The massive Galpin complex in the center of the San Fernando Valley is probably my favorite new car dealership, at least from the standpoint of its physical attributes. The main Ford showroom is great mid-1960s architecture, with high ceilings, retro-cool circular air vents, and even a restaurant just a few steps away.
Across the street, the newer building for the upscale brands they carry is a little more modern and generic, except for one part of it. Get access to “Club Aston” and you’re not just in a showroom for high-end British sports cars, but ensconced in the kind of place that James Bond himself might fancy.
And it’s in that cozy space that well-heeled buyers will be placing their orders for the new Aston Martin Vanquish supercar. Obviously any Aston is a premium car to be lusted after, but the Vanquish is the one that even those who already have other models of the brand will lust after themselves.
The business end of the Vanquish sports the familiar Aston Martin grill design, followed by a long hood that opens to reveal a work of automotive art. Twelve cylinders, 565 horsepower, and a sound that only a finely crafted high-end power plant can produce. But before you even start it, it’s worth just staring at. In a modern world where most cars’ engines are hidden beneath huge sheets of anonymous black plastic, this one looks like sculpture.
The car’s body is also a lot of sculpture. Bonded aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber make for a structure that’s rigid, strong, and very light for its size. Oh, and since it’s an Aston Martin, the shape is absolutely gorgeous from any angle. Even in a color I’d never choose myself, this is one attractive machine.
Climb inside and you’re treated to what the makers of premium English cars do best: an interior that looks, feels, and smells like nothing else. Even though the modern era brings some high-tech styling touches to the party, the richness of the hides is Old World for sure.
We’ve come to expect a push-button start on many new cars these days, especially upscale ones. Aston does it one better. The “key” is a small glass piece about the size of a disposable lighter. You insert it into a slot in the center of the dash, and push it inward. The key lights up, the instruments come to life, and then that wonderful V-12 engine roars.
Since this is an exotic car for modern times, there’s no conventional gear lever. (Nor, incidentally, is there a choice of a classic manual transmission.) Just a row of large buttons near the key slot, with P, R, N, and D on them. For manual gear changes, there are paddle shifters, of course. Tap the D button and the Vanquish’s 6-speed transaxle settles into gear with a mild thump.
Another button that might need to be pressed is one marked S on the steering wheel. This engages sport mode, and ups the ante in the throttle response as well as the muted rasp from the exhaust system. I found myself pushing the S button whenever heading under an overpass just to hear the exhaust echo off the concrete.
But once underway, and skipping the S button, the Vanquish is a docile pussycat of a car. It rolls along effortlessly, almost as quiet as a Bentley or Rolls, though with a much more taut suspension feel. It’s a two-seater, or optionally a 2+2 with vestigial rear seats for very small people. But with anyone taller than about 5’-10” in the front seats, the rears are essentially parcel shelves.
When it’s time to have some fun, the massive power, massive brakes, and solid chassis combine with the firm suspension to prove that this is indeed a super-sports car. I didn’t dare push it to its limits, given its lofty $280,000 price tag and my point-free driving record. But suffice to say, this car is more than up to any spirited driving its owner will request of it.
And the privileged few who will own this car can also probably get lifetime access to Club Aston over at Galpin Motors.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave