There’s a certain inevitability about Aston Martin; it’s impossible to discuss it without referencing James Bond. Even when BMW was the brand supplying 007’s cars, he was thought of as an Aston driver. The British sports car firm delights in the association, as you perhaps would if you could call upon the power of the world’s most powerful movie franchise to give your company a lift every couple of years.
Indeed, Aston was celebