was no act of whimsy - it's genuinely A Big Deal.

V12 as before; it's what's bolted behind it...
V12 as before; it's what's bolted behind it...
Back to front
Being the first manufacturer to engineer the ZF 8HP transmission into a transaxle configuration demanded a significant investment of both money and time. This was no simple calibration job. Firstly there's the physical problem of bolting that big box of ratios to a subframe of its own, with a propshaft and torque tube where an engine should be, and a differential requiring direct attachment at the back. Then you have to throw the whole engine management system in the bin, because the new gearbox needs full synchronicity and only the latest systems will do it properly. One hell of a job, all told. But one worth doing.

The official MPG figures have jumped in the right direction by an average of 11 per cent. In plain English, this 1,739kg, 578hp super-coupe will cruise at an astonishing 31mpg. It now achieves an official combined figure of 22.1mpg, and the CO2 emissions have dipped below the magic 300-barrier to 298g/km. Not exactly key figures for PHers but they're an indicator of just how much was left on the table when they mated the new AM11 engine to the previous six-speed auto.

And better efficiency means better performance.

Does anybody like the stupid square wheel?
Does anybody like the stupid square wheel?
Give and take
New Bosch ECUs and exhaust system changes release just 2hp more over last year's model. But the dash to 62mph is now claimed by Aston as a 3.6-second sprint, down from 4.1 seconds in the old model. And with a claimed top speed of 201mph, small children everywhere will be rejoicing. Yes, the Vanquish is officially a 200mph car, as it always should have been. And while purely theoretical to most owners, the detail changes to the car and its efficiency are going to be immediately apparent from the first few miles.

The test route begins on the northern shores of Loch Ness, takes us through Inverness, over the waters of the Beauly Firth (where the North Sea meets the River Beauly) and all the way over to the west-coast of Scotland to Gairloch. It's the kind of route that you might spend all year planning and dreaming about.

Vanquish shape is growing on us
Vanquish shape is growing on us
Through the comfortably urban and suburban settings of Inverness, the big Vanquish is a pussycat. The stiffer damping (15 per cent front, 35 per cent rear) and 20 per cent stiffer rear bushings are not really noticeable at all. And if you leave the paddles alone and the sport button off, the big V12 propels the car from traffic light to traffic light with the minimum of noise and fuss. Throttle response is both sharp and smooth. But you might notice the eight-speeder is a little keen to upshift. Actually, it's very keen. It's how Aston has managed to lop so much fat off the old economy figures.

The fear was that the new ZF eight-speeder would be "a bit fussy and always hunting around for ratios" according to product manager Andy Haslam when we asked him on the launch for the Volante version last year.

Skip to the end
To be honest on your first experience with the new car the only annoying thing is how quickly it scuttles to seventh or eighth gear and a relaxed burble. But when it comes to the welcome sight of a national speed limit sign you'll also be amazed at how quickly you can block-shift back down to second or third to make a dramatic and noisy exit into the wilds.

Not a bad test route, all told
Not a bad test route, all told
As the roads get faster, you might start using the paddles in the regular D mode. Shifts are firm, quick and civilised. Think DSG, but with a 6.0-litre V12 instead. Nothing like a 'regular' automatic.

If that's not enough for you there's the aforementioned Big Red Button. Not only does it open the exhaust valves but it also sharpens up the shifts wonderfully. Tapping the other button on the 7' o'clock to engage sports mode on the active dampers (or hold it down for track mode) and the Vanquish is no longer a pussycat.

Feedback is far less remote, and the car tips over the edge of GT and down the other side into true sports car territory. I've driven the 8HP box in various sizes and versions, but always in torque-laden, forced-induction cars like the BMW M135i or Jaguar XFR. Putting eight ratios in those cars is superfluous, their torque bands so huge and flat you don't need to shift much anyway. But in the rev-happy, naturally aspirated V12 it's an exhilarating experience. Details like the odd key, the artisan trim finish, odd optional 'quartic' steering wheel and infuriatingly dash-mounted transmission buttons all fade to the background.

