It was the Lamborghini’s screaming yellow paint that grabbed my attention. Driving down a busy road, I saw it out of the corner of my eye in a busy mall parking lot. My first reaction was the one I went with – slam on the brakes, turn into the Exit of a bank parking lot, bolt across an intersection with only the briefest of glances, and stop a few spaces away from the Lambo, hoping no one noticed I just broke about six traffic laws to get to this car.
It was worth it. Don’t believe me? Umm, just look at it. This is probably the rarest and the most expensive Car in the Wild to date – the Lamborghini Aventador LP 720-4 50th Anniversary Edition. Only 100 of these were made for the entire world, and here we have one in Bedford, New Hampshire of all places. As the numbers in the name might suggest, the Aventador in 50th-anny guise makes 720 horsepower (20 more than the standard car) from its 6.5-liter V12, and routes power through all four wheels. And, all that bat-shit crazy body work isn’t just there for show – it improves the car’s downforce by around 50 percent. Top speed checks in at 217 mph, and 0-60 mph is dispatched with in about three seconds. So, it’s a Lamborghini that’s stupid fast and looks nuts. Expect anything less?
I struggle to think of another car more perfectly designed for a bedroom wall poster or desktop background than the Aventador. Heck, one has been on my computer for the last month. And clearly, that sentiment is shared by more than a few people. In my 15 or so minutes taking pictures of (i.e. – restraining my carnal desires toward) the Aventador, at least a dozen people made like me and went out of their way to oggle the yellow Lambo. Most had no clue what it was, only that it looked like the furtive love child of the Batmobile and a Star Destroyer and that they adored it. One woman practically ran up to me and started asking rapid-fire, wild-eyed questions. Lady, I don’t wear near enough Gucci or gold to own this. Relax.
And, right on cue, the owner walked over. I had spotted him all the way across the mall parking lot – a brown suit with V-neck tee shirt, big dark Ray-Bans, slicked down hair, and a gold necklace. I couldn’t have drawn a more perfect image of a Lamborghini owner if I tried. I noticed the Aventador wore Florida plates, so I casually asked him if he had driven up here, thinking that surely he hadn’t. It would cost, like, a BMWs worth of gas for that trip, this thing is a pig. He gave me a dismissive look. “Yeah, actually. It wasn’t too bad. It’s a little rough on the highway, but I did it.” I got a brief nod, and he shut the door.
The Aventador started with a wicked bark and a metallic whir, and its idle was angry and aggressive. Classic rock blared from the speakers as he pulled away, leaving me grinning like an idiot in the wash of the howling Italian V12. Seeing the Aventador sparked a feeling that I’ve missed, the one that first inspired my love of cars. It’s the same one that made me drive like a maniac to be around it, if only for a few minutes: it made me feel like a kid again.
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.
Good writing can come from anywhere – a particularly articulate essay for school, a legendary novel, a satisfyingly succinct news article, or a exceptionally poetic piece of poetry. As a writer and an avid reader, I can appreciate and enjoy all of these instances of excellent writing. However, there is one area of writing that for me simply overshadows all the rest – automotive journalism. I literally can only think of about three other things I love more than finding a piece of auto writing that simply explodes off the page like a piston detonating in a cylinder. You know you’ve found it when the chills down your spine, the description of the engine note actually reverberates in your ears, and your palms sweat as the author describes the car’s incredible turn of speed. Oh yes, how I love it.
For this TDC entry, I wanted to put forth these five pieces of what I consider to be truly exceptional examples of what I’m on about. Each author makes a compelling case for why cars are not simply modes of transportation, but a reason for life. Read them, digest and absorb their beautiful prose and flowing language, and then let me know what you think about them and which one is your favorite. Without any further ado, I present these exquisite articles for your consumption. Enjoy!
Written by Autoblog’s Jonathon Ramsey way back in August 2010, this piece caught my heart because of it’s glorious detail and the way it manages to be an exciting review of what is without doubt one of Audi’s finest automobiles ever, and at the same time an insightful look into the way the car changes fundamental elements of driving. Need an example? Check it. “The Audi R8 has made canyon running so easy, and the Audi R8 V10 Spyder has made it look and feel so good, that it’s pornographically indecent.” Stop reading this, and go read that.
There are a lot of automotive websites out there, but there are none that can touch Jalopnik on its unique brand of humor, crudeness, or hilarious insights. Case in point, this piece by Sam Smith from July 2010 on one of my favorite cars of all time, the Bentley Mulsanne. The thing I particularly love about this piece is that because the Mulsanne is so expensive and so over the top, it’s easy to exploit that insanity into a brilliantly entertaining review, and Smith absolutely nails it. “The glovebox hinges are heavy chrome bastards you could hang a lifeboat from. Every control has weight, every switch or instrument is heavily damped, and the door handles contain more mass than the entire door in the average Honda. A Mercedes-Benz does not feel like this. Neither does a Bentley Continental. Even most Rolls-Royces fall a bit short.”
