It’s fair to say that it is almost every man’s dream to sit behind the wheel of an Aston Martin. So an invitation to experience not one, but five of their current models on a closed circuit was an opportunity not to be missed! I was invited to join a small exclusive group of people to spend a day putting all the current models through their paces. The cars were the V8 Vantage SportShift, V12, DB9 Touchtronic, Rapide and DBS Touchtronic. What a dream line up.
Millbrook is a 40 yr old test facility originally set up by General Motors and now used by nearly all the manufacturers. Featuring a high-speed bowl, two and a half mile hill route, city routes and standing mile, it enables hard testing of cars and drivers in a safe and controlled environment. Although I did wonder why they wouldn’t allow us to use the off-road and water bath routes. Aston Martin have their own facility here where prospective and confirmed buyers can get some hands-on training in their dream cars. Aston still remains in the old tradition of custom building to every customers spec. You can’t just go and buy a new car from a showroom, so every vehicle is slightly different as you can choose the colour, interior finish, trim etc.
A short two or three laps in each vehicle was not enough for an in depth report but an overall impression of these luxurious vehicles capabilities. The V8 Vantage Sportshift was for the standing mile on the circuit. With the vehicle’s amazing acceleration it was time to brake almost as soon as you got the speed up. A very steady and well balanced car that almost kicked you in the kidneys as you changed gears up and floored the throttle!
Taking the cars on the hill circuit was an eye opener, having driven the circuit many times in the past on SMMT test days. Plus having one of Aston Martin’s own professional instructors on hand certainly improved my perception and speed on the hill. The cars are all very similar inside; deep luxurious leather trim and well finished facia and instrument clusters. The touchtronic gearbox was simple and as one would expect, well positioned for ease of use. The surprise came with the 4-door Rapide, which from the outside looks almost identical to the other models. And when the instructor asked me to sit in the back, I was rather apprehensive as you can imagine since I stand at over 6.7ft! But much to my (pleasant) surprise, it was fairly comfortable, especially when compared to similar 2+2 sports cars. It wasn’t knee knockingly tight, but I wouldn’t want to travel all day in the back.
So to our final test; having driven the bowl at Millbrook we were not really allowed on the lip top lane. Each lane is designed for certain speeds, so after careful instruction we did the lip circuit at 100mph with no hands on the wheel. I can tell you, it takes a bit of getting used to driving at such high speed and putting your trust in the centrifugal and gravitational pull to hold you on line. All in all a thrilling day and can’t wait to get the chance to drive one of the cars on a proper road test.