Queen City Cars & Coffee is back! The past two years hosting this show have been absolute blast, and I’m stoked to be putting it on again this year. Last year, over 90 cars attended, about 30 more than the first year. For QC3 (just made that name up right now and I dig it) the goal is set at 125 cars. Let’s rally together and make it happen! Invite your friends, invite their friends, invite people that aren’t your friends, invite your grandma, your neighbor, the guy who cleans your septic tank, it doesn’t matter. Just invite them. I genuinely think we have the chance to create something epic and put the Manchester car scene on the map. This year’s show is on Saturday, September 13 from 8am to 12pm at the Arms Parking Lot in Manchester, NH. Be sure to follow @_DoranD_ and @TopDeadCenter on Twitter for updates. I’m beyond fired up for this, and I can’t wait to see everyone there!
I’m quite certain everyone already knows this, but the new Aston Martin Vanquish is great. Through some mysterious combination of luck and knowing the right people at Aston Martin of New England in Waltham, Massachusetts, I was lucky enough to drive one recently. After spending some time behind the wheel, it became clear that the Vanquish is like most modern supercars—an object of intense and oftentimes irrational desire/a supremely effective instrument for redefining perceptions—and a worthy successor to Aston’s venerable DBS. Really, the only negative with the whole thing is that I don’t yet have the $300,000+ to buy one..
Visually, the Vanquish is a study in lines—vivid, sensual lines that appear to have been coaxed from carbon fiber to coalesce into a scintillating whole. Much of the Vanquish’s visual panache is derived from elements originally seen on the One-77, Aston’s multi-million dollar hypercar. Look deeper, and the Vanquish continues the visual feast—twin lines that track up the hood and echo and reverse on the roof, the flared rocker panels, the character line that runs from the top of the headlights, over those stunning hips, and around to the integrated rear wing. I even like the carbon fiber mustache-thing below the grille. This is a gorgeous car..
Aston Martins have always been a different breed, preferring to arrive at the party in an impeccably tailored suit over a sleeveless tee and Ray-Bans (*cough* Lamborghini Aventador *cough*). Beneath the Vanquish’s beautiful exterior resides Aston Martin’s Generation 4 VH architecture which, in conjunction with an extensive use of lightweight materials, means the Vanquish is both stiffer and lighter than Aston’s previous halo car, the DBS. And, while the two cars share the same basic engine—a 6.0-liter V-12—in Vanquish-guise, the V-12 mill makes 565 horsepower (up from 510 in the DBS) and 457 pound-feet of torque (up from 420 pound-feet). Putting that power to the ground is a six-speed automatic transmission with column mounted paddles. The increased grunt means the dash to 60 miles per hour is politely dispensed with in about four seconds, and this English gentleman will keep on hustling to 183 miles per hour.
Aston Martin again turned to the One-77 for inspiration for the Vanquish’s interior: the sweeping central stack with touchscreen controls and curvaceous dashboard all hearken to Aston’s flagship. While attractive, the cabin is far from perfect—the rear seats are comically tiny, the buttons on the dash can be difficult to see, and the pop-up navigation system looks like an early ’90s Garmin GPS. The display looked genuinely antiquated and spoils the otherwise gorgeous center stack. I found it best to just leave it off and tucked away. Those things aside, the end result is still a beautifully bespoke cabin from which to command the miles. And hey, if you don’t like the ridiculous rear seats, they are an optional delete.
But enough of that, it’s time to drive. I slid the crystal key fob into a slot on the center stack and the big V-12 ignited with a bark which slowly settled into a delicious, brassy throb. I was curious to see what the Vanquish would be like at low speeds and in traffic on the route I was taking, and it was soon clear after a few minutes in rush hour mayhem that it was no harder to drive than your grandmother’s LeSabre. Hit the button marked “D” on the dash to keep the transmission in automatic and the suspension and engine mapping in their most vanilla settings, and the big Aston easily becomes a willing commuter companion.
But, to stunt the Vanquish’s abilities to grocery-gettting and sitting in traffic should be up for consideration as a criminal offense. The car’s real place is outside of downtown, where the traffic disappears and stretches of open pavement unfurl invitingly. The red mist descended. I switched things into Sport mode, knocked down a few gears, and let the engine hover anxiously near 4000 rpm. The engine strained and yowled in a gritty baritone. Cue Han Solo and Chewbacca trying to outrun Imperial Star Destroyers and make the jump to lightspeed: Punch it.
