The Truth About Cars » Aston Martin http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:02:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Aston Martin http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/aston-martin/ Aston Martin Plans To Raise Financing For Portfolio Expansion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/aston-martin-plans-raise-financing-portfolio-expansion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/aston-martin-plans-raise-financing-portfolio-expansion/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 11:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961225 Aston Martin is preparing to crowdfund the old-fashioned way — shares and bonds — its portfolio expansion, per sources close to the automaker. Reuters reports the funds will be used to expand the Aston portfolio to include crossovers, hybrids and premium sedans, as well as add three years to the company’s ongoing recovery plan, with […]

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Aston Martin is preparing to crowdfund the old-fashioned way — shares and bonds — its portfolio expansion, per sources close to the automaker.

Reuters reports the funds will be used to expand the Aston portfolio to include crossovers, hybrids and premium sedans, as well as add three years to the company’s ongoing recovery plan, with the planned deadline to come in 2020. The fundraising plan — based on debt- or equity-raising options made to current investors — would bring in £100 million – £150 million ($156 million – $234 million USD).

The news comes as Aston Martin bids farewell to 2014, which began with a recall of 17,590 units over counterfeit accelerator pedals from a Chinese supplier. Last month, the automaker was granted an exemption from United States safety regs for the DB9 and Vantage. It also gained a new CEO this year, when Andy Palmer left Renault-Nissan to take up where Ulrich Bez left off upon retirement in 2013.

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Aston Martin Gains Some Footing In 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/aston-martin-gains-footing-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/aston-martin-gains-footing-2013/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 12:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927970 Aston Martin saw its pretax loss fall by a third in 2013 to £25.4 million ($41 million) over the same period in 2012. Reuters reports the drop was backed by an 12.6 percent increase in revenue in 2013, topping out at £519 million ($839.5 million). Sales also increased that year, with 4,200 units sold worldwide […]

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2014 Aston Martin Vanquish

Aston Martin saw its pretax loss fall by a third in 2013 to £25.4 million ($41 million) over the same period in 2012.

Reuters reports the drop was backed by an 12.6 percent increase in revenue in 2013, topping out at £519 million ($839.5 million). Sales also increased that year, with 4,200 units sold worldwide over 2012’s 3,800.

Though still on shaky ground — especially in light of U.S. safety regs threatening to block further imports, as well as a February 2014 recall of 17,690 over counterfeit plastic parts from a Chinese supplier — the automaker is moving toward its goal of profitability, with new CEO and former Nissan exec Andy Palmer leading the way. According to CFO Hanno Kirner, that goal would be reached as early as 2016, thanks to a £500 million ($808.8 million) investment program.

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Nissan Declined Stake In Aston Martin As Early As 2012 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/nissan-declined-stake-aston-martin-early-2012/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/nissan-declined-stake-aston-martin-early-2012/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 10:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=909066 Prior to becoming Aston Martin’s new CEO, former Nissan senior exec Andy Palmer proposed to the automaker to buy a stake in AM, only for Nissan to decline. Reuters reports Palmer brought up the issue Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn in 2012 and 2013, with one insider claiming the company “looked carefully at the proposal” before […]

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Prior to becoming Aston Martin’s new CEO, former Nissan senior exec Andy Palmer proposed to the automaker to buy a stake in AM, only for Nissan to decline.

Reuters reports Palmer brought up the issue Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn in 2012 and 2013, with one insider claiming the company “looked carefully at the proposal” before rejecting the idea. Said insider declined to explain the proposal or the reasoning behind the rejection, as did a representative for the company.

Meanwhile, Palmer’s new role as AM’s CEO may lead to more cooperation between the premium automaker and Daimler AG, the latter already in possession of a 4 percent stake in the former while also providing engines and electronics to Aston’s offerings. Palmer helped Daimler and Nissan’s Infiniti develop a similar relationship, resulting in a joint-venture on a plant in Mexico, as well as a family of engines to be shared with the Q50 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

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Aston Martin Could Leave US Without Federal Crash Exemption Approval http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/aston-martin-leave-us-without-federal-crash-exemption-approval/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/aston-martin-leave-us-without-federal-crash-exemption-approval/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 04:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=893890 Should you desire an Aston Martin in the near future, you may need to make your purchase sooner than later if the automaker fails to live up to the federal government’s newest expectations. Bloomberg reports Aston Martin stores will likely suffer financial hardships should the DB9 and Vantage are no longer made for sale in […]

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Should you desire an Aston Martin in the near future, you may need to make your purchase sooner than later if the automaker fails to live up to the federal government’s newest expectations.

Bloomberg reports Aston Martin stores will likely suffer financial hardships should the DB9 and Vantage are no longer made for sale in the United States due to both vehicles’ failure to comply with new regulations regarding side-impact crashes. This would result in every dealership closing their doors barring an exemption for both vehicles, as explained by U.S. dealer advisory panel chairman James Walker in his petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

The financial viability of Aston Martin dealers is very much in question. If dealers make the decision to shutter the franchise, a very likely outcome, the impact on employment is significant.

Aston Martin sent exemption requests last year for the DB9 through August of 2016, and the Vantage the following August. Next-gen models of both vehicles have been delayed due to financial issues.

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Aston-Daimler Partnership Deepens With Component Agreement, Increased Holdings http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/aston-daimler-partnership-deepens-component-agreement-increased-holdings/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/aston-daimler-partnership-deepens-component-agreement-increased-holdings/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 10:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=883521 Daimler’s partnership with Aston Martin is growing, as the former will supply electric and electronic components to the latter for a 1 percent increase in holdings. Bloomberg reports Daimler’s total holdings will come to 5 percent as part of the supply deal, which in turn is part of a larger agreement where Mercedes AMG will […]

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Daimler’s partnership with Aston Martin is growing, as the former will supply electric and electronic components to the latter for a 1 percent increase in holdings.

Bloomberg reports Daimler’s total holdings will come to 5 percent as part of the supply deal, which in turn is part of a larger agreement where Mercedes AMG will supply V8s for future Aston models. Aston Martin is also planning on using Mercedes tech to develop an SUV for sale by 2017 at the earliest.

Other shareholders of the largely independent premium automaker include London-based investment firm Investindustrial, and Kuwaiti-based Investment Dar Co. and Adeem Investment Co.

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Aston Martin Teaming Up With Daimler For Premium SUV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/aston-martin-teaming-up-with-daimler-for-premium-suv/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/aston-martin-teaming-up-with-daimler-for-premium-suv/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 19:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=785633 First Bentley, now Aston Martin wants an SUV for their lineup, with plans to team up with Daimler to make that vision reality. Bloomberg reports the plan is related to a 5 percent stake in Aston Martin sold to Daimler last year in return for sharing technology with the English automaker, such as Mercedes AMG […]

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First Bentley, now Aston Martin wants an SUV for their lineup, with plans to team up with Daimler to make that vision reality.