The only real criticism can be that Aston Martin ever launched the Vanquish without this drivetrain in the first place.


ASTON MARTIN VANQUISH
Engine:
5,935cc, V12
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 578@6,650rpm
Torque (lb ft): 465@5,500rpm
0-62mph: 3.6 sec
Top speed: 201mph (electronically limited)
Weight: 1,739kg
MPG: 22.1mpg (claimed)
CO2: 298g/km
Price: £192,995 (£205,740 as tested)

[Sources: ZF]





   
   
   
   
   
   
Author
Discussion

JonnyVTEC

Original Poster:

1,645 posts

103 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
Is there space in the boot for the gearbox humble pie?

dazwalsh

3,575 posts

69 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
There is only one shape a steering wheel should be and thats round. Im 50/50 about the new vanquish, its stunning but too closely styled to the db9, which is a prettier car and far less fussy.

steveb8189

171 posts

119 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
Lovely car and sounds like a decent improvement over the past model year. Impressive improvements in 0-60!

Can someone help me out with the gearbox though - it's been a while since I understood autos..

This is an 8 speed with a clutch and a torque converter right? I thought auto meant no clutch but torque converter, semi-auto has just clutch (as does DSG). What is this then?

mrclav

704 posts

151 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
Now that is lovely. I'll pass on the steering wheel though.

downr

2,714 posts

56 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
its a shame that these gorgeous cars all use the similar beautiful design. Why cant they be completely different like each generation of Porsche 911, or the Audi family range, or the BMWs? Oh....


(Just getting in there first before some fool writes that) :P
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JamesD1

547 posts

55 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
very striking cars in the flesh. we saw one near beaulieu last week, everyone in our car stopped talking and stared at it as it went by (OH and her siblings).

whats with companies changing wheel shapes? i cant imagine a square wheel being a right pain. that said you'd probably forget it when you have a 6l v12 blaring.



Edited by JamesD1 on Wednesday 6th August 09:34

DaBing

3 posts

138 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
steveb8189 said:
Lovely car and sounds like a decent improvement over the past model year. Impressive improvements in 0-60!

Can someone help me out with the gearbox though - it's been a while since I understood autos..

This is an 8 speed with a clutch and a torque converter right? I thought auto meant no clutch but torque converter, semi-auto has just clutch (as does DSG). What is this then?
Does not have a clutch. Just a torque convertor.

ayrton12

6 posts

47 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
Yep, finally! It really was about time! rolleyes

dkatwa

524 posts

173 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
When will they introduce cylinder shut-down technology???!!!
I am sure it can run fine as a V6 when at a constant speed....or V4 even....more smiles per gallon

Eviltad

1,298 posts

107 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
Great write up, I'm sold on it.

steveb8189

171 posts

119 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
DaBing said:
steveb8189 said:
Lovely car and sounds like a decent improvement over the past model year. Impressive improvements in 0-60!

Can someone help me out with the gearbox though - it's been a while since I understood autos..

This is an 8 speed with a clutch and a torque converter right? I thought auto meant no clutch but torque converter, semi-auto has just clutch (as does DSG). What is this then?
Does not have a clutch. Just a torque convertor.
The link in the article has a picture with a clutch too.. That is what I didn't get

http://www.zf.com/media/media/img_1/corporate/prod...

Gorbyrev

1,002 posts

82 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
DaBing said:
steveb8189 said:
Lovely car and sounds like a decent improvement over the past model year. Impressive improvements in 0-60!

Can someone help me out with the gearbox though - it's been a while since I understood autos..

This is an 8 speed with a clutch and a torque converter right? I thought auto meant no clutch but torque converter, semi-auto has just clutch (as does DSG). What is this then?
Does not have a clutch. Just a torque convertor.
I'm fairly sure it also has a mechanical lock up on the torque convertor (something which has been around for years). Lovely car, great roads and an insightful write up as to the advantages of the ZF 8 speeder with a normally aspirated engine.

JCB123

2,232 posts

124 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
What an absolutely beautiful car. It does everything an Aston should IMHO - but I cannot see £200k's worth of car there?!

