First Drive: The Aston Martin Callum Vanquish 25 Is a Tour de Force in Power and Presentation
If the original Aston Martin Vanquish was the theatrical release, R-Reforged's Aston Martin Callum Vanquish 25 is the Director's Cut. Designer Ian Callum has revisited his 2001 masterpiece to make it more muscular while increasing the degree of customization and beauty. For $ 580,000 plus the small thing of a Vanquish donor, the return on investment is a far more exclusive alternative to Aston's DBS Superleggera.
We are all familiar with "reinterpreted" classics. From David Brown's modernized Mini to Singer's perfected Porsche 911, such cars pay homage to the past without keeping it in Aspik. R-Reforged's Aston Martin Callum Vanquish 25 is the first fruit from Callum's eponymous consulting firm, which was founded after he stepped down as Jaguar's design director in 2019. As the name suggests, a total of 25 are being built by the UK engineering firm R-Reforged, and each customer meets with Callum himself to discuss color, trim and myriad other options. Fancy Barbie Pink with leopard print leather? He might try to talk you out of it.
"This has always been one of my all-time favorite cars," explains Callum. "That's why I bought one." When you see his stock gray Vanquish alongside its latest release, the more burly and purposeful stance of the “new” car is immediately apparent. Enlarged 20-inch alloy wheels - in the same style as the originals - perfectly fill the Vanquish 25's luscious hips. Then you can see the details: carbon fiber brake ducts instead of fog lights, hungrier ventilation slots, LED headlights, slimmer window frames and the “Thunder Road” fuel filler neck. The coolest feature is only visible when you crouch behind the car, however: the molded exhaust muffler flows seamlessly into the rear diffuser.
Inside, the Vanquish's dated dashboard is updated with custom watch faces, a carbon fiber center console, and an alpine touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There's also a detachable Bremont pocket watch - undoubtedly handy when your iPhone's battery runs out.
Some remnants of Ford remain (Aston Martin was part of the Ford Premier Automotive Group at the time of the original Vanquish's debut), particularly the column stems and window switches. However, the rich Bridge of Weir leather and Callum's signature "abstract tartan" trim cover every surface. And a specially commissioned Mulberry luggage set takes up the space previously reserved for the rear seats.
This state-of-the-art exhaust combines spikier cams, a carbon airbox, and a recalibrated control unit to boost the 6.0-liter V-12 to 580 hp. That's an increase of 60 hp over the Vanquish S. Buyers can keep the standard automated manual transmission (honestly not recommended) or choose from two alternatives: a torque converter automatic from the Corvette or a six-speed shifter. My car - prototype No. 3 - has the latter.
I press the Callum start button and the engine ignites with a rugged bark. I'm leaving R-Reforged's surgically clean workshop for the English city of Stratford-upon-Avon. Even at low speeds, the Vanquish 25 feels special. The view over the long, deep bonnet is immediately impressive, while low-seated seats and a smaller steering wheel make you feel more connected to the car. It sounds epic too, more Ferrari screamer than Aston Martin Bruiser, with a greedy gurgle from the Inconel tailpipes that swells into a piercing howl. I drove everywhere with the windows open.
Big and gloriously decadent, the Vanquish staggers on the road without taking a break. A new DBS might have two turbos and 145 additional horses, but nothing beats a naturally aspirated V-12 for searing response and high RPM intensity. The noticeable and mechanical manual transmission adds another level of interaction. The pedals are perfectly placed for downshifting with the accelerator pedal.
What is most surprising, however, is how fluid and engaging the car feels. Lower suspension, wider track, Bilstein dampers, and stiffer anti-roll bars sharpen the Vanquish into a credible super GT. Body control is brilliant and there is so much grip that the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, chosen after many hours of testing on the racetrack, appear to have spikes. Still, I'm pleased with the mighty carbon-ceramic brakes borrowed from Aston's One-77 hypercar.
The Vanquish 25 builds on what made the original version great without compromising its classic character. Suffice it to say, it clearly lives up to the promise of Ian Callum's styling. And that is a strong promise indeed.
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