Bloomberg reports the plan is related to a 5 percent stake in Aston Martin sold to Daimler last year in return for sharing technology with the English automaker, such as Mercedes AMG building V8 engines with Aston in the latter’s upcoming models.

Currently, talks are at the early stages, with signs of the new SUV not expected to come for another three years at the earliest. Aston is also debating whether or not to build a crossover using its own technology.

As for Aston overall, the automaker aims to sell 7,000 cars annually by 2016 by catering to demand in North American, South American and Asian markets.

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Review: 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-aston-martin-rapide-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-aston-martin-rapide-s/#comments Mon, 08 Jul 2013 12:18:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494522 The penultimate set of bends along the road course at Atlanta Motorsports Park, located in God’s own country about an hour outside of the big city, is a serpentine testament to all of the things that make motoring exciting. Triple-digit speeds approach quickly. The checkered start line quickly becomes a blurred memory. Warm tires grip […]

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The penultimate set of bends along the road course at Atlanta Motorsports Park, located in God’s own country about an hour outside of the big city, is a serpentine testament to all of the things that make motoring exciting. Triple-digit speeds approach quickly. The checkered start line quickly becomes a blurred memory. Warm tires grip the tarmac as beads of perspiration mount for the upcoming lap.

 

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Barreling down the track’s final straight – the only section of the track devoid of sharp changes in camber and elevation – induces a childlike sense of wonderment, not unlike that of being directed by a sled down a steep, snow-covered hill. In an ordinary beater, there’s nothing more fun than testing the limits of grip and adhesion. When the track day chariot is the latest iteration of Aston Martin’s six-figure supersedan, the 550-horsepower Rapide S, clenched jaws and white knuckles are mandatory accessories to the dopiest of grins.

The opportunity to try out the brand’s revised four-door coupe on a private, purpose-built racetrack invited a unique opportunity to experience the Rapide S in a way that only a handful of owners might. A crowded, suburban mall parking lot might have been a more realistic test of the Rapide S’s workaday capabilities, but exposure on the track was to demonstrate the most significant upgrades to last year’s model. Key among them is an increase of 80 horsepower and 14 lb-ft. of torque, which give an unnecessary but welcome bump to the 6.0-liter V-12’s already massive power. The last time anyone tried to buy six liters of anything this potent, Mayor Bloomberg made it illegal.

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Along the bends of AMP, this power translated to delightfully quick forward motion, delivered via a conventional, six-speed automatic gearbox. The engine and transmission pairing, devoid of the gimmickry of a dual-clutch transmission, was smooth and fast-acting. Well-heeled buyers will likely be swayed by the ease and relative simplicity of operation as well as the symphonic rush of snaps, crackles, and pops from the exhaust pipe – the humble brag-equivalent of a less than subtle machine.

Aston Martin claim that the Rapide S has a near-perfect weight distribution, and it showed, while hurtling a two-ton sedan along the undulating corners of the track. Roll and dive were neatly controlled and maintained, even in tight spots, and the adjustable suspension was useful in soaking up what few abrasions lay in the tarmac. For those who will use their Rapide S on runs to high-end grocery stores, Comfort mode changes the damping to allow the big Aston to glide over the pavement; in Track mode, the adaptive shocks hunker the Rapide S down.

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On the track, the Rapide S handled brilliantly. Remember that straightaway from a couple of paragraphs ago? In most other high-performance sedans, the sheer mass and proportions would dissuade owners from attending a track day designed to toss them around and plow, head-first, toward a retaining wall. The shared roots of the DB9 are evident here, especially in Track Mode. Be advised that turning Track Mode off is a good idea for your daily commute, lest you spill your latte all over your Incotex trousers.

The most noticeable difference is the one that most drivers will see in their rear-view mirrors: a restyled front grille that now comprises a massive, one-piece unit. The new grille is entirely fitting, regardless of the disapproving opinions of armchair journalists and jaded potential purchasers. Without pretense, this generation of Aston Martins, from the V8 Vantage to the Vanquish, exudes the elegance.The Rapide S is no different, and continues to seduce with elegant character lines that sweep from the front bumpers to the rear hip lines.

The interior receives minimal changes. The hand-sewn, hand-stitched, white glove-treated interior of the outgoing model is retained, along with the navigation system which is frustrating to operate The button-laden center stack, and standard Bang and Olufsen sound system also stick around. The entire cabin smells of a well-treated baseball glove, and not coincidentally, fits the driver and three passengers like one. Much has already been made about the rear bucket seats, and entry into them and egress from them. Put simply, they are more than sufficient for short trips, even for full-size adults. But buyers in this luxury segment have other options, if commuting takes precedence over performance, namely the Bentley Flying Spur and the Porsche Panamera Turbo.

And that’s the overall message driven home by the Rapide S: no amount of thrust was sublimated for the sake of driver and passenger comfort. It strikes a unique balance of sportiness and luxury in a segment ramping up, once again, thanks to signs of an improving economy. On and off the track, the sound and the fury of the V-12 will make happy buyers fall in love with the Rapide S on a regular basis. Bolstered by the full complement of luxury, and wrapped in a shapely cocktail dress, the Rapide S exemplifies the rare case of being all things to all people — if those people are a select few.

Disclaimer: Aston Martin provided flights, meals and accommodations to and from the Atlanta track day.

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Capsule Review: Aston Martin DB9 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/capsule-review-aston-martin-db9/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/capsule-review-aston-martin-db9/#comments Wed, 08 May 2013 13:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487651   A quiet and unnoticed getaway is hardly a fait accompli in the auto-centric city of Los Angeles, where street-parked Italian exotics are a given, and even the peons seem to manage to procure a Mercedes-Benz C-class. The task is made especially difficult when your getaway car is an Aston Martin DB9.  But not for […]

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A quiet and unnoticed getaway is hardly a fait accompli in the auto-centric city of Los Angeles, where street-parked Italian exotics are a given, and even the peons seem to manage to procure a Mercedes-Benz C-class.

The task is made especially difficult when your getaway car is an Aston Martin DB9.  But not for any of the obvious reasons.

On Friday morning, the generous folks at Aston Martin tossed me the key — erm, crystallized emotion control unit — to a vermilion example of its refreshed-for-2013 DB9 coupe.  Twelve minutes later, I was already on the road, to see if James Bond’s personal transportation would pass muster against the vapidity of style-conscious Angelenos.  That’s when I hit my first traffic jam.  And then a spot of late-winter drizzle descended from no place in particular, exacerbating the whole mess.  The traffic trudged for miles.  By the time I reached the outskirts of Santa Monica, my thoughts turned to a parking space and a cold drink, lest a valet attempt to wrest the DB9 from my hands.