If Aston wants to pitch against the £200k club, they need to leave the GT in the DB9, and create a focused car - or leave that to the Italians and stick to what they do best - STYLE & NOISE!

E65Ross

20,063 posts

140 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
JonnyVTEC said:
Is there space in the boot for the gearbox humble pie?
This. The amount of people on here saying there was no point in extra gears was comical as well. The gearbox is a peach and the car sounds all the better for it. More efficient, faster and smoother. What's not to like?

Krikkit

12,049 posts

109 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
steveb8189 said:
DaBing said:
steveb8189 said:
Lovely car and sounds like a decent improvement over the past model year. Impressive improvements in 0-60!

Can someone help me out with the gearbox though - it's been a while since I understood autos..

This is an 8 speed with a clutch and a torque converter right? I thought auto meant no clutch but torque converter, semi-auto has just clutch (as does DSG). What is this then?
Does not have a clutch. Just a torque convertor.
The link in the article has a picture with a clutch too.. That is what I didn't get

http://www.zf.com/media/media/img_1/corporate/prod...
It is a little baffling! It's a torque converter auto, but it uses a triple clutch pack to help the shifting process be a bit quicker rather than the traditional torque converter box design where it's purely actuated.

Armen

246 posts

76 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
A good thing that they introduced the 8 gears-ZF but I think it would have been better if they put a double-clutch to get a sportier feeling.

Anyway, Vanquish/S (2001-2007) FOREVER.

zeppelin101

721 posts

120 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
Gorbyrev said:
I'm fairly sure it also has a mechanical lock up on the torque convertor (something which has been around for years). Lovely car, great roads and an insightful write up as to the advantages of the ZF 8 speeder with a normally aspirated engine.
Yep, locks up and is keener to lock up than the previous 6 spd box that ZF supplied.

The converter only seems to slip between gears at part throttle and off-idle, otherwise it remains largely locked up. I think that's why it gets such good reviews because there is none of the "all noise and minimal go" associated with older very slippy auto boxes.

It's a proper peach. I'm glad AM capitulated, it's a very worthwhile addition to the car.

MrTappets

881 posts

119 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
Marvelous news!

Now, if the car had been like this from launch and had been badged DB10 (to replace DB9), that would have made a lot more sense. Then they could have bunged on a supercharger, bumped it to 650bhp and made a variant called the DB10S.

Schermerhorn

3,437 posts

117 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
Armen said:
A good thing that they introduced the 8 gears-ZF but I think it would have been better if they put a double-clutch to get a sportier feeling.

Anyway, Vanquish/S (2001-2007) FOREVER.
The ZF works just as well as a double clutch. Instant up and down shifts.

Max_Torque

12,140 posts

145 months

Wednesday 6th August 2014
quotequote all
zeppelin101 said:
Gorbyrev said:
I'm fairly sure it also has a mechanical lock up on the torque convertor (something which has been around for years). Lovely car, great roads and an insightful write up as to the advantages of the ZF 8 speeder with a normally aspirated engine.
Yep, locks up and is keener to lock up than the previous 6 spd box that ZF supplied.

The converter only seems to slip between gears at part throttle and off-idle, otherwise it remains largely locked up. I think that's why it gets such good reviews because there is none of the "all noise and minimal go" associated with older very slippy auto boxes.

It's a proper peach. I'm glad AM capitulated, it's a very worthwhile addition to the car.
Indeed. The Beauty with this box is that for most of the time it is pretty much a wet clutch operated direct drive gearbox a-la DSG, it's just that it does have a torque convertor it can use at very low speeds to deliver smooth low speed maneuvering and the classic autobox "creep" that makes then so easy to drive in traffic etc. By upsizing(compared to old 6spd) this lock up clutch, the box can pretty much lockup solid (like a normal gearbox, ie no slip) at very low speeds and at high throttle openings, but also can "slip" it's gears during gearshifts to help get a dual clutch like shift speed (ok, it can't quite match a proper DSG in this respect, but it's pretty close)

As mentioned, it's really the gearbox (and EMS system!) the car should have had at launch..... ;-)