With the throttle buried, the Vanquish pulled like a fully stoked locomotive and ignited primal areas in my brain I didn’t even know existed. The suburban areas in southern Massachusetts were no place to fully exploit the Vanquish, but after a few rips up to, ahem, vigorous speeds, it was clear the car’s breadth of talent is deep and intoxicating. Like any great power, the Vanquish’s was absolutely addicting—the way it piled on speed, all I wanted was to do pin the throttle at everything that even resembled a straightaway. And if the power was addicting, what about the sound? It would be easy to get all misty-eyed and let my language go purple trying to convey what it was like, but trust me when I say it is something you simply need to experience. Aston Martin reportedly made an effort to insulate the cabin from outside noise, but (thankfully) they utterly failed at keeping the V-12 bellow from penetrating all the way to your core.
The steering is well weighted and precise, and the slightly squared off steering wheel felt strong and confident in hand. Toggling between the different suspension and power delivery settings produced a noticeable difference in the way the Vanquish drove. Sport mode felt crisp and responsive and produced the biggest grins. There was a reassuring sense of solidity in the way the Vanquish carved up winding back roads and remained composed over rough pavement. When it came time to slow things up, the carbon ceramic brakes firmly hauled the Vanquish’s portly 3800 pounds down from speed. This car was made for effortlessly loping across the miles in serene comfort, with that glorious V-12 ever willing and ready to hunt down the horizon.
After a long drive, gently guiding the Vanquish back into it’s parking spot at the dealership was about the last thing on earth I wanted to be doing. With a seemingly endless reserve of power on tap and character and personality in spades, the Vanquish is one special car. What the Aston Martin has manage to accomplish with this car is twofold: while it isn’t as dynamically superior as the Ferrari F12 or all-conqueringly powerful like the Bentley Continental GT Speed, it asserts itself in the marketplace as a tremendously capable and heartstoppingly lovely grand tourer that maintains the elegance and charisma inherent in Aston Martin DNA. It also takes the family halo car crown previously worn by the DBS and adds a few more precious stones. Now, about that $300,000…
– Opportunities to drive cars like the Vanquish are special ones. Many thanks and much respect to Steve Oldford and Matt Nolan at Aston Martin of New England for the chance to review this car. Be sure to check out AMNE’s website at www.AstonMartin-Lotus.com and ‘Like’ the Facebook page.
If you’ve spent any time around me at all for the past few months, you’ve heard me talk (with great vigor) about the Yuppie Rally. Put together by the great team over at Yuppie Racing, the 2012 Yuppie Rally ran from the Aston Martin of New England dealership in Waltham, Massachusetts, down to The Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee, up to Atlantic City and back, all the while raising money to support Guardian Angel Motorsports and the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Brighton, MA. Be sure to check out Yuppie Racing’s website HERE, and the TDC Facebook page for more photos and video from the Rally.
Day 1 – So It Begins: Sometimes in life you’re presented with moments and opportunities that cause you to stop abruptly, take a wide-eyed look around, and say to yourself, “How the heck did I end up here?” I had one of those moments earlier this month as I slid into the passenger seat of a new cherry red Audi R8 V10, getting ready to embark on the five day, 2500 mile Yuppie Rally. As I closed the bank vault-like door and listened to the R8’s Lamborghini-derived V10 engine snarled to life, I still couldn’t figure out what divine intervention landed me here. Those thoughts, along with the rest of my brain, were reduced to the consistency of scrambled eggs as I experienced the full fury of the R8 for the first time. It was going to be a good week.
I met Pete Ladas and Chris Benvie, the masterminds behind Yuppie Racing, through Steve Oldford and Guardian Angel Motorsports. After several months of figuring out sponsorship parameters, what I could bring to the table, and finalizing the details, I found myself the recipient of a seat on the Yuppie Rally with only food and gas bills ahead of me. For what felt like years I had imagined being on the Rally and carving up smooth Southern roads behind the wheel of some exotic machine, partying in Atlantic City, and spending a week with card carrying gearheads. Scott Marberblatt, the owner of the R8, was gracious enough to offer me his passenger seat and for that I am eternally grateful. A huge shout out to the Team O’Neil Rally School for donating a multi-day Rally School to the Rally—they were primary reason I was able to attend this year! Be sure to visit their website HERE, and read the ‘Chasing Racing Dreams’ feature I previously wrote on the school HERE.
Just after five pm, all 18 cars rolled out of Aston Martin with our first destination being a hotel right outside Philadelphia, PA. The two hours before we departed were spent mingling, swapping stories about previous rallies, and getting the pre-rally briefing from Chris and Pete on the days that lay ahead. To the untrained eye, a Rally may appear to simply be an excuse for people to get together and drive like lunatics. Watching videos on YouTube of the infamous Gumball or Bullrun rallies can create a skewed perception of what an event like this is. To some degree, yes, it is about having a blast on the road with your buddies, but it’s also about raising money for a great cause and being a brand ambassador for what the Yuppie Rally is all about. And having epic adventures.
