Stirred, not shaken

The writer is an occasional contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

What makes a supercar? Well, for a start, it must have superlative performance. But more importantly, it has to make you feel special.

I take the debonair gentleman of the club, Aston Martin's revised Vanquish, for a drive around the island, outside the confines of a track and within the limits of the law, to see how special it makes me feel.

With a new transaxle casing, Aston Martin can finally insert ZF's ubiquitous eight-speed transmission where the old six-speed has been since 2012.

The same V12 motor comes attached, albeit with software tweaks improving peak output by 3bhp to 568bhp and torque by 10Nm to 630Nm.

Dampers have been uprated front and rear. The numbers on paper are transformative: a drop below the four-second mark in the 0-100kmh sprint (from 4.1 to 3.8 seconds) and an increase in top speed to 324kmh, from 295kmh.

But even without those numbers, Aston Martin has half the battle won by presenting a car as handsome as the Vanquish. Its muscular flanks taper down to a pinched waist, evoking a perfectly cut tuxedo. It invites you to stand a few paces back, not gawking with camera-phone brandished as you would at a Lamborghini, but in a quiet, dignified manner (but no less lustfully).

Climb through the gently upswinging doors, slot in the crystal-accented "Emotional Control Unit" - a key, to the rest of us, and the V12 barks to life in a suitably dramatic fashion.

The ignited digital instrumentation, however, has a resolution from the early 1990s, while the GPS unit barely attempts to disguise its pedestrian Garmin roots.

Nevertheless, you do not buy supercars to play with the gadgets inside. Simple but sumptuous finishing does more to engender an environment of exquisite elegance.

I rumble onto the CTE and, holding second gear, allow the revs to soar. It is a rare and joyous privilege to wring the neck of a big, naturally aspirated engine.

For starters, there is the sound and, oh, what a symphony. Amplified by the resonating acoustic properties of the Chin Swee tunnel, the music is so stirring it would make any red-blooded driver go down the stretch a few times.

Furthermore, so quick and precise are the engine's responses - even to small throttle inputs - that I imagine whole nursery rhymes could have been played off the tunnel walls.

I turn off the expressway in search of more varied topography. Here, the new gearbox responds almost instantaneously to paddle flicks, though decidedly nonviolently even in the more aggressive setting.

With a greater spread of ratios and well-programmed instincts, the transmission makes burbling around town a smooth undertaking, endowed with a low-speed refinement that dual-clutch set-ups struggle to replicate.

As supercars go, this one is easy to get along with. Mid-corner neutrality and confident front-end grip mean adjustments to its line are effortless to meter out.

The big Aston shrinks around you, flowing down the road fluidly like warm honey. Yet, its tightly woven package of progressive responses allow you to be playful, even on public roads.

I have been asked what is the point of a supercar in Singapore. As in, how much of such a car can you enjoy here. As it turns out, quite a lot. I stayed within the speed limit and was exhilarated without having to resort to histrionics.

The Vanquish is an effortless, big-hearted creature. At the end of the drive, you could say my soul was stirred, not shaken.

This article was first published on December 5, 2015.
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