That evening, following several rides given to friends, and glamour poses taken in front of homes worth half as much as the car in front of them, I decided to rest the DB9 in the aegis of my girlfriend’s apartment.  After an afternoon’s worth of driving, I hadn’t seen as much as fourth gear, or had the opportunity to truly answer the question that seemed to be on everyone’s mind: “So, how fast is it?”

The coupe from Britain with the six-figure price tag sat outside as dusk turned to nightfall.  Much to my girlfriend’s disenchantment, I vowed to check on the DB9 every hour until morning.  At midnight, I could hear stumbling barflies audibly ogling the carbon-ceramic brakes.  An hour later, I swore that I woke up not to the alarm from my phone, but to a pigeon defiling the DB9’s roof from the overhead power lines.  My overprotective instincts were working overtime.

Upon realizing that there were no power lines remotely near the DB9, I grabbed my overnight bag and headed for the door.  I was entirely sure that this was the same feeling of a nervous parent the first night that a newborn sleeps at home.  To my sleeping girlfriend, I texted, “I’ve left you for the DB9.  See you in the morning.”

I tiptoed down the staircase and slipped quietly into the cockpit to reacquaint myself with the driver’s seat.  For the first time, light shone on all of the gauges and switchgear.  The wanton aroma of buttery leather was all-consuming.  With tired eyes, I gazed ahead at the suggestive, 220-mph speedometer.  It’ll never happen on these streets.

At five minutes to three, the DB9 roared to life with typical, unrestrained aggressiveness from the engine bay that could wake the entire neighborhood.  I selected D from the push-button transmission, and slunk as respectfully as possible toward the highway.  A gentleman, standing on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard, turned his head up from his cell phone and smiled when he saw the DB9 approaching.  Two quick turns later, I approached the entrance to the freeway and depressed the aluminum shift paddle to slow the DB9.

It was a warm night on the west side of Los Angeles, and my night-owl routine from my time spent in Manhattan seemed about ready to pay off.  The roads were never this empty.

I couldn’t have been giddier as I stepped hard on the gas pedal to enter the highway.  The intuitive feedback gleaned from the DB9’s chassis, in perfect concert with its hellacious powerplant, made quick work of the on-ramp, and the subsequent transition to Interstate 10, which required the negotiation of four lanes of a banked overpass.  A rented Corolla sped by in the leftmost lane, doing about 25 over the speed limit, perhaps to the white-knuckled dissatisfaction of its driver.  A quick downshift and a blip of throttle caught me up to him.  I relished the routine.  Smile.  Quick turn of the head.  Approving but disbelieving faces from the backseat passengers.  Smile again.

All this, even as the DB9 nears a decade of production, with few major changes prior to the ‘13’s mostly mechanical refresh.

As I neared downtown, I took pleasure in the fact that I was not confined to the cemented cesspool of interlocking byways, on the daily commute.  The Garmin-sourced navigation system was suddenly of no use.  The V-12 seemed to have endless power, with no real effort required to access it.  I ran my hand along the soft, leather stitching that covered the center console, as well as every surface not bedecked in aluminum or suede.  Although the interior design is similarly old, it benefited from the careful restraint that Concours judges might one day commend.

When I finally reached home — following several quick exits, for the pleasure of obtaining screaming on-ramp performances every time — I was wide-awake, and somehow disappointed that the drive felt shorter than usual.  My personal car spent the remainder of the pre-dawn hours outside the garage, as the DB9 commanded deference, respect; payment of tribute would later arrive in the form of multiple trips for fuel, to the adoring eyes of passers-by.

I spent the remainder of my time with the DB9 flogging it every which way, making friends titter as the crimson beast sped breathlessly down on-ramps. (You never really know who your friends are until you offer to show up at their homes and places of business with a $207,000 conversation piece.)  I marveled at the crispness of Dionne Warwick’s alto inflection, as conveyed through 1000 Bang & Olufsen watts. I loaded its shallow trunk with a weekend’s worth of groceries, and prayed that the baba ghannouj would stay upright.  One expeditious adult passenger climbed into the rear seats, but not for long.

After 72 short hours of random acts of automotive kindness performed for friends, family, and total strangers, it became terribly clear that living with an automobile as special as the DB9 was an indulgence unto itself that ought to be shared with as many people as possible.  As your senses beckon you out for a joyride, and you simply cannot resist letting all 12 cylinders howl into the night, forget about trying not to wake the neighbors.

Luxury is about tasteful sharing of the wealth.  And the DB9 is a top-tier expression of luxury, beauty, and desire, without peer.

Who’s ever tried to make a quiet getaway, anyway?

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Capsule Review: Aston Martin V8 Vantage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/capsule-review-aston-martin-v8-vantage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/capsule-review-aston-martin-v8-vantage/#comments Fri, 27 Apr 2012 17:44:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=441848 If you are an automotive journalist who socializes with people who don’t have a bizarre fascination with the automobile and its associated trivia (there’s not many of us, believe me), you will inevitably be asked a few stock questions at parties. Among them; 1) Wow, you have the best job in the world, don’t you? […]

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If you are an automotive journalist who socializes with people who don’t have a bizarre fascination with the automobile and its associated trivia (there’s not many of us, believe me), you will inevitably be asked a few stock questions at parties. Among them;

1) Wow, you have the best job in the world, don’t you? (The answer is, no, not really, but working at TTAC is great)

2) What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven? (The answer is, 30 thousand, 100 million)

This article answers another common question – “What do you think of  (insert car here)?”, and more specifically, what happens when expectations and reality are not the same.

Jack Baruth already covered how to drive any exotic car you want. I didn’t follow all the steps, but the way I was able to get a test drive in an Aston Martin V8 Vantage at age 21 wasn’t that far off.

While in Vancouver for the launch of the Nissan Juke, I decided to extend my stay a couple of days. The program ended on a Friday, but staying until Sunday evening turned out to be slightly cheaper, and one of Nissan’s PR staff was doing the same thing. Journalistic integrity remained intact.

The Juke turned out to be a blast, but after the program was over, I went from my swanky hotel to my friend Andre’s house in trendy but quaint Kitsilano. Andre doesn’t give a lick about cars, but his house was situated a block away from Burrard Street, home of Vancouver’s well-trafficed exotic car dealerships.

Faced with the prospect of some time to kill before Andre returned home from work, I wandered in and out of the various dealerships. The kind gentleman at Aston Martin struck up a conversation with me, and I told him that I was looking at a Vantage with a 6-speed manual. In Vancouver, a young man looking at buying an exotic isn’t such a rare sight (though a white guy looking for such a car may have been). Seeking a good cover story, I told him that I owned a vending machine business in Toronto – how else could I justify being out and about on a Friday afternoon, dressed in shorts, a Polo shirt and Sperrys? A passive income business in an obscure field would help deflect any questions as to the legitimacy of my wealth and how it was obtained at an early age. We made an appointment for Saturday morning, when the roads were clear, and I even made sure not to drink on Friday night – an arduous task when visiting someone I got wasted with in high school, who now had a bunch of hard-drinking Kiwis as roommates.

