Aston Martin CALLUM Vanquish 25: Bang Up To Date
The Aston Martin Vanquish was a landmark motor. It bridged the gap between the ninties-tastic DB7 and stunning DB9 with brutish elegance, unmissable presence, and a V12 that’d knock your socks off. It took Aston from being an older generation’s brand, to one more youthful. It had all the Aston hallmarks, but the attitude of a street fighter. If it challenged you to a duel, it’d follow tradition and instigate it with a glove – but said glove would be made of bricks.
As cool as it was, its original designer, Ian Callum wasn’t 100% happy with how it turned out. Aston Martin was, at that point, owned by Ford. Ford wanted a halo car, but it wanted it on a budget (it had Jaguar XK8 wing mirrors for one, a Ford key another). Turn of the century technology limited things as well – this was before LED headlamps, decently integrated navigation, and when automatic gearboxes were almost always the worst option.
As CALLUM’s first project, a second go at the Vanquish was the way to go. The bones of the car remain the same, but some key details are changed to bring it up to date. Gone are the lamps on the chin, replaced with brake ducts and their function moved to all in one LED units in the main headlights; the rear lights have been swapped out for custom LED units as well; where there was once super bright chrome, darker hues act to draw your eye in rather than blind it; bigger wheels fill the arches neatly… And those are just the headlines. The interior has been completely changed bar the airbag covers, replacing turn of the century tech and design with swathes of leather, carbon, metal, and a CarPlay enabled infotainment screen. Visually, it’s far more in keeping with something from 2020 than 2000. It looks better for it.
Mechanically it’s been fettled as well. Under the hood there’s 80 more horses and an extra 52lb ft to play with when you’re in a hurry. The exhaust is all new to produce a crisper sound. The springs have been tweaked for a better ride, and much more besides. The robotised manual gearbox of the original car was a weak spot, but CALLUM has tweaked it for those who wish to keep it. If you want a more traditional automatic there’s one available as well, though purist types will appreciate the option to have a six-speed manual. The manual ‘box, incidentally, is the same unit as the car’s original robot-assisted set up, but with the robot removed.
On the road, the CALLUM Vanquish feels smooth. It’s not been set up to kill apex after apex, but to get you where you need to be in comfort. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun to hustle by any means – its steering is well weighted and a joy to use – but being spanked to the ragged edge isn’t its purpose. Lumps and bumps are absorbed by the car, rather than your spine. A good thing.
The manual gearbox fitted to CALLUM’s prototype is an Aston Martin part, which means the gates are tightly packed together and need a shovette to send home. It takes a little practice to get to grips with it, but once you have it nailed you’ll end up grinning with every shift. It’s paired to a sensibly weighted clutch as well, so your left leg won’t need any sort of rehab after heavy traffic.
The changes made to the 5.9-litre V12, which could crack 0-62mph in around 4.5 seconds and clip 200mph before it was modified, are glorious. The noise is raw and, frankly, delicious. The theatrics of modern high-performance cars feels a little… fake in comparison. Find a decent bit of road, slot it in to gear, and give it a bootful for some ear candy you won’t forget any time soon. The car feels properly fast – ok, not as turbo torque happy as you’ll find on the new market, but linear, and smooth. Good thing the brakes are solid as well, should you need to scrub off any unwanted speed.
Driving it is easy. You sit low, yet still have a decent view of the road. The interior is a feast for your eyes, and the sound system is pretty decent. Though it can get a little road noise-y on the motorway. Stick to A and B roads and you’ll be fine.
Thing is, for a generation of people, the first Aston Martin that turned their heads wasn’t their Dad’s DB7 or grandad’s DB5, but the Vanquish. And while it was given a power bump during its seven-year lifecycle, it wasn’t updated to match the times it was in. The Aston Martin CALLUM Vanquish 25 (of which only 25 will be built), gives fans of the original the update is always deserved and then some.