Owning an Aston Martin is more a choice than a goal—a statement of taste rather than a symbol of status. And like any functional object, especially one of high-performance luxury, to truly appreciate an Aston Martin you have to drive one.
In the Santa Monica Mountains of southern California the new 2016 range of Aston Martin models await. I choose the company’s fastest model—the V12 Vantage S.
The Vantage has enough stratospheric statistics to make your eyes water— 565hp, 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, and a top speed of 205 mph. It boasts the company’s most powerful engine stuffed into its smallest body, made lighter in weight than any previous Aston Martin to date.
Then there’s the interior: a plush, leather-enveloped cockpit with modern but classically styled instruments that all serve to compliment the car's handsome exterior lines.
But there’s something else, something intangible that gives it distinction. It’s a sensation that makes it unique among other cars in its class—not quite Italian, not quite German, but definitely sophisticated and forceful.
On the steep, narrow and impossibly twisty roads of Mulholland Highway, Malibu Canyon Road, and Decker Canyon Road, the Vantage begins to reveal itself. The sun is out, there’s a soft breeze off the Pacific, and, since it's a weekday, the roads are wonderfully empty allowing me to stretch the English thoroughbred’s legs.
Unsurprisingly, the more I ask, the more it gives, always with the impression it has plenty left in reserve. Equipped with a choice of three adaptive damper systems Normal, Sport, and Track (the last of which I was strongly advised against using), the Vantage felt inexhaustible. In addition to never feeling strained, it was also never shrill. The baritone growl of its engine reverberating off the canyon hills was thrilling yet measured.
When the time comes to return the Vantage I step out and admire this supercar one last time. And then I see it clearly, what I couldn’t put my finger on before.
Unlike some $200,000 sports cars, this is not a prizefighter in fashionable clothes. It’s an Olympic athlete in a Saville Row suit—muscled and lean, taut and poised, powerful and polished. Being neither brash nor vain, the Vantage exudes an understated confidence that seems to make all the difference. There is a distinct “Britishness”—a confidence that comes from refined ferocity.