The trip from Mass to our hotel in Philly was relatively uneventful (if you can call an exotic car rally uneventful) and we somehow managed to squeak across the George Washington Bridge outside New York City with essentially no traffic. We arrived at the first hotel around 10pm. My original plan was to put a post up on TDC each day of the Rally, but as soon as I caught sight of the hotel bed’s deep pillows and crisp sheets, I knew that idea was a goner. Day 1 Highlight: Hitting the first of many tunnels we would see in the R8 (Did I mention it had a Tubi aftermarket exhaust? It sounded like… God). A car like the R8 turns average driving experiences into sheer bliss.
Day 2 – Perceptions Redefined: Day two dawned bright and gorgeous. Walking around back of the hotel and seeing all our cars lined up in private parking spots, gently sprinkled with morning mist, was an excellent way to start the day. So was seeing the looks of disbelief on all the faces of the hotel staff. (Sidenote: two of my favorite parts about hotels are 1.) Not having to clean anything, and 2.) Free continental breakfast. Pretty sure endless free breakfast is actually heaven).
We headed out of the hotel and pointed our caravan south towards Virginia, the location of our next checkpoint. After several exciting hours, we pulled into a rest area for the requisite stretch/bathroom break/gas fill up. As we got ready to hit the road again, Scott asked me if I wanted to drive and handed me the keys. I’m pretty sure that had I looked up, I would have seen a soft celestial light caressing my brow.
Climbing into the driver’s seat of the R8 for the first time was strangely serene—I had expected to feel overwhelming excitement, verging on delirium, at the prospect of driving the car, but that wasn’t what I felt at all. Pulling the door closed with a satisfying thunk, sliding the key into the ignition and starting the breathlessly rampant V10 behind me simply felt natural, correct. Instead of a blinding excitement, I felt a sense of calm definiteness that this was where I needed to be.
When people ask me what driving the R8 was like I tell them this—it’s exactly as good as you think it is. Comfortable, spacious, and a bit like driving a 520 horsepower slab of granite. Regardless of the speed you’re traveling at, the R8 tracks exactly where you point it and is easy enough to drive at speed as your mom’s Corolla. Fortunately, Scott ordered his car with the gated manual transmission which only added to the drama and excitement of the experience. Direct, communicative steering, confidence inspiring brakes, and enough power to whip your head back and exploit positively any gap in traffic with ease. The Tubi exhaust elevated the R8’s soundtrack from Heavenly Exhaust Note to Shattering Sonic Eargasm. And just below the surface of the R8’s crisp Germanic perfection, is a frantic sense of barely contained rage. The car felt gritty and raw, and it wasn’t hard to imagine the joy you would receive from caning it around a track. Check out this video I recorded from the R8 while we stormed through a tunnel on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge HERE. Bottom line: I love this car.
Several hours later we made it to Virginia, one of my favorite places in the world. Beautiful farmlands, incredible weather, rich history, “southern” enough to be interesting, and “northern” enough to not make one start whistling the theme from “Deliverance”. We cruised through lush rolling hills, past dozens of Civil War monuments, surrounded by the sweet late spring air on our way to Blenheim Vineyards, a gorgeous vineyard owned by THE Dave Mathews. As it turned out, the roads around Blenheim were absolutely incredible and we, ahem, enjoyed them to the fullest. We arrived at Blenheim and were treated to a wine tasting and a short tour of the winery. Afterwards, we were anxious to get back on the road and onto the night’s hotel located in Knoxville, TN, so we jumped back in and headed out. Day 2 Highlight: Driving the R8. Duh.
Day 3 – Dragon Slayer: For me, one of the best parts of the Rally was seeing the looks on people’s faces when our entire convoy would roll through their neighborhood—a hilarious concoction of disbelief, followed by awe, topped off with either confusion or uncontrollable excitement, generally depending on the person’s age. It was also hugely entertaining to talk to the people who approached us whenever we stopped. Walking down to hotel parking garage on Wednesday morning, we met the manager who secured all the private parking spaces we were occupying. This normally reserved older woman babbled excitedly about how much she loved Chris’s Shelby GT500, the fun we must all be having and how great it was we were raising money for charity. I thought she was going to keel over when all the cars started up and revved their engines. As we rolled out of the garage into the morning sun, we were all thinking about only one thing: The Tail of the Dragon.
If you’re into cars or motorcycles, you’re bound to hear about the infamous Tail of the Dragon sooner or later. If you haven’t, allow me to be the first to welcome you to Higher Knowledge. The Dragon is a slithering ribbon of tarmac that boasts 318 curves in 11 miles—technically called US Route 129—that crosses the Tennessee/North Carolina border on the southern edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The drive to the Dragon is pretty tame and unassuming, but the excitement in our group was absolutely palpable as we closed in on what’s generally regarded as the best driving road in the country. It was mid-morning when we arrived at the start of the Dragon on the Tennessee side and we pulled over for a quick photo shoot against the backdrop of beautiful Chilhowee Lake.
From the Tennessee side, the Dragon begins as flowing and graceful as it follow Chilhowee Lake and weaves around the bottoms of thickly wooded hills. When the road departs from the lake and deep banks of trees fill the edges of the windshield, the Dragon surges uphill and begins its savagely winding path. There was an ear-to-ear grin permanently plastered on my face as Scott and I enjoyed what was very likely the best road either of us had been on. (Accelerate, hard on the brakes, navigate the hairpin, feel the banking of the turn push you down into the seat, back on the power, hard on the brakes, around the next hairpin, on the power again). Sitting in the passenger seat of the R8, it felt like I should be wearing a helmet and reading course notes to Travis Pastrana.
The main thing that struck me about the Dragon is that nothing can really prepare you for how technical it is. Pull up videos on YouTube or listen to someone try and explain how the off camber banked corners come at you mile after mile, and you’ll still have your mind blown the first time you drive it. You just can’t believe how severe the turns are and how demanding it is to drive it quickly. In the words of the eternal Jeremy Clarkson, “You need to be awake to drive this fast!” It was undoubtedly one of the best driving experiences I’ve ever had.
The day we were there, several car clubs and hordes of motorcycles were running on the Dragon. The Dragon is perhaps more a motorcycling mecca than anything else. It’s ideally suited for hard riding on a motorcycle, though having so many bikes on the road makes driving with caution and awareness even more important. If you’re going to make the pilgrimage to the Dragon, read up on it as much as possible first and treat it with the respect it deserves.
After we had our faces melted off on the Dragon, we headed to the Cherohola Skyway, another incredible piece of mountain road and the sister road to the Dragon. A driving mecca in-and-of itself, the Skyway’s sweeping turns and scenic vistas were the perfect way to wrap up what had been an incredible day. Our convoy lined up and headed Northeast towards the night’s hotel in Johnson City, TN. Day 3 Highlight: Taming the Dragon and running the gorgeous Cherohola Skyway.
Day 4 – Disturbing The Peace: A convoy of 18 exotic sports cars charging through sleepy rural Appalachian towns gives new meaning to the phrase disturbing the peace. It’s likely that not one of the people we passed on our way out of Johnson City or the other tiny towns we drove through had ever seen anything quite like it. I have a snapshot memory of a young boy standing on a dilapidated porch holding a dirty comforter (why?), eyes wide and mouth open as we passed by. Probably what I would look like if I was 10 and saw us, though hopefully minus the comforter. We left that part of the South seeing things quite unlike we’d seen before as well. Example—in the outskirts of some small town near Johnson City, we passed a low concrete block building that featured French maid outfits and fishnet stockings in their front window under a sign that read “The Fuzzy Hole stripclub”. While Drake and Lil’ Wayne have indeed given us the moto (YOLO!), that’s one experience I’m totally okay with never having.
Our journey was not without peril, however. Both Porsche 911 Turbos on the trip had their share of mechanical troubles—the “Team Bath Salts” Porsche driven by Sam Laurie and Alex Jarvie experienced major steering pump issues and had to be driven to a shop for repairs, and Fedele Cacia and his wife Ivana in the yellow Porsche had such severe transmission problems, the car ended up on a U-Haul trailer for the final leg of the trip. Considering we drove a combined 45,000 miles over the course of six days, it’s amazing there wasn’t more mechanical fallout. Both Porsche’s ended far behind the rest of the group and made it to the hotel well after the rest of us had dug into our delicious buffet dinner.
Back at the hotel, we tuned our navigation systems for Atlantic City, NJ and headed out. I jumped back into the R8 with Scott for the run to Atlantic City (did I mention how much I love this car?) Our first checkpoint was a restaurant just over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Virginia. If you’ve never been across this bridge, find some excuse to get down there and drive it because it is awesome. Seemingly endless stretches of bridge spear through unbroken miles of shimmering water. The bridge is interrupted by tunnels that dive beneath the Bay, while off in the distance, aircraft carriers and warships dock at a nearby naval base. The restaurant we stopped at was right on the beach and we ate and chilled under a perfect late spring day and watched the waves roll in.
Aside from our entire convoy uncorking their respective throttles in the tunnels and reveling in the full glory of performance exhaust notes in an enclosed space, it was a long and relatively boring drive from Virginia to Atlantic City. At least we had the anticipation of partying it up on the Jersey Shore like Snooki to console the boredom. Arriving at the hotel, however, threw those plans for a bit of a loop. We were supposed to get to the hotel and park our cars right in the valet lot, simple and easy. However, a misunderstanding somewhere in hotel management resulted in all the cars being stuck out front of the hotel for hours and several of the guys having to stay with them until the problem was solved. Not a great way to kick off the final night of the Rally, but the suitably epic amount of mayhem that took place that evening was enough to make up for it. Day 5 Highlight: Pinning the throttle in the R8… under water.
Day 6 – Homeward Bound: Part of me was sad to see the last day of the Rally. The previous five days had convinced me that I could very likely drive the Audi R8 everyday for the rest of time. The other part of me, however, was definitely looking forward to getting back home. For the final leg of the trip, I jumped in “Team Re-Pete’s” Audi S4 with Pete Ladas and Pete Gochis (yes, two Pete’s in the same car). Several of the guys had already headed out so the remaining cars made for the highway together and headed north. At a fuel stop somewhere (forgive me for not remembering where we were, all the fuel stops started to blend together), we spotted a wildly modified Suzuki GSX-R 1000 with potentially the longest swingarm in history and an enormous bottle of nitrous strapped to the back. The owner, who had to be more no more than 23, said even without the nitrous he could lift the front wheel of the bike off the ground, and that he hadn’t fully used the nitrous because he was afraid to. Good times.
We landed at the Blue Colony Diner in Newtown, CT for one final load of carbs, salt and sugar (thank you french fries, fried chicken and milkshakes) before we split up and headed our separate ways. One by one, the cars peeled off and headed for home, but not before throwing a final fist pump out the window, or making promises to connect up again for the next Yuppie Racing event. The Petes and I pulled into Aston Martin of New England tired, but excited to be so close to home. While I was happy to be back and sincerely looking forward to not driving and/or moving for as long as possible, even now it’s still hard to forget the unearthly howl of the Audi R8, the chilling supercharger whine from the Lotus Exige, and remembering that the only thing I needed to do each day was love every moment of driving. I can’t wait for my next rally.
Many thanks and much respect to all the guys on this year’s Yuppie Rally. Special thanks to Chris Benvie and Pete Ladas from Yuppie Racing, Matt Nolan and Steve Oldford at Aston Martin of New England, the Team O’Neil Rally School for their incredibly generous donation, and to Scott Marberblatt for letting me drive his spectacular car.
One of my all time favorite automotive quotes comes from freelance auto journo Andrew Frankel (@Andrew_Frankel). His experience driving the almighty Bugatti Veyron for the first time is still the best I’ve ever read: “When I finally stopped accelerating I had to slow down and do it all over again, just to make sure I hadn’t been dreaming. Whatever your definition of fast, be it defined by Porsche 911, Ferrari F430 or Mercedes SLR McLaren, the Veyron will take it and, in one instant, burn it before your eyes. Time and distance fuse into one unintelligible fog in your head. In the public road environment, there has never been anything like this.”
I would be so bold as to take that one step further and rewrite it for this week’s Car in the Wild, the Nissan R35 GT-R. “… Whatever your definition of fast, be it defined by a Porsche 911 Turbo/GT2/GT3, Ferrari 430/458/FF, or pretty much anything else you can think of, the GT-R will take it and, in one instant, burn it before your eyes… In the public road environment, nothing can touch the GT-R’s shattering performance for such a bargain-basement price. Supercars costing three times more than the GT-R are robbed blind.”
Like the Veyron, there are few superlatives left to describe the GT-R; they’ve all be consumed ad naseum by anyone who has ever driven one. Its world crushing performance continues to baffle even the most seasoned automotive journalists years after its launch. One of the most interesting things about the GT-R is when you look at it on paper, it doesn’t seem like it would eat some of the best cars on the planet for lunch. A twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-6 under the hood produces “only” 480 horsepower and is responsible for hauling around a rather portly 3,800 pounds. The end result, however, is quite frankly a little ridiculous — this $85,000-ish car sprints to 60 miles per hour in the mid 3-second range, and continues running onto a top speed of 193 miles per hour. Those figures embarrass some of the finest thoroughbreds from anywhere in the world. Subsequent updates to the GT-R increased horsepower to 540, and dropped the 0-60 mph time to a stunning 2.9 seconds. There are only a handful of cars you can buy that are capable of cracking the 3-second barrier, and this incredible performance comes from the same company that produces the Leaf electric car and the Titan pickup truck.
