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February 10, 2016

Power, Beauty, and Soul: A Taste of Aston Martin

There’s an air of mystery and intrigue with Aston Martin. While everyone grew up on a steady stable of Italian and German high-performance machinery, this British supercar brand has become iconic because of the silver screen. Tied synonymously with super spy James Bond, Filipinos have seen it being driven to exotic locations and saving the world countless times for over 30 years. And that’s usually with a beautiful woman in the passenger’s seat.

Late last year though, Aston Martin made the transition from screen to reality when they formally inaugurated their stunning new home in the heart of Bonifacio Global City. Today, everyone can see and touch for themselves what stuff of legends is made of. And to the select few, that’s accompanied with an unforgettable visceral experience on the open road.

The invitation is straightforward enough: accompany Mr. Rupert Crook, Aston Martin’s Performance Driving Executive, on a “leisurely drive” from Bonifacio Global City to Alabang. Of course, leisurely is all relative because a trio of Aston Martins makes up this convoy. Arriving with the least power of the bunch is the N430—the commemorative Nürburgring package of the V8 Vantage packing 430 horses. Next is the grand tourer of the group, the Rapide S with 550 horsepower from its V12 powerplant. Finally, it’s the V12 Vantage S—the fastest production Aston Martin in history with a 565-horsepower V12 under the hood.

With hazard lights flashing, the trio literally stopped traffic along 5th Avenue as gawkers started taking selfies or even brazenly posed beside the car just to have a few photos. Such is the power of Aston Martin’s timelessly beautiful design. Instantly recognizable, every millimeter of an Aston Martin is designed for elegance and balance. In fact, the lithe and pure form is dictated by the “Golden Ratio”—the universally recognized proportion of beauty seen in masterpieces such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

More than just a sight to behold, every Aston Martin harks back to its rich and illustrious racing heritage. In fact, Mr. Crook, an Aston Martin DB7 owner himself, reckons an Aston is “simply a racing car with luxury appointments.” And in that regard, he is absolutely right. Opening the door via the trick handle reveals a cabin that looks and feels tailor-made, as if echoing the tailor-made suits that James Bond wears. Every inch of the handcrafted, hand assembled cabin emanates power and prestige, down to the careful stitching on the leather and Alcantara and the carbon fiber applique on the center console. Ramon Benipayo, Aston Martin Manila’s Sales Manager, says the philosophy behind the cabin is beautiful simplicity. Eschewing fancy controllers and what have you, the controls are laid out in a straightforward manner with buttons for the gear selectors and direct access to all the functions from the working GPS system, Bang & Olufsen audio system, and automated climate control. Even the hand brake is on the left side, by the driver’s door, as not to ruin the aesthetics of the center console.

These features may be interesting on some other car, but this is an Aston Martin; they all play second fiddle to the one feature that sets this marque apart: the drive. Slotting in the 5,000-Euro crystal key and pressing it down fires up the engine. Without any forced induction, the best way to describe the engine note is one of purity. The mechanical sounds emanating from the engine bay pumped into the cabin is almost unfiltered, delivering an experience that’s both raw and serene. The 4.7-liter V8 under the N430 burbles at idle thanks to its unique intake, mufflers, and ECU tuning compared to the standard V8 Vantage. And while this is good, the V12 Vantage S’s 5.9-liter V12 is organismic. This is the automotive equivalent of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony—it’s the masterpiece. It easily hints at its 330 km/h top speed potential as early as when you press down on the Aston Martin starter.

Driving a car priced in the right digits requires intense concentration and heightened awareness. The biggest adjustment has to do with finding a smooth way to tame all that power when cruising in city traffic. With a direct acting automated manual as opposed to a dual clutch or conventional automatic, these cars will lurch uncontrollably if the throttle engagement isn’t smooth. However, give it precise inputs, and it becomes a truly rewarding car to drive. As the convoy left the confines of the city, it becomes more and more at home, with the V8 and V12 engines being pushed to its full song. Tackling curves and corners is surprisingly easy thanks to its surprisingly good sight lines and there’s even the added bonus of seeing visible heat haze rising from the hood vents.

Driving an Aston Martin, any Aston Martin, instantly feels like being connected to its century long history. During that time, they have created the finest supercars the world has ever known, a practice that continues to today. In fact, each and every of these cars are built and assembled by expert craftsmen in Gaydon in Warwickshire, England. In an area of digital supercars, Aston Martin remains the analogue holdout and for that, it comes seeped in character and tradition, something you see, touch, feel, and hear in every of their cars.

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