I awoke that morning with an urgency that was akin to Christmas morning – or what I imagined that to be, since I will never know what it’s like to be saved by the Lord Jesus, and instead celebrate the remarkable longevity of olive oil. The salesman offered me a firm handshake and a surprisingly good cup of coffee as we chatted about cars. The Aston arrived, freshly detailed with a few thousand clicks on the odometer. Oh, and it was a paddle shift car. My disappointment faded as the car fired up with a melodious growl, and the salesman took me on a scenic tour of Vancouver, while I spun brilliant bullshit about my Alger-esque rise to fortune in the vending machine business.

The crisp mountain air and the V8 soundtrack only set me up for further disappointment. My turn to drive the Aston came and within a few kilometers, I was faced with the realization that this car was a giant letdown. The endless praises of Jeremy Clarkson and a million other magazines were just dead wrong. The car was gorgeous to look at, but an utter bore to drive. The engine was responsive, but not mind-blowingly quick. The brakes just felt wrong, the steering was heavy and numb, the paddle shift box was neither smooth nor responsive. Jeremy Clarkson once praised the Aston Vanquish for feeling like it was made in a factory by men with B.O. Well, so did the Vantage, and in this case, that’s hardly praise.

Scrape past the bullshit brand narratives spun by PR and journos alike, and the Aston seemed like an utter farce compared to the Porsche 911. A Jaguar XKR was tens of thousands cheaper, provided a similar driving experience and most good-looking women bystanders couldn’t tell the difference.

When the new Camaro came out, I was invited to an early media drive, and I pronounced the car as a giant piece of crap. My review may have been tactless and bombastic, but I was one of the few who didn’t heap praise on the car, and I ended up being vindicated when all the buff books suddenly reversed course and said that it was just ok rather than a “neo-Corvette” with an “inventive interior” (give me a fucking break). I felt similarly duped with respect to the Aston. I expected the British rags, which heaped praise even on the Jaguar X-Type, to love it out of a sense of jingoistic obligation. But even American mags said that “it drives as well as it looks“. Not a chance.

This might be why when I tell party guests that the Aston is, to use a British-ism, dreadful, they look at me as if I was a convicted child molester knocking on their door, telling them about the heinous crimes I committed. It really is a turd wrapped in fancy wrapping, but of course, nobody in this business will admit it for fear of being cut off from the press fleet, and a chance to take a V12 Vantage to one’s high school reunion.

Fortunately, there’s a solution if you want something that is truly fun to drive and unique looking that won’t break the bank. A Nissan Juke. You can have 10 of them for the price of one Aston Martin.

N.B. the real secret to getting a test drive in a car while looking like a bum is an expensive watch. Anyone can buy a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt at Marshall’s. Dealers will look at your wrist to size you up. And the GT-R is boring as hell, even on a track. There, I said it.

 

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Review: Aston Martin Rapide http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-aston-martin-rapide/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-aston-martin-rapide/#comments Mon, 15 Mar 2010 13:54:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=348957 I know someone who’s been in the fashion biz most of her life. Her affinity with handsome male models is not surprising, yet her insistence–a “shush” sound accompanied by a finger on their lips–that the Eye Candy refrain from voicing their opinions definitely got me thinking. Perhaps beauty and critical thinking are two circles that […]

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I know someone who’s been in the fashion biz most of her life. Her affinity with handsome male models is not surprising, yet her insistence–a “shush” sound accompanied by a finger on their lips–that the Eye Candy refrain from voicing their opinions definitely got me thinking. Perhaps beauty and critical thinking are two circles that rarely intersect in the Venn Diagram of life?

True dat, since I can’t remember a day when Aston Martin’s historically gorgeous automobiles weren’t trampled by the performance of neighboring Jaguars or the German and Italian marques. And with the Rapide sedan, we have another stunning Aston Martin to admire. Shush!!!

The Rapide is certainly a looker. The roofline moves at illegal speeds, thanks to greenhouse’s acres of tumblehome and the muscular haunches of the rear fenders’ leading edge. Sure, the Rapide is a hunkering, swaggering affair. But unlike the earth-hugging wedge of William Town’s 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda, the Rapide isn’t a serious re-think of the traditional luxury sedan: it’s a Dachshund-ized DB9 with a significantly wider rear track. No surprise then, that the Rapide so closely resembles the coupe there’s almost no difference from the front or rear. For all the grief this website gives Detroit for its bankruptcy-worthy platform sharing, Aston Martin’s badge engineering for the D&G crowd is a slippery slope (see: Aston’s planned Cygnet).

And it’s the same inside: think Mazda RX8 with a Vantage extreme makeover. Aside from the smaller front portal, occupants receive the same decadent ambiance of the Aston coupes. Maybe that’s a good thing, as a recent redesign of the center stack has easier to use controls, a better navigation interface and a chronometer that isn’t lifted from a Ford Fusion. And the fifteen speaker Bang and Olufsen stereo has interstellar imaging, after the diva-like tweeters get over themselves and fully extend out of the dashboard. While the Panamera doesn’t share much of anything with the 911, the badge engineered Rapide is still an entertaining piece of kit: the rear seats do a folding trick to extend the hatchback’s somewhat useless space into something IKEA-worthy. Like, awesome.

Our tester came with black leather, red stitching, metal trim with polished accents: a decidedly sporty, top dollar affair that smells even better than it looks. All four seats are contoured for beautifully slender people who appreciate thin padding, albeit with the heating and cooling features deemed mandatory at this price point. The Alcantara headliner is stitched stem to stern, with no provision for a glass-paneled roof. But the miniscule vanity mirrors turn your face into a Fun House distortion: perhaps the Rapide hates being a real luxury sedan so much it wants you to hate yourself?

Self-loathing aside, the Rapide is a decent sports car from the driver’s seat. The high-strung 6.0L mill makes all the right Italian V12 noises from the rear and inside the cabin, though bystanders posted yards ahead hear the same sucking sound of a Duratec-equipped Ford. Get on the cams fast, because peak power comes far later than any top-drawer Merc or BMW sedan. Like that German competition, the Rapide’s six speed is a true automatic, but with quick up shifts and paddle controllers that work well enough to make you swear there’s a F1-style gearbox underneath. If the competition didn’t fall in love with turbocharging, the Rapide would be one sweet rocket ship.

But corners are here for a reason, and the Rapide excels in its purity of powertrain and that coupe-like chassis. The low seating position, tight steering, adjustable dampers and 20-inch rolling stock deliver a command performance of flat cornering with immense grip. I never felt the extra wheelbase or pounds of bulk, and the hindquarters rotated the chassis with zero drama and no complaints: coupe performance Über Alles.