The GT-R certainly isn’t the prettiest car on the road, but it definitely does pack a deadly punch. Since it’s introduction in 2007, the GT-R has been a champion both on and off the track winning multiple racing titles as well as the 2009 International Car of the Year award, and Car of the Year awards from magazines like Top Gear, Motor Trend, and Evo. Admittedly, a lot of Top Gear videos get posted on TDC, but it’s usually for a good reason. Following that tradition, here is yet another hilarious Jeremy Clarkson segment, this time reviewing the GT-R. Enjoy.
In the TDC Dream Garage, there will be a plethora of precious machinery from all over the world — gleaming red Ferraris, bombastic yellow Lamborghinis and naked carbon fiber Paganis from Italy, decadent Bentleys and Rolls-Royces from England, and savagely purposeful BMWs and Porsches from Germany. Amongst them will be an alpine white Nissan GT-R from Japan, bristling with technology and an insatiable Napoleon complex, always looking to land a knockout punch on cars far above its pay grade.
I was originally going to wait until Thursday to put this post up, but I’m so fired up about these photos I didn’t feel like waiting any longer. These were taken while I was down at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, Mass for YuppieRacing’s first Cars & Coffee event of the season on April 7th. Over 300 cars ended up turning out on a gorgeous but chilly morning, and spectators were treated to several spectacular automotive rarities – half-a-dozen Nissan GT-Rs, a shatteringly yellow Ferrari 430 Scuderia, a pack of Audi RS4s, and a RAUH-Welt Begriff 930 Wide Body Porsche, which was hands down the coolest car there. If you’re not familiar with RWB, visit their website HERE. While you’re at it, visit YuppieRacing’s website HERE and their Facebook page HERE, too. Enjoy the photos, and I’ll see you at the next YR Cars & Coffee on May 12th!
Few manufacturers can create a product or brand that defines absolutely the category or marketplace they compete in. When it does happen, even if you’ve never used the product or brand before, understanding of what it is and what it means is ubiquitous. When someone says, “That couch is the Cadillac of couches,” you know that couch is probably damn good. Or when you hear, “It’s a Dusie,” your mind flashes to the behemoth Deusenbergs of yore and the supreme luxury they represent. And with this week’s ‘Car in the Wild’, simply uttering the name ‘Aston Martin’ conveys the very essence of cool, luxury, and class. And this, the DBS, Aston Martin’s flagship car, is the rolling epitome of the brand’s DNA.
To the untrained eye (heck, to even the trained eye sometimes), the DBS looks basically the same as another Aston Martin, the DB9. And while the cars are very similar in nearly every way, the DBS is the harder, faster version of the DB9. Aston Martin essentially sent the DB9 to the gym, put a muscle shirt on it, had it grow a chinstrap beard, and unleashed it into the world. How’d they do? Well, a certain Mr. James Bond drove one in the last two 007 movies, so not too shabby methinks. With these changes, the philosophy of the two cars has grown apart as well. While the DB9 is focused on being a long distance grand tourer with sporting pretensions, the DBS is first and foremost a supercar with undertones of grand touring. The distinction between the DB9 and the DBS continues with minor but distinct cosmetic differences: two small hood scoops, a deeper chin spoiler, larger wheels, and carbon ceramic brakes among others. The result is a tremendously capable and powerful GT car that looks the business from every angle. Mr. Bond’s vehicle of choice packs a 6-liter V12 that pumps out 510 horsepower and 420 lb-ft. of torque, enough to dispense the run to 60 mph in a shade over four seconds, all the while cosseting the driver in the lap of distinctly British luxury.
Back to the styling for a moment. Some people criticize Aston Martin for essentially making the same car with four different badges and a look at their product portfolio seems to support this claim. The cars, the Vantage, DB9, Virage, and DBS, do look almost identical. Even the four door Aston, the Rapide, looks like the same car. However, delve deeper into each car and you’ll find substantial differences that separate them from each other. At the “bottom” of the food chain is the V8 Vantage, also known as the “baby Aston.” Since its introduction in 2005, there have been a number of exciting Vantage variants including the V12 Vantage, the N400, and the Vantage S that help make it not-so-bottom-of-the-foodchain. Check out Fifth Gear’s review of the epic V12 Vantage HERE.
The newest member of the Aston Martin family is the Virage. It, uhh, looks exactly like the DB9 and the DBS, doesn’t it? Except for minor visual cues, it looks like the same car. There is method to the madness here, however. Aston created the Virage to fill the power, price, and function gap between the DB9 and the DBS . The DB9 is the “soft” grand tourer, the Virage turns the heat up a little from there, and the DBS wears the family crown. It can all be a little confusing, but one auto magazine explained Aston’s family tree by saying the three cars were “theme and variations” on the same DNA. Again, cue Fifth Gear – HERE.
