We put the new Aston Martin Vanquish through its paces in the Scottish Highlands.
When it was snowing up a Scottish mountain and nearly £200,000 worth of car was attempting to use nearly 600bhp to deposit me into a raging burn 30ft below, I had a moment when I thought of all the daft things I’d ever done. Many involved youthful imbecility or too much Port, but none, in that split second of insight, compared with attempting to get the brand-new Aston Martin Vanquish into the Highlands in a blizzard.
As is often the way, it started out as a nice idea for a drive to a spectacular view in a magnificent machine and nearly ended as a stupid way to meet my maker. But least the trip to the pearly gates would have been in comfort: the Vanquish is an immensely pleasant place to sit and watch life flashing before your eyes.
Our car came with quilted leather seats like the inside of a very expensive designer handbag. As a result, they’re ridiculously comfortable, and the thickly carpeted cabin is wonderfully cosy, even with the worst Scottish weather bowling at you. There’s also a higher-quality feeling to the controls in the Vanquish than in previous Astons, and they all appear to have come out of an episode of Spooks. They’re mostly touch sensitive, so when you place your finger on them, they give a little shiver; the sport button on the steering wheel, which makes the suspension stiffer and the throttle keener, throbs red when you press it, as if, somewhere below, rockets are being warmed up.
Aston Martin might be 100 years old this year-quite a feat for a marque that’s had to fight on its lonesome for most of its life-but in its eerily white and clinical factory, it’s using the very latest technologies beside the traditional craftsmen and engineers. Indeed, I take my hat off to Scott Andrews. His name is inscribed on a plaque on the engine telling me he built this particular V12 by hand. It’s a wondrous thing, making a spectacular noise. It’s not your Bentleyish Merlins at half-throttle, dark satanic mills British throb, but more of a metallic wail.
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Before our encounter with the impromptu pistes, I had ample opportunity, somewhere quiet near Loch Lomond, to give the Vanquish some welly and I can report that it bolts quicker than Frankel when the going’s good. This is helped by all the power, but also because the bodywork is made almost entirely (and expensively) from carbon fibre and, underneath, it’s constructed of lightweight aluminium.
Some bits weren’t quite tip-top tech, however. The satnav had all the incisiveness and forthright decision-making of Wodehouse’s bumbling landowner Lord Emsworth and the radio refused to offer anything other than a station where some Scottish football manager was getting angry about a referee-or perhaps it was what his wife had cooked for dinner. I couldn’t tell exactly through the endless crackle.
Nevertheless, this excellent car carried me through the snow, its winter tyres clenched manfully to the surface like lichen, and, as I blasted out of the mountain pass and down into the mercifully greener, more heathery vale of Glencoe, the purple rocks towering above me and this marvellous grand tourer slipping sinuously along, the journey didn’t seem such a bad idea after all.
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