But I was a second-class citizen when the same dynamic tests occurred in the rear seat. The intelligent dampers’ smoother-than-DB9 ride is much appreciated, because it’s loud and claustrophobic back there: the full-length console and assertive exhaust note lose their elegant demeanor after a few minutes of actual usage. The rear buckets encourage G-forces from the driver, though the terrible visibility makes rearward occupants wonder what the hell is going on. And escaping via the trap door portal (utilizing Kia-worthy gas assist struts) without scratching any leather or paint is a difficult task.

Perhaps it was operator error: the dull venue and my uninspiring clothing weren’t worthy of a typical Aston Martin owner. Expectations of haute couture aside, everyone understands how the Rapide perfectly blurs the line between coupe and sedan, but a select few feel that blend of bragging rights and disappointing compromise. That’s provided they meet the business end of a Panamera or an AMG V12, ‘natch. So the Rapide is what an Aston has always been: beautifully constructed, elegantly sculpted and behind the competition.

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2009 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/08/2009-aston-martin-vantage-roadster-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/08/2009-aston-martin-vantage-roadster-review/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2008 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=62942 Abso-bloody-lutely perfect.Sean Connery's Bond, James Bond, would punch you in the face while kissing your girlfriend. His Aston Martin DB5 was beyond cool. By the 1990s, Bond drove a range of product placement-mobiles, and Astons looked like Jaguars (and vice versa). While devastatingly quick, Astons handled like trains. And then the Vanquish, DB9 and V8 Vantage restored a sense of dignity. But-- the Vantage's 4.3-liter V8 stumped-up "only" 380 hp. When critics questioned, Aston did the English version of flipping them off: nodded their collective head and shrugged their shoulders. But now, finally, Aston unleashes the 2009 Vantage with a 4.7-liter V8. Power jumps from 380 to 420. Torque is up, and the dashboard is new. I recently exercised the convertible version, the Vantage Roadster, for a few hours on a sun-drenched day to see if Bond's whip is suitably... nasty.

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Abso-bloody-lutely perfect.Sean Connery's Bond, James Bond, would punch you in the face while kissing your girlfriend. His Aston Martin DB5 was beyond cool. By the 1990s, Bond drove a range of product placement-mobiles, and Astons looked like Jaguars (and vice versa). While devastatingly quick, Astons handled like trains. And then the Vanquish, DB9 and V8 Vantage restored a sense of dignity. But– the Vantage's 4.3-liter V8 stumped-up "only" 380 hp. When critics questioned, Aston did the English version of flipping them off: nodded their collective head and shrugged their shoulders. But now, finally, Aston unleashes the 2009 Vantage with a 4.7-liter V8. Power jumps from 380 to 420. Torque is up, and the dashboard is new. I recently exercised the convertible version, the Vantage Roadster, for a few hours on a sun-drenched day to see if Bond's whip is suitably… nasty.

It doesn\'t get any better than thisThe Vantage coupe is the best looking car on sale in North America. Aston’s engineers admitted to a British newspaper that they designed the Vantage by morphing Adriana Lima and a clone of Leonardo Da Vinci: a blend of emotionally irresistible and mathematically precise curves and planes. Like the Brazilian model, the AM Vantage is much smaller in person than you’d expect– about the size of a Porsche 911. Only while the 911 is the same as it ever was, the Vantage is burning down the house.

I’m inclined to knock convertible sports cars as “less serious” than their tin-top progenitors. But the Vantage Roadster is tight, right and outta sight. It doesn't suffer from the popular "fat ass convertible" syndrome. My only gripe: with the top up, the Vantage's side window shape is imperfect– and that's unacceptable when the rest of the car actually is perfect. So, we won't be seeing an Aston Martin Vantage Roadster resting on its laurels in MOMA. But then again… with the top down, it’s a twelve out of ten. 

Not a bad seat in the houseSitting in the Vantage is an occasion worthy of Farago's 50th. Fellow writers warned me that the Aston's cabin was far too brittle and cheap for a $100k+ Texan-Saudi-British automobile. They were right– in the past. For 2009, the Vantage gets an interior refresh that brings it in line with the excruciatingly exquisite DB9. All the Vantage's ancillary parts– switches, knobs, panels– have been kicked-up to first class. 

The Lima's-thigh-soft leather smells like money. The parking brake is a long hand lever on the floor, to the left of the driver. The wood is real wood without 3 inches of polyurethane shellacked on. Sexual metaphors aside, it's a MacBook Air in an old school wrapper.

Open wide...This is the part where past reviews of the Aston Vantage get into letdown mode. The drive can’t match the looks, it's underpowered and not the finest track handler. This time out, it's not entirely true. And. Misses. The. Point. Yes, the 2009 Vantage is significantly quicker than the 2008 model, but it's not as quick as its competitors. And I have no doubt whatsoever that an Evo would trounce it on a track. But it’s of absolutely no consequence.

Above 4000 rpm, the Vantage's exhaust flap opens. Top down, what was a wonderful chamber orchestra concert is now an all-out assault on your senses. The sound of the Vantage's engine at WOT is in a league entirely of its own. This is different than a GM V8 burble, or the power ballad of a Mercedes AMG, or a motorsport-emulating Ferrari V8. In the Aston, the engine and exhaust sounds are in an amazing contradiction. The engine is refined, and screaming. It’s pure as the driven snow, but dangerous and thrilling. It’s motherfucking opera.

Magic music makerAs it happens, this sound is the reason you don’t buy the manual transmission. Because one day you’ll mash the pedal and the sound of the engine will curl your toes. Now how are you going to shift, with your left foot contorted and numb? At least you thought ahead and bought the Roadster, so you can have that cigarette you will so desperately need.     

The handling is absolutely bloody mahvelous. Oh sure, it can’t match the deus ex machina handling of a four wheel-drive Porsche Turbo. But that’s computers trumping physics. The Vantage Roadster is a proper sports car, with limits to find and exploit. The steering feedback is more direct than a Brit from oop north. The suspension certainly is hard, but you never have that brutal, jarring moment of falling into a pothole.    

Perfect from any angleThe Vantage Roadster is Aston's long-awaited return to form. It's a car that identifies its owner as a suave sybarite, from a long line of eyebrow archers. At the same time, it's got a genuinely dangerous edge. Although the Vantage's horsepower is still laughable compared to its direct rivals, it's no longer a deal-breaker. Lest we forget, Ian Fleming's Bond was, in fact, a Bentley man; a company that used to describe its horsepower as "adequate." Indeed. 

