NEWPORT PAGNELL, UK — Man, cars are getting good these days! Over the course of the last six months, I’ve driven probably a dozen cars that are so thoughtfully engineered, so brilliantly crafted and so entertaining to drive, it’s scarcely believable.

There have been faults with all of these cars, sure, but the sum total of these faults is mere nitpicking or conflict with personal preferences. Without question, the 2013 Aston Martin Vanquish is one of the dozen, a proper grand touring car that sets a new standard for the storied British carmaker.

The Vanquish replaces the DBS in the line-up, a car made famous for its appearance in the first James Bond movies to feature Daniel Craig. In terms of sheer cool factor, then, it goes without saying that the DBS had few rivals.

But of all the cars in the Aston Martin fleet, the DBS was my least favourite car in the range — it always felt like there was too much engine for the car and the result was driving experience that too often veered from exhilarating to terrifying. The Vanquish is a better car than the DBS in every significant measure, from the ground up and from tip to tail — and this is no mean feat.

Let’s start with the engine. Powered by a 6.0-litre V12 engine with 510 horsepower, the DBS was a violently fast car. Just imagine, then, how much more violent the Vanquish might be: Its 6.0-litre V12 engine (a similar design to that of the DBS, but with new construction) produces 565 horsepower. But the truth is, the Vanquish does not feel violent — and that’s the genius.

The car features a supremely high-tech aluminum and carbon fibre-bonded structure, a combination that allows the Vanquish to be a far stiffer car than the DBS without adding significant weight. This, in turn, enables the suspension system on the new car to manage all the imperfections in the road, making it feel far more composed and controllable on even rough roads.

The drive route included one of the worst paved roads I’ve ever driven across. In designing the route, the brain trust at Aston Martin knew exactly what they were doing because this road — which was akin to piloting a jet ski over white water — confirmed how good the Vanquish really is. In fact, the limiting factor along this road was not the capability of the car, but the bravery of the driver.

AstonMartinVanquish_inset.jpgThere are other aspects of the Vanquish that stand out as well.

The steering feels lighter, yet is more direct and the steering wheel communicates very clearly what’s going on where the rubber meets the road. The balance of the car, as per this carmaker’s tradition, is close to perfect, so its ability to carve cornering is borderline magic.

The Vanquish also answers the call with plenty of outright speed from that big V12: The sprint from 0-100 km/h takes an estimated 4.1 seconds, a few tenths quicker than the DBS ever managed. Top speed is a fairly serious 295 km/h.

The power is transmitted to the rear wheels via the latest version of Aston Martin’s 6-speed automatic sequential manual transmission. For the first time ever in an Aston Martin, a launch control system is part of the picture; this system automatically controls high-speed starts and minimizes tire smoke along the way. The Vanquish also features a sport button that sharpens engine and transmission response, as well as a three-mode suspension system setting with normal, sport and track settings.

Apart from the tremendous underpinnings of the Vanquish, there are countless other ways this car differs from the DBS. There is the exterior styling of course; the new car has a more modern, carved look with a tapered waistline, side strakes and LED brake light cluster. The liberal use of carbon fibre has led to a truly striking feature — a single-piece, integrated rear wing.

Inside, the Vanquish adopts other features a revised centre console with haptic feedback buttons to operate all manner of interior features. The feel and sound of the buttons were still being worked on, but the idea behind this approach is solid. The console itself is a single piece of carbon fibre, which looks unbelievably cool.

Inside, the cabin of the Vanquish is significantly larger than that of the DBS. The new car offers more legroom, shoulder room and elbow room; the interior volume has grown by 140%; and the trunk is more than 60% larger than in its predecessor. The interior is swathed in leather, Alcantara and, of course, carbon fibre. The Vanquish, which is priced from $296,000, is available in either 2-seater or 2+2 configuration.

In the final analysis, the 2013 Aston Martin Vanquish is an incredible achievement, particularly for a niche manufacturer. It’s a significant improvement over the DBS in nearly all respects and it’s a fraction away from giving the likes of Ferrari and Porsche real nightmares in the super grand touring category.

Related >> 2013 Aston Martin Gallery

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