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2014 Aston Martin Vanquish: First Drive

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Handed the crystalline key fob to a 565-horsepower, $280,000 car with the steering wheel on the wrong side, then loosed about the narrow, broken roads around Newport Pagnell--to drive on the wrong side as well--I shook off my jet lag, smiled, and acted like it was nothing.

Of course, it was anything but nothing. The fourth generation of Aston Martin's VH (Vertical Horizontal) architecture wrapped in a full body of carbon fiber, powered by a potent 6.0-liter V-12 engine driving the rear wheels through a Touchtronic 2 six-speed automatic transmission, capable of 4.1-second 0-60 mph runs, a top speed of 183 mph, and turning the heads even of jaded Aston hometown residents from roughly 100 meters. No, the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish is most certainly something.

Figuring out what, exactly, that something is would be the purpose of the next two days. Two very fun and surprisingly engaging days. Two slightly confusing days.

At its root, the Vanquish is a shockingly simple idea: big engine, stiff chassis, lightweight materials where possible, and a fresh take on the modern Aston Martin design theme. Roll those together and you ought to have a world-class "super GT." And you do.

2014 Aston Martin Vanquish

2014 Aston Martin Vanquish

Available coated in a rainbow of custom hues, shod with one of three unique wheel designs, and clad in exquisite, hand-sewn leather and cloth inside, there's no question the Vanquish is an exhibition of Aston Martin's full capabilities. In fact, the brand calls it the best car they've ever built--including the One-77.

I tend to agree. It is an exquisitely beautiful car, inside and out.

Behind the wheel, the Vanquish is what it intends to be--a comfortable, capable, and confidence-inspiring grand tourer. It's not a sports car, and it doesn't for a minute feel like one; there's no sense of lightness or tossability. Instead, there's a sense of massive grip, a planted stance, and a desire to simply proceed at triple-digit speeds.

The speed of the Vanquish is deceptive. Hustling along truly pitiful, broken English farm roads, dicing with the weeds or the ditch on one side and house-sized tractors and combines on the other, it's easy to think you're just skimming along at the speed limit--until you look down at the instruments and see you're cresting 100 mph.

A dynamic suspension and Aston Martin's Sport button on the steering wheel are responsible for that gulf between perception and reality. While driving this incredibly expensive car over some of the worst roads possible outside the Isle of Man, it was obvious how well the dampers, chassis, and Aston's programming managed the car's disposition, at the same time keeping from scrambling its occupants brains with the bumps, dips, and cracks in the pavement.

Like the U.K. weather itself, however, it's not all sunshine with the Vanquish.

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