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Aston Martin V8 Vantage Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2006/08/aston-martin-vantage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2006/08/aston-martin-vantage/#comments Mon, 07 Aug 2006 21:07:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1973 2006-aston-martin-v8-fa-speed-1024x768.jpg We’ve all been there: deeply smitten by a witty, intelligent, urbane, drop dead gorgeous potential partner. Whether it’s an actual acquaintance or a distant celebrity, their innate hotness sets our souls ablaze. And then, eventually, familiarity breeds contempt. The wit becomes tiresome, the intelligence debatable, the urbanity mundane and the beauty-- well that stays. Despite the obvious physical attractions, the time eventually comes when you realize that true love tends to forget. And yes, I’m talking about the Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

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2006-aston-martin-v8-fa-speed-1024x768.jpg We’ve all been there: deeply smitten by a witty, intelligent, urbane, drop dead gorgeous potential partner. Whether it’s an actual acquaintance or a distant celebrity, their innate hotness sets our souls ablaze. And then, eventually, familiarity breeds contempt. The wit becomes tiresome, the intelligence debatable, the urbanity mundane and the beauty– well that stays. Despite the obvious physical attractions, the time eventually comes when you realize that true love tends to forget. And yes, I’m talking about the Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

Blessed are the souls at Ford's Premier Automotive Group, for they gave Aston's sublime DB9 a more youthful, athletic and attainable sister. The Vantages’ timeless long hood/short deck maintains the family resemblance, but the its tighter proportions work better with Aston’s characteristic sexy C-pillar and toned shoulder lines. Thumbing their nose at Bangles and Blingers, Aston tucked all ancillary objects out of sight, or integrated into the big picture in a manner befitting Gaussian Elimination. If the slick door handles don't impress, the utter lack of body cutlines takes minimalist art on a four-wheeled joyride.  The pictures don't lie.

aston-martin-v8-vantage-03b.jpg Eighteen inch wheels tucked neatly into the package add to the sleek but muscular stance. Work the trick door release and a symphony of hinges open and raise the portal. Sure, the Vantage’s interior is basically the same as the DB9’s, but that's like saying Ashley Judd and Naomi Watts could be sisters. Tender, aromatic leather wraps around everything in sight. The car’s switches, buttons and levers move with such silky precision I bet they were marinated in Mobil 1 before assembly. The aluminum HVAC knobs click with all the reassuring resistance of rheostats in a ‘60’s vintage stereo console.

Not to belabor the point, but the Aston’s cabin’s sensual tactility is inescapable. Like the perfect love, the seats hold you tight without feeling clingy. The machined aluminum gauge faces make your TAG Heuer look like a $9.99 blue light special.  Taken as a whole, it’s Kubla Khan’s pleasure dome on wheels. And then… Attention K-Mart shoppers! If you like the Aston Martin’s clock, why not stop by the Ford aisle and pickup a Fusion?  And so it begins…

2006-aston-martin-v8-engine-1024x768.jpg The AM’s stubby suede sunvisors lack illuminated vanity mirrors– a necessity for any ride appealing to buyers who’d never even think of calling Neiman Marcus Needless Markup. Where are the ventilated seats?  Why is the beat box so unworthy of audiophiles’ attention? Where’s the auto dimming rearview mirror? (For over two decades, Dearborn's vehicles have sported this necessary gadget for a moderate premium.) Granted Aston's minimalist presence implies a rejection of BMW-league gadgetry, but a $110k grand-touring car that’s missing the luxo-basics proves that less is (indeed) less.

Depress the Vantage's solid glass starter button (an affectation worthy of its heritage) and your potential soul mate comes to life. The Aston’s exotic engine tenor speaks volumes, but step on the throttle and the love in your heart wanes. It’s a wonderful day when 380 peak horsepower is merely adequate for a luxury two-seater, but the Vantage's powerband fails to satisfy like a fully engaged Porsche 911, or dumbfound like a boosted Benz at full chat.  Aston's paltry 302lb-ft of torque at 5000rpm is shameful for a modern eight-cylinder. Acceleration is brisk above 3500 revs, but the Aston nameplate should guarantee seamless shove from the git-go.

2006-aston-martin-v8-ra-speed-1024x768.jpg Allegro up the dance beat and the V8 Vantage's bold exhaust note sets souls afire faster than the perfect Lambada partner. The rearward burble sings a thrilling tenor, even without a harmonizing induction growl up front. The precise short throw six-speed transmission has nicely matched ratios and excellent clutch pickup: a sad necessity to keep pace with its competition. 

Throw the Vantage a few curves and it feels, well, okay. The accurate steering sits somewhere between butch Corvette and effortless 911. The dampers say touring above all: flat cornering and impressive feel at 6/10ths, soft and vague at the limit. The Vantage’s aluminum intensive chassis allows the car to swing faster than its stunning proportions imply, allowing for generous speed through a corner (provided you keep the revs up the powerband). But find yourself in the wrong gear mid-corner and the party’s over. Why must such an exclusive, expensive party stop at all?

Aston’s latest beauty clearly states its intention to pistonheads looking for the ideal long-term partner. Its beauty knows no bounds. Its engineering looks great on paper. But drive the beast like a proper sports car, and you immediately discover that the Vantage is the best of all possible rides from the previous millennia. For those willing to sacrifice peak performance in the never-ending quest for beauty, cabin quality and infinite attention to detail, the Vantage makes a fine traveling companion. For the rest, it’s best to worship from afar.  

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Aston Martin DB9 Volante Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2006/06/aston-martin-db9/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2006/06/aston-martin-db9/#comments Wed, 14 Jun 2006 14:12:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1581 front_10.jpgWalking up to the Aston Martin DB9, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to drive it or sleep with it.   If running your hand over the DB’s sculptured haunches and taut lines doesn’t give you a warm feeling in your nether regions, you should surrender your pistonhead privileges at the door.  Very few inanimate objects attain this level of beauty; those that do either rock your world or break your heart, or, as in this case, both.    

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front_10.jpgWalking up to the Aston Martin DB9, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to drive it or sleep with it.   If running your hand over the DB’s sculptured haunches and taut lines doesn’t give you a warm feeling in your nether regions, you should surrender your pistonhead privileges at the door.  Very few inanimate objects attain this level of beauty; those that do either rock your world or break your heart, or, as in this case, both.    

Eventually, I stopped stalking the DB9 and went to open the door. This requires a patient, concerted effort; the doors are operated via a cantilevered handle imbedded in the sheet metal.  You push in to make the door handle to pop out.  The portals are perfectly balanced. Their swan-like upward arcing motion stops anywhere you choose in its cycle.  Aston hasn’t offered this level of engineering precision or attention to detail since, um, ever. 

50.jpgEnter the cabin and the aroma of fine leather and natural wood overwhelms your brain’s olfactory center.  Again, running your hand over everything is a subconscious response.  Although there’s lots of room forward and back, the seats only offer a narrow slot between the high bolsters for your bottom, so anything from short and skinny to tall and skinny works just fine.  The leather is hand-fitted and feels very plush, thick and warming.  In fact, the longer your sits in them at anything above room temperature, the more you wish for perforations and active ventilation.  

The DB9’s interior is perfectly plush, but the lighter-colored suede headliner is the only bright note in an otherwise dark carcoon.  Rear visibility comes straight from the “What is behind me is not important” school of gumball racing, and makes the electronic parking assistance beeper a mandatory annoyance.  The DB9’s gigantic blind spots also necessitate Volvo’s latest high-tech electronic lane change assistance and warning system, which is unfortunately unavailable. 

