The last time I cocked up this badly organising a test car was the foggy week I borrowed a Bentley. The Mulsanne was mine for the five days when visibility was so poor, speed limits around the country were restricted to 40mph.
So to collect the keys to a GTC4 Lusso T the weekend it decides to snow in England is frustrating. I can see the Ferrari parked outside my window but we haven’t actually been anywhere together for two days.
As the snow came down on Sunday, I managed to crawl home with the transmission in ‘ice’ setting. And I mean crawl – 603bhp rear-wheel drive provides all the traction of a bobsleigh.
What can I tell you? If you want to know about handling and performance, try Top Gear. I can reveal the cabin is a smashing place to reside and the deep rear seats will even take a grown up, possibly wearing a hat.
The Lusso T is an oddly placid place to sit though. It doesn’t ‘feel’ quite as titillating as a Ferrari should, although I’m told there is tons of grip if you want a wild moment of rear-wheel drive pranking.
If you are in the market for a four-seat supercar that will take the kids, or a dog, plus decent-sized boot of shopping, then the GTC4 Lusso T could be the answer. Key alternatives? The beautifully formed Aston Martin Rapide, of course…
You just know that when Aston Martin turn out an amazing car that not quite everything will be perfect. There has to be a flaw right? A brilliant machine that has more heart and soul than a Porsche but just isn’t quite as Germanically over-engineered.
So it is with the astoundingly good Vantage V12 S. Beautiful from every angle, the toned down but throaty exhuast note the poise and balance when at full tilt around a sweeping corner.
Then we come to the manual gearbox. For some reason, it’s back to front. That means 1st is bottom left, with a dog leg up to 2nd. Sure, you’d think it wouldn’t be that hard to get used to but it’s a bloody nightmare.
And then there’s changing down from 4th to 3rd – how many times did I almost whack it into 1st with potentially disastrous consequences?
It doesn’t work Aston Martin – why the rubbery ginger did you do it in the first place?
And then there are the electric window buttons. They are the wrong way up too. Press down for up, and up for down. Is there something I’m missing here?
Anyway, two awesomely annoying faults on an otherwise great car. Here endeth the rant…
Long before it appeared in the distance, I could hear the S arriving. It’s not a squealer like the Huracan – it doesn’t sound like a couple in flagrante.
Instead, the Aston has a sophisticated growl – like Mariella Frostrup after one too many fags. Most shocking is the paint job. I’ve seen the S manual with grey paint and yellow lipstick around the grille, or white gloss and orange frill.
Get your head around that though and the rest should be easy.
Oh, apart from the dog-leg seven-speed gearbox. It’s the reason this Vantage is so special – but also remains the most annoying feature. First gear is in a funny position but it’s also way to easy to slip from second to fifth, instead of third.
Ho-hum. Another flawed Aston – or will I get used to it like every other motoring hack claims is possible?
For now, I’m just happy to look at the shape and hear the roar. More tomorrow…
Just back from interviewing Gok Wan. The king of style has a gorgeous little house in Hampstead and a cool little French Bulldog, called Dolly.
What’s on his driveway? – a Porsche Panamera. I didn’t expect His Gokness to like a sports car with four seats and room for luggage. No, I truly expected a Fiat 500, maybe a Mercedes ML, or a top spec Audi.
Gok wasn’t too keen on the Jaguar F-Type, mainly because the rear end was ‘too angular’. I can understand that. It might explain why he is longing to buy an Aston Martin DB9 too.
Today was the last day with the Jag. Land Rover is delivering a Defender tomorrow – perfect timing for the snow that is apparently due tonight.
I enjoyed the F-Type, although it does lack soul and character. I truly don’t believe it will ever be a classic like the E-Type but the Coupe is a genuine rival for the Porsche 911 and is much prettier on the eye too.
Wednesday and it’s another rain-lashed morning in Blighty – not the best of weather to hurl a 500bhp, rear-wheel drive supercar around a corner. Having discovered the DB9 is somewhat ‘tail happy’ I’ve compiled a list of other minor irritants that they don’t tell you about in the sale brochure.
Firstly, if you are a lady (or a bloke!) with long nails, inserting the glass key into the dashboard can chip at least two of them in one go. Actually, just getting in to the Aston at night can be awkward because unless you blip the key (for illumination) the flush handles are completely hidden in the door. This results in a lot of embarrassing fumbling around to find them – which makes your hands filthy too. Never saw Bond do that did you!
I’m 5ft 10ins and I can’t stretch my legs out in the front passenger seat. Normally this can be rectified by reclining the back upright but in the DB9, it hits the rear seat almost instantly. So if you are 6ft plus, I’d want to be sure I could get comfortably before opening my wallet.
FInally, the boot is tiny. The rear seats are pointless too – unless you have a small dog or baby.
On the plus side, Aston include a free umbrella and a near, chrome-topped pen that pops out of the dashboard. There, now you know…
Any colour you like, as long as it’s black, or possibly white… The Carbon Edition was launched at Geneva Motor Show earlier this year. There are no upgrades to the V12 engine and looking at it parked on the driveway now, I’m hard pushed to spot the cosmetic changes too.
The extra £6k on the price of a standard DB9 buys you a special edition with some carbon fibre side strakes and black window surrounds, plus a ‘Carbon’ logo on the sill covers as you step in. The interior is suitably black and that’s about it!
I’m wondering if that’s why it took a lot of Googling to find out exactly how much of a premium the Carbon edition demands? The official Aston site says ‘price on application’ and in the end I had to inquire at the press office.
‘Style and visual drama are the special edition’s hallmarks as they perfectly emphasis the timeless GT’s sporting nature’ says the PR fluff.
I’m sure they’re right but the DB9 is a visual stunner already. I’m not sure yet that I would pay the extra for a Carbon Edition…
So here’s the thing… Aston Martin won’t say if one of their cars will feature in the next James Bond film, due for release in late 2015. Will it be the last time we see Daniel Craig in his swimming trunks, I wonder.
The Aston press office reels off the usual line about the company’s ‘long association’ with the film brand but refuse to go any further. Which, I imagine, means somebody with a large wallet is already negotiating the terms for the ultimate product placement.
So, if 007 is going to get his license to thrill in a Vanquish, will he opt for the quilted white leather, or a more conservative black trim?
I mean, can you imagine Sean Connery – the most masculine Bond ever – turning up for a job in a white trimmed Aston? Alarming thought that I will leave with you to ponder…