I thought I knew what visceral meant. I also thought I’d never get used to the attention you draw, pulling up in a (super)car. The Aston Martin DB9 and Vanquish educated me on both, first by smearing my body into a paste as it slammed me back against the seat with its fist of acceleration, and second with a jolt of unexpected patriotism.
We’re at Daytona Sandton — home of Aston Martin SA’s dealership — for the official drive to Harties with 6 of their best Models; the DB9, Vanquish, Rapide, Vantage and V8 Vantage. And the default setting for most Joburgers is “mildly embarrassed demurring,” but I realized early on that it just wouldn’t fly with the Aston Martins. Nobody – even in the richest square mile in Africa, where supercars are fairly commonplace – wanted an unnecessary apology and the explanation that no, it (being the Aston) didn’t actually belong to me. They wanted horsepower and top speed and, often, to know just which Aston this is.
[quote_center]Grown men pretend to have children so that they can take photos “for them”[/quote_center]
That’s where the patriotism comes in, because the people who Know Cars understand that Aston Martin is a big deal. You try explaining the potency behind that nameplate, with the appropriate accent, to a cavalcade of the curious and not feel your chest puff out accordingly. Aston Martin offers a variety of eye-searing colors for the DB9 and the Vanquish, but I think it looks better in something halfway restrained and pure, like this Stratus White, or is it Silver Fox? That way some of the finer detailing isn’t lost amid screaming paint, like how the exposed carbon fiber folds and flows like cooling magma.
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It’s more subtle than a Lamborghini or a Ferrari, heck, even a McLaren, certainly. The conventional doors – which open to expose wide sills that you half-clamber and half-open over in a way that reminds you that you do have long legs and will never be a handsome supermodel – almost feel like apologetic affectations, sprouted to pacify some of the crueler critics, but they make for damned good photos.
Of course, I’m talking restraint in relative terms. People notice you when you’re driving an Aston. Sometimes they try to catch your attention, too – hooting at you, or shouting “is it a Lambo?” Grown men pretend to have children so that they can take photos “for them“.
You usually don’t have time to react, though, because you’re focusing so hard on not screwing the whole damn thing up and having to sell every internal organ of any worth to pay back Aston Martin SA. In the city, you’re trying to visually guesstimate whether the camber of the next junction means you need to frantically tug the lever that makes the car lift up on its suspension, and in the process mildly dilute the chance that you’ll beach it like a carbon fiber whale.
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On the highway, meanwhile, you’re suddenly hyper-aware of the fact that each lane is only in fact twenty centimeters wide, and there are soccer mom’s and battered taxi drivers trying to occupy the same space that your delicately-poised side mirrors are dangling in. My co-driver for the day, Kojo Baffoe handled all of this very well. Such a bespoke gent.
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Then there’s the twisty stuff. There, you’re too busy focusing on how ridiculously precise the steering is. How amazing the engine sounds, less than a meter from your nose. How it doesn’t seem to matter what speed you go into a corner at, the car just grips and grips and grips, and shoots you out of the other end with a wide, slightly disbelieving grin plastered across your big, stupid, how-did-I-get-this-lucky face.
0-100 km/h arrives in about 5 seconds on the DB9. Keep your right foot jammed down, keep snapping your way through the ridiculously dual-clutch Gearbox with its cool, crisp little paddles, and eventually Aston Martin says you’ll see 190 km/h on the LCD in the bottom corner of the over-sized tachometer. I never saw the 190km/h when Kojo had the wheel. I was holding on for dear life.
There are times – periods in-between the brief punctuation of abject terror that you’re about to total a sub R3mil supercar – when you forget the fear and just go. Even in Sport mode, rather than Normal, it’s an astonishingly drivable car. Docile, compliant. We went to Harties as part of a convoy, stopped for a few photos; a driver switch, a hearty lunch and the Aston Martin made no more complain than I’d expect from a mass-market hatchback.
It’s just that most mass-market hatchbacks can’t launch you away from the lights and then drag you to a halt moments later, something you’ll do over and over again because it feels so good.
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The Vanquish on the other hand is far more car than I am driver. I don’t feel too bad, though; it’s better than the vast majority of drivers out there. Had I some road time I would’ve pushed harder, certainly, but you don’t need to in order to have fun.
So let’s say you’re in the fortunate position of having a few hundred thousand millions to spend on a super-exclusive, super-speedy chunk of automotive excess. Which car, in this over-simplified, “any choice is a good choice” world do you indulge in?
The traditionalist goes for the Ferrari. The narcissist picks the Lamborghini. Personally, though, I’d say the smart money goes on the Aston Martin. Getting to drive any of Aston’s models is a big deal because, well, your pocket has to be that deep.
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