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MOTORNET: Advantageous Acquaintance

Advantageous Acquaintance


SCOOP MOTORNET with Karl Ferguson
Images by Neil Mackenzie - onlinefotos.com/neil


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How can something as common as an engine noise sound so magnificent? After all, it’s just cylinders and exhaust working in unison and yet, there’s nothing quite like the sound you hear from Aston Martin’s latest, the sublime Vantage. And then you go through a tunnel and everything is magnified by ten and you know that heaven on earth is attainable after all.

Wellington’s grey day seemed somehow fitting for a test drive of the metallic silver Aston, the sheer bleakness of the weather offset by the Vantage’s truly gorgeous lines which somehow manage to look both sleek and muscular all at the same time.

Capital car dealer extraordinaire, Myles Gazley, had been tooling around town unsuspectingly for a few weeks in the Vantage before I pounced. But to his credit, he didn’t bat an eyelid when I asked him to lend me the deep grey metallic machine for a quick test drive, and on the appointed day he bravely handed over the keys.


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It’s no surprise that when he isn’t behind the wheel himself the Vantage has pride of place in Myle’s Wakefield Street showroom. Even inert, the Vantage is truly a gorgeous thing to gaze upon. To say the car has presence is like saying that Donald Trump has an unusual hairpiece – seeing is believing. The wing mirrors have a fragile quality – like something akin to a F1 car – and the A-pillar is similarly narrow and almost dainty for a car of this type. And yet it looks so solid, so purposeful, so drivable. Truthfully, it would still be an object of desire even if the car was a major disappointment on the road.

It’s not of course. In fact, once you get past the slightly complicated starting-out sequence which includes a handbrake that’s actually on even when it looks off, and a starter button that won’t work unless the suitably heavy clutch is depressed, it’s not even that intimidating to drive. The six-speed manual gearbox takes a little mastering but it’s friendlier than those of many of the big Aussie sedans I have driven.


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Actually, the gearbox is the least of your concerns. It may have six forward ratios, but a short drive is all that’s needed to appreciate that the Vantage will go all day and all night in third gear. Simply bury your foot at any speed and the response is staggering. The 4.3 litre V8 makes a not insignificant 283kW or in old fashioned speak, 380 horses, and a fairly impressive 410Nm of torque to boot. The delivery is smooth and linear, the tachometer veritably singing its way to the 7300rpm redline. A handy red ‘change up’ light also indicates it’s time to grab another gear if the intoxication of the experience causes momentary lapses. Interestingly, or oddly depending upon your perspective, the tachometer goes anti-clockwise, or in the opposite direction from the speedometer, which can be a bit distracting. Not as distracting though as the actual speed the Vantage can very quickly attain. NZ Autocar recorded a 0-100km/h time of 5.45 seconds in this car, and it feels seriously quick.

At 1585kg the Vantage is no lightweight British sportscar in the tradition of say the Lotus Elise. In fact, it’s a good 140kg or so heavier than a Porsche 911. But while it never feels exactly nimble, it’s anything but ponderous. It feels tremendously flat and stable, and the overall impression is that this car will corner at any speed. Even in the wet, the 19” wheels and their tremendous rubber felt supremely competent. I doubt we got anywhere close to the handling limits of this machine during our stint, but I was impressed by how quickly I settled in to it. The nose is a long way forward and it’s difficult initially to get a feel for the dimensions of the car, but even so, placing it on the narrow and sometimes rutted roads around Wellington’s south coast hardly proved a chore.

The ride at low speeds is firm, as you might expect, and yet it’s significantly more compliant than I had expected it to be, the suspension doing a good job of cosseting passengers from the imperfections that are so much the reality of New Zealand roads. On smoother tarmac, the ride is very good indeed.


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The steering is less bare-knuckle sports car, than supreme Grand Tourer. It’s pleasantly light, though perhaps not as sharp as some might expect from a car this capable, and somewhat in contrast to the meaty nature of the clutch and gearbox. A few more miles under the clock, and I suspect driver and steering would gel harmoniously.

While photographer Neil McKenzie put his trusty Canon to work (my most loyal companion on this type of excursion), determined to capture the Vantage at its best despite the inclement weather, I used the ample time to better examine the Aston’s sumptuous and quite spacious interior. The materials are exquisite, and virtually every surface is clad in high-grade leather. The dials are bespoke, almost jewel-like, while the roof lining is soft-to-the touch suede. Yet it somehow manages to feel simple, rather than ostentatious, elegant rather than over the top. Aside from the green of the steering wheel’s Aston Martin badge, the interior is virtually devoid of colour, and yet, it’s a truly welcoming and enticing space.


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Tempted as I was to drive north and be damned of the consequences, after a good hour, we reluctantly headed back to the showroom where Myles was waiting in anticipation of our return. He cast a wistful look at the parked Aston, as I handed back the keys. A self-confessed car enthusiast, Myles bought the car, a demonstrator vehicle from Auckland’s Independent Prestige, knowing that Vantage’s were in short supply, and knowing that he wanted one. But he is still a businessman first and foremost, and this Vantage is now for sale. A cool $240,000 will secure its purchase. Myles’ confesses that he is yet to actively market the car so is uncertain what interest it will attract. I am bold enough to venture that even in the fairly conservative Wellington market, it will attract plenty. Independent Prestige confirm that a brand spanking new example will set you back $265,000 and you’ll have to wait until April 2007 to get your hands on one, a point that surely won’t be lost on Myles as he negotiates the sale of his precious Vantage.

It is rare these days to find a truly special car, but that’s exactly what the Vantage is. It exudes a quality that doesn’t necessarily bare any relation to cost, and it’s difficult to put a dollar figure on such a quality. Admittedly, my time with the Vantage was brief and it’s possible that over time flaws might well emerge. But, like any fleeting romance, I was left wanting more – much more. That in itself speaks volumes.


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Aston Martin courtesy of Myles Gazley of Tory Continental. For more information please contact Tory on 0800 428 679.



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