To start the DB9, you fit the plastic key into the ignition and turn.  Nothing.  Oh right.  Put your foot on the brake, push the dash-mounted crystal “power” button and the twelve-pot powerplant rumbles to life.  It’s all very dramatic, but couldn’t Aston just borrow a keyless entry system from Toyota.  A little message appears on the dashboard display: “Power, Beauty, Soul!”  If the DB9 conformed to the UK’s truth in advertising laws, it would’ve read: “Ponderous, Expensive, Fragile!” I should have revved the motor a few times, switched off the car, got out and stared at it some more.  

20.jpgAlas, I drove it.  For a two-seater holstering a V12 this menacing sounding, forward thrust is distinctly lacking.  (Two tons of dead weight can do that to a car.)  On the positive side, the DB9’s automatic transmission is both flexible and responsive.  Downshifting via the large aluminum paddles is a pleasure; leaving things to the computer is almost as satisfying.  Hang on.  Why does that Subaru keep leaving me at the lights?  I need to flog the old girl a bit harder– which seems a bit churlish.  I should be able to simply outwaft the bastard.  

At the first corner, I instantly regret my excess speed. The brakes are hard in their initial application, not unlike a Porsche 911 but the DB9’s wooden feel remains, sapping confidence.  Turn-in is as flaccid as a dead flounder.  Steering is vague, heavy and unpleasant; it’s as if there’s a gyroscope biasing the DB9 toward a straight line.  Not to put too fine a point on it, cornering is something of a chore.  Equilibrium is only restored when the road unwinds again.  Driving the gentlemanly Aston requires a strange sort of rhythm: straights good, stopping bad; smooth roads good, corners bad; exhaust note good, stop light bad.   

1002.jpgIn light of the DB9’s unremarkable handling, the harsh ride quality is completely unacceptable. As is the incredibly expensive Linn 950 watt stereo: an incessant buzzing sound emanating from one of the rear speakers destroys all hope of suitable bass response.  And I scoffed that a trickle charger was part of the standard kit until a few days rest drained the battery.  An inattentive Aston owner must then learn to remove the rear seats to access the battery thoughtlessly sealed inside the trunk by the electric lock.  

The DB9’s driving dynamics are a disaster.  Luckily, the Aston has carisma.  No doubt: emerging from an Aston Martin DB9 tells the world that its driver is a serious player (not playa).  All you have to do to maintain the fiction is not tell anyone there are plenty of lesser (i.e. dramatically cheaper) cars that go faster, handle better and are more fun to drive.  I drive an Aston Martin, so do yourself a favor and buzz off Mate.  Charmed?  Not quite.

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Aston Martin Vanquish Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2002/05/aston-martin-vanquish/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2002/05/aston-martin-vanquish/#comments Fri, 17 May 2002 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=412  I know an American editor with access to the world's best automobiles. When Aston Martin loaned him a DB7 for a California rally, he said the British car made him long for his Porsche. Aston should have given him a Vanquish.

The Vanquish's appearance is the most obvious advantage. The car has enough visual drama to make a DB7 look mundane, or a Carrera look like a suppository. The enormous rear wheel haunches are the aesthetic departure point. Ian Callum has done a remarkable job blending this bulky cliché into the DB7's svelte shape. Combined with a perfectly proportioned reiteration of the classic Aston nose, the result is the first Aston since Bond's DB5 to combine aggression with elegance. The design's only weakness-- the elliptical boot line-- will be remedied by the forthcoming Zagato version.

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 I know an American editor with access to the world's best automobiles. When Aston Martin loaned him a DB7 for a California rally, he said the British car made him long for his Porsche. Aston should have given him a Vanquish.

The Vanquish's appearance is the most obvious advantage. The car has enough visual drama to make a DB7 look mundane, or a Carrera look like a suppository. The enormous rear wheel haunches are the aesthetic departure point. Ian Callum has done a remarkable job blending this bulky cliché into the DB7's svelte shape. Combined with a perfectly proportioned reiteration of the classic Aston nose, the result is the first Aston since Bond's DB5 to combine aggression with elegance. The design's only weakness– the elliptical boot line– will be remedied by the forthcoming Zagato version.

 Meanwhile, there's good news inside: Aston has shrugged off the curse of the tree nymphs. The terminally fuddy-duddy polished wood is gone. Instead, there's brushed aluminium, and enough sweet-smelling leather to clothe a German city. The sense of occasion is almost spoiled by the bog-standard Jaguar air con/radio/sat nav unit dominating the centre console. Almost, but not quite. The leather and aluminium steering wheel, black on white dials and red starter button are sufficient to distract drivers from Aston's raid on the Ford parts bin. And let's not forget those bat-eared paddle shifts.

Or maybe we should. A £160k car requiring a pre-delivery driving lesson is inherently suspicious. You might forget something and break it-which is bad when it's not your car, and infinitely annoying if it is. My instructor's seamless progress seemed to confirm his claim that 'driver error' caused the press cars' much-reported fried clutch 'situation'. I say, 'seemed' because Astonman warned me to ignore the auto function, keep the box in sport mode, always pop her into neutral when stationary, shift up at exactly 4000rpms, and practice! Surely the repercussions of ignoring this advice revealed an engineering weakness rather than journalistic hubris…

 Unlike its forbearers, the Vanquish's 'eccentricity' is a reward, not a punishment. Retracing Astonman's route from the driver's seat, I discovered that pulling the right-hand paddle in the correct mode at the correct rpms was like smacking a golf ball with the sweet spot. Get it right, and the thing just takes off. The Vanquish serves up 400 of her 460 horses at 5000rpms, so there's no reason not to shift early and often.

Flying down country lanes, I gradually got the measure of the beast. Nike should sponsor downshifts. Just do it. As you set yourself up for a corner or overtaking manoeuvre, the engine management system blips the throttle and adjusts the revs. Excellent. But I don't believe Aston's system is more efficient for scruff-of-the-neck, high-revving fun. The slurred delay between gears is palpable. Even if the numbers say it is more efficient, I still consider a tiny pause between accelerative bursts one of driving's greatest joys. If you don't want each gear to be a separate event, buy an automatic.

 The Vanquish's handling and suspension are so well mannered the paddle shift's shortcomings are soon forgotten. The Vanquish is a heavy old thing, weighing some 100kgs more than Ferrari's massive 575M. Thanks to Aston's chassis gurus, the British car feels significantly lighter than its Italian rival. Of course, both cars boast such extreme limits of adhesion that cornering quickly is almost a forgone conclusion. But the Aston's razor-sharp steering and fuss free suspension make it the easier of the two to fling about. You can make ridiculous mistakes with the throttle and get away with it. While the Vanquish is no sports car– you sit on it rather than in it– the GT can keep up with all but the most accomplished members of the performance fraternity. Did I hear someone say Porsche?