Bottom line, the DBS is one of the coolest cars on the road from one of the world’s most storied marquees. Money being no object, there would be a DBS just like the one pictured in the TDC Dream Garage. And a martini, shaken, not stirred.
In the great pantheon of super-saloons, there is one car that is responsible for giving rise to the entire segment. Ze Germans without a doubt make some of the world’s finest super-saloons, luxurious four door sedans that carry a velvet wrapped ballistic missile under the hood, topped with a dollop of technological whipped cream. Bahn-burners like the Audi RS6, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, and Porsche Panamera Turbo all come to the fight with their own blend of power, luxury and special-ness, but they don’t carry the same heritage or brutality of this particular car. The rest of the world tries to compete as well: the Italians have the Maserati Quattroporte, the English have the Aston Martin Rapide, and the ‘Mericans have the Cadillac CTS-V. They are all excellent cars in their own right, but this car continues to stand above the rest. What is it? The BMW M5.
This particular iteration, the E60, is legendary in it’s own right, even if it was a flawed machine. It’s 5-liter V10 developed over 500 horsepower in “M” mode, would rev to a stratospheric 8,250 rpms, and had an exhaust howl that would send chills down your spine. Big vented brakes fill the 10-spoke wheels, and quad exhaust tips protrude from what is, quite frankly, a rather bulbous and unsightly rear end. Spotted at the Gold’s Gym in Manchester, this car’s owner plans on driving it through the winter (after fitting it with snow tires), which should make for an entertaining few months. Imagine sitting at a stoplight on an empty snow covered road, 500 horsepower at your disposal, and pinning it when the light turns green. Rooster tails, screaming engine, and zero forward progress would abound.
While Top Gear’s car reviews tend to be deeply biased an heavily opinionated, they do make for damn entertaining television, and every once in a while they seem to be spot on with a car’s character. Such is the case with Jeremy Clarkson’s review of the M5 from a few years back. Check out the two part video below on the E60, and enjoy Jezza at his finest.
So yes, while the gearbox is clunky, the sat nav woman is annoying, and it looks like it hit every branch of the ol’ ugly tree on the way down, it is an epic car with an epic, wailing, sonorous engine. To see what the next generation car will look like, grab a copy of the most recent Car & Driver magazine and check out the 2013 M5 that will be hitting our shores in the next year or so. In the meantime, be sure to look for this silver M5 whipping about on snowy Manchester roads this season, and wish you were behind the wheel.
Happy Friday. Last day of the week and you’re jacked for the weekend. It’s sunny out, you brought flowers in for your assistant because she fixed what she bumbled yesterday and her daughter is feeling better. Your boss actually apologized to you, which you wrote down on your calendar because you never know when that’s going to happen again, and people all over the office think you’re up to something questionable because you’re wearing a smile so big. They’re wrong though. You know why? You’re grinning like an idiot because you just romped down the back roads to work in your new McLaren MP4-12C and burnt through half a tank of fuel in 20 minutes.
The McLaren’s name sounds like a call sign for an X-Wing from Star Wars. It should. It was born from the minds of the developers of the cult classic McLaren F1, widely regarded as the greatest supercar ever made, and comes loaded with power and tech. Kids around the world are ripping down their posters of the F1 and putting up the new MP4.
“Oh, the engine only has 3.8 liters,” says your monster-muscle Viper friend. Yep. It does. It also gets from 0-62 mph in 3.1 seconds, continuing on to 124.5 miles an hour in 8.9 seconds, and then finishes the quarter mile at 10.9. You’ve gone a quarter of a mile before your niece in her Prius has even gotten to 60 mph. Where was your Viper designed? In a barn? The MP4 was designed in a wind tunnel and on the race track with a little help from Louis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Maybe Dale Jr. can just stay home because your Viper isn’t getting any faster. Let me put the counter arguments to rest: The MP4-12C isn’t even the race version. It’s the street version for going to get a coffee at 200 mph. You want to see a real race car that’s going to have a road version in the near future? Google the MP4-12C GT3 car; go hold onto your willy and sit in the corner.
Wow. That was aggressive. Want something more aggressive?
Saturday. The weekend starts with a little shot of espresso and some toast with local raspberry jam, perhaps a bit of fresh grapefruit. Reason for the espresso is to wake you up and get those synapses firing. Why not regular coffee? You’re never going to want to get out of your Saturday track car so no bathroom breaks. Light breakfast while the rest of your family is mowing through their pancakes and sausage? You don’t want to be throwing up on the dash while pulling 1.5g’s. Kiss your wife, hug your daughter, and rustle your son’s mop of hair. Grab the key fob, open the garage doors, and slide into the seat of your Ferrari 599 GTO.