Sam Smith from Jalopnik was on a roll back in July 2010. Both this post and the Bentley Mulsanne first drive are straight epic. I primarily love this piece for two reasons: 1.) The Cadillac CTS-V is one of the best cars on the road today, period. 2.) In classic Jalopnik fashion, Smith reviews the car but does it while on a wacky adventure and draws the reader into his hilarious affair with Caddy’s outrageous supercharged coupe. “A brief word about the CTS-V coupe’s supercharged, 556-hp, 551-lb-ft, 6.2-liter V-8: It is the kind of unholy device you do not screw with. It leaps toward the rev limiter with such fury that, were you the type of person to have a pile of donuts in your lap while driving, most of those donuts would end up on your shirt. It is quiet; from the cabin, all you hear is a subdued growl and no supercharger whine whatsoever. Then the earth opens up, swallows you, and spits you back out. When you wake up, you are on the other side of the planet.” That’s what I’m talking about.
This Autoblog review, written by Jonathon Ramsey, was a primary catalyst for me wanting to write about cars. No joke, every time I read this piece, it still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck and tears to well up in my eyes. That may sound strange, but follow the link and read it for yourself and I challenge you to not feel the same way. It’s something about the way Ramsey builds such gorgeous analogies and puts the reader right in the driver’s seat that so startlingly takes your breath away. “As long as you’re not on some spit of asphalt custom made for a Lotus Elise, the LP640 is limited only by your knowledge of the road and your knowledge of how to drive it. The car isn’t glued to the road — it is the road, a single amplitude of tarmac flowing between the shoulders. Go with it, and you will go far, my son…”
I’ve read a lot of car reviews in my time, but NEVER have I read anything like this. Long time C&D editor Aaron Robinson writes one of the most captivating road test pieces I have ever come across. Robinson demonstrates with every line what the difference is between people who write for low-budget car blogs (ahem), and the people who pen lines for one of the best magazines in the biz. Not only is the Aventador the stuff of dreams, but Robinson’s descriptions of Lambo’s finest offering make me want to be a better man. “If you have the Aventador’s stability control set to “corsa” (or, indeed, turned off) and are an Apache with the throttle, it’ll reward with a sturdy push from the back to rotate you toward the path of righteousness. It can thus achieve truly terrifying speeds without feeling stressed . . . and truly terrifying noises. The 8500-rpm redline and furious spin-up of torque, especially from 5000 on when the ears flatten against the deep percussive energy emanating from the back, remind you of why the major Italian boutiques eschew turbos.”
Like a brilliant and complex sunset, 2011 is slipping under the horizon. The end of another year provides time for reflection, for speculation on what the future may hold, and a re-commitment to not put off all those important things for another year. 2011 was kind of a crazy year what with all the local and global turmoil, the deposing of dictators, the ending of old wars and the starting of new ones.
2011 was a significant year for the automobile as well. It saw the untimely death of several beloved racing drivers, the birth of the new all-conquering BMW M5 and Lamborghini Aventador, one of the most exciting Formula1 seasons in recent memory, the rise of the American car companies as legitimate contenders, and the emergence of EVs as a legitimate path for the future of the car, to name just a few. 2011 was also a big year for Top Dead Center. Starting with a humble Genesis in February, the past few months running TDC has allowed me to do some great things like interview Travis Pastrana and lap Monticello Motor Club, meet fantastic new people and ride in my first Ferrari, develop my writing talents and have a perfectly legitimate excuse to be a card-carrying gearhead.
I wanted to take this time to not only pay tribute to the greatness that was 2011, but to take a look at all the exciting things coming down the road in 2012. Next month alone TDC will showcase an interview with a dirtbiking child prodigy, a feature on an amazing racing team with a focus on children’s charities, a photo extravaganza from the New England International Auto Show, and where in New Hampshire to crack the throttle wide open on your snowmobile. 2012 will also see TDC host an epic car show in conjunction with Guardian Angel Motorsports and New England Blast, and exciting new content from guest contributors.
For me personally, creating TDC has been a tremendously rewarding and challenging experience. Finding the personal discipline to write consistent content that is (hopefully) interesting and fun to read has been far more difficult than I originally thought, but seeing the consistent rise of visits to the site inspires me to dust off the keypad each week and put thoughts into words. It’s also surprisingly more meaningful than I had hoped to have people read your work, comment and post on it, and share it with others. It’s been an incredible experience and I want to say a sincere thank you to everyone who has helped me, whether it was providing story ideas, helping edit pieces, or smacking me upside the head when I made a mistake (which I need. Often.) Although it’s far from perfect and has a lot of growing to do, I am proud of what this site is, and is becoming. I certainly hope you’ll continue to visit here and not only support local journalism, but continue to fuel the dreams that propel you to your optimum combustion.