No, sorry, I didn't. I was distracted by the Vanquish's addictive soundtrack. The car's engine pumps out a glorious noise, which sounds like a hi-tech remix of 1960's Grand Prix racers. It's a hit! Strangely enough, the Vanquish sounds even better outside the cabin, where huge bass notes whack bystanders in the chest. The car sounds very, very special.

Which it is. I'm not saying that the Vanquish is better than a Porsche– any Porsche. Aston has a long way to go before it creates anything as dynamically accomplished or mechanically refined as even a basic Boxster. But the Vanquish is the first Aston I've encountered that delivers enough genuine driving pleasure to make you forgive its relative shortcomings. Newport Pagnell's finest may not be 'better' than the competition, but it is gloriously, triumphantly different. The Vanquish has the charisma it needs to justify Ford's patronage, and an enthusiast's decision to acquire one.

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Aston Martin DB5 Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2002/04/aston-martin-db5/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2002/04/aston-martin-db5/#comments Fri, 19 Apr 2002 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=258  There's an absurd scene in Goldeneye, where agent 007 races a hottie through the winding roads above Monte Carlo. Bond is behind the wheel of a DB5. The girl is driving a Ferrari 355. Guess who wins? Preposterous. That said, if you're not the type of person to take an informed view on the relative merits of Aston's straight six vs. Ferrari's 32-valve 8-cylinder power plant, or the handling implications of conventional vs. electronically damped suspension, the scene made perfect sense. Handsome Bond in beautiful car duels beautiful girl in gorgeous car. That's more than enough information for the average moviegoer.

Encountering a fully restored DB5 39-years after its screen debut (in Goldfinger) it's easy to understand the filmmakers' choice. The Aston still looks fast enough to take on a Ferrari - any Ferrari. Although Touring of Milan sculpted the shape, the DB5 is nothing like the delicately proportioned Ferraris and Maseratis of its day. Examined in detail, the Aston appears to be an automotive farrago, combining a 'smiling bulldog' front grille, muscle car front air scoop, mini-Cadillac tapered wings and Volvo-esque rear window. Taken as a whole, it's the automotive equivalent of a Saville Row suit: butch, yet infinitely elegant. Like Bond himself, the DB5's design somehow manages to combine infinite sophistication with unbridled aggression.

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 There's an absurd scene in Goldeneye, where agent 007 races a hottie through the winding roads above Monte Carlo. James Bond is behind the wheel of a DB5. The girl is driving a Ferrari 355. Guess who wins? Preposterous. That said, if you're not the type of person to take an informed view on the relative merits of Aston's straight six vs. Ferrari's 32-valve 8-cylinder power plant, or the handling implications of conventional vs. electronically damped suspension, the scene made perfect sense. Handsome Bond in beautiful car duels beautiful girl in gorgeous car. That's more than enough information for the average moviegoer.

Encountering a fully restored DB5 39-years after its screen debut (in Goldfinger) it's easy to understand the filmmakers' choice. The Aston still looks fast enough to take on a Ferrari – any Ferrari. Although Touring of Milan sculpted the shape, the DB5 is nothing like the delicately proportioned Ferraris and Maseratis of its day. Examined in detail, the Aston appears to be an automotive farrago, combining a 'smiling bulldog' front grille, muscle car front air scoop, mini-Cadillac tapered wings and Volvo-esque rear window. Taken as a whole, it's the automotive equivalent of a Saville Row suit: butch, yet infinitely elegant. Like Bond himself, the DB5's design somehow manages to combine infinite sophistication with unbridled aggression.

 Of course, driving the beast is entirely another matter. 'Maximum Bob' Fountain of The Aston Martin Workshop recently gave me the chance to pilot the non-Corgi version of the car that launched a thousand childhood fantasies. Specifically, I sat behind the wheel a silver DB5 that had just soaked up £175,000 of a California collector's hard-earned cash. And a very nice place to sit it is too. The DB5's wood and leather cabin is an instant, visceral reminder of a time when 'hand made' was synonymous with 'quality'. All the controls, from the gleaming aluminium choke lever to the rock hard plastic turning stalks, snick home with sensual precision. The simple, tasteful décor inspires the same feeling of well-being you'd expect from a London gentleman's club.

Turning the key of the restored car brings the DB5's tuneful engine to life. Fellow anoraks will know that the DB5 was no great mechanical leap forward. Although the car incorporated Aston's full range of engineering expertise, it wasn't as fast as the revolutionary (and vastly less expensive) Jaguar E-Type. It wasn't meant to be. Despite Aston's distinguished racing heritage, the DB5 was designed as a Grand Tourer. Polish engineer Tadek Marek created a 282bhp engine that could generate tremendous (for its day) low-down grunt. Mated to a five-speed gearbox, the 4.0-litre engine propels the relatively heavy DB5 to 60mph in 8.1 seconds, and on to a not inconsiderable 141mph. Multi-pot disc brakes on all four wheels help brave drivers haul the beast back from such 'vigorous' speeds.

 After a suitable warm-up, I was free to see what the figures mean in the real world. Doing so on County Durham's country lanes immediately increased my respect for Mr. Brosnan's stunt driver. Bereft of power steering, hustling the car demands a firm hand, muscular shoulders, total concentration, a little talent and a lot of practice. Not to mention bravery. And accuracy; you need the timing of a goalie and the aim of a darts champion to quickly slot the box into the right gear. The brakes are effective, but require both full commitment and a good old-fashioned shove. The suspension? Well, it does nothing to help the car corner at speed. If you persist in thrashing a DB, you'll need to install a racing harness or get a good hold on that wheel; the seats provide no lateral support whatsoever.

Why stress yourself? The DB5 was born to drive on a wide-open road, with a wide-open throttle. That's when the car's unique appeal starts to come through. Everything settles down. The engine provides a soundtrack as quietly reassuring as the steady hum of a twin-engine airplane. Even at 80 miles per hour, you can talk to your passenger or listen to the radio. Meanwhile, minor road imperfections are dismissed with aristocratic disdain. As long as the bends are long and flowing, you can exploit the DB5's structural integrity. Easy does it though. Nice and easy.

The DB5 is an automotive icon as deeply, uniquely British as a pair of gently glowing Lobb shoes or a Purdey side-by-side shotgun. Compared to any modern car, it drives like a truck. So what? The lesson I took away from this encounter was that great design is ultimately more important than outright performance. If you love something, you forgive its shortcomings, and continue to cherish it long after its been eclipsed by something newer and ostensibly better. Goldeneye's producers understood this perfectly. Manufacturers like Ferrari, whose new FX/F60 indicates they're chasing performance at the expense of beauty, or Porsche, whose Cayenne is a bastardisation of a noble design heritage, don't.

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