Welcome to the road going version of the Ferrari 599XX, the only road car from Ferrari to go sub-seven seconds on the infamous Nurburgring racetrack; 6:58.16 to be exact. A random number is nothing without comparison, so here are a few reference points: Around Fiorano (Ferrari’s testing grounds), the mighty Ferrari Enzo lapped the track in 1:24.9. The famous F50 from the ‘90’s did it in 1:26.5, and the every-rich-guys F430 did it in 1:27. The GTO spanked them all with a time of 1:24. You know what else? The GTO even has air conditioning and a radio. This is the fastest road car to ever grace the tarmac of Fiorano, ever.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and do a little bit of maths, so stay with me. Fiorano is 1.9 miles long and the GTO was 0.9 seconds faster than the Enzo. The Enzo’s Nurburgring lap record is 7:25.7. At 0.9 seconds per 1.9 miles faster, all things being equal, the GTO would have put up a 7:18.36 ring time. That is four seconds faster than the Viper ACR, six seconds faster than the Nissan GTR Spec V, Pagani Zonda F and Maseratti MC12. Disgusting. The best thing out of all this? Between yesterday and today, you’ve driven some of the finest machinery in the world, and the weekend isn’t even over yet. Today you drove a little red GTO sized electron through the Hadron Collider, approached what felt .99 light speed, and then drove home and played catch with your boy. It’s good to be you.
Sunday. Day of the cruise. Day of nostalgia. This is the day where you come down from the testosterone and adrenaline from yesterday and you drive what you drive because you’re a car guy. Sunday is the day you drive the car the manufacturer asked you to buy. When you’re in this rarified car buying status where dollar figures have multiple commas between the zeroes, there are some cars that transcend their price tag and their status. There are cars out there that are produced at a loss to the company producing them. All business sense goes out the window because this object is produced from something deeper than a desire to sell a car, something like morality and love. That’s where your Sunday car comes from. With this car, you didn’t bribe the company into letting you have the keys by showing them your stock portfolio, you had to earn it. I should stop calling it a car; it’s more a piece of living art. It breathes and screams and moans, and sometimes is just gracefully silent. Some of them have been put into private collector’s warehouses. One is probably sitting under Buckingham Palace.
The car must have a price however. The Veyron was once the world’s most expensive car at $1,400,000.00. No longer. This rolling sculpture ticks in at glorious $2,300,000.00. This is the crown jewel of your garage.
That difference of $900,000 could almost buy you the world’s oldest Corvette (one of the rarest cars in the world). Corvettes #001 and 002 have been lost to history but the 1953 Corvette #003 is still out there and just sold at auction for a cool $1 million. You were there, you thought about it, but didn’t raise your paddle. It’s because out of respect, you couldn’t drive that car. It’s far too precious.
Your crown jewel and Sunday car is the Aston Martin One-77.
You don’t have the radio on because you love the sounds the car makes on its own. It is supercar in its own right but also a sculpture worthy of the contemporary exhibition space in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City or the Tate Modern in London. This car is literally hand built one at a time. The aluminum body is hand shaped on an English wheel. The engine block isn’t cast, it’s machined out of a single block of metal. The frame and body of the car are designed specifically to channel the engine’s sounds into the cabin. Each car’s steering wheel, seat, paddle shifters, everything is designed to fit the individual owner’s driving style and body type. The CEO of Aston Martin Ulrich Bez, wanted each car to fit its owner like a tailored suit and to be purposefully built to be an extension of you. It is an honor to drive the One-77. You feel privileged. Anyone can spend money and buy a fast car, but not everyone can be a part of historic art.
In the One-77 you are James Bond. You have swagger. Not out of arrogance, but out of confidence. You are a gentleman driver and a badass pavement slayer. You know that Dos Equis man? He comes to you with his car questions. When Chuck Norris needs an oil change, he calls your phone number. He might dent his oil pan with a round house kick. When Prince Abdullah asks you to sell your Aston, you politely decline but offer to play squash next weekend. When EVO magazine wants to do a cover shoot of the One-77 you reply, “Sure! Don’t worry about the money, just take it for a spin.”
Great cars aren’t about self promotion and indulgence but about community, history, and pushing the limits of technology. You could have fifty cars, but you don’t. Your approach isn’t so flamboyant so you stick with a meager but pronounced seven. Even though you’re a gentleman, you’re still a car guy at heart. Now go drink a great beer and barbeque a steak.
Until next time, keep musing and driving.
– The Car Guy (Please welcome The Car Guy to the esteemed group of TDC contributors. The Car Guy will be contributing to the ongoing series, Musings of a Car Guy. Look for another piece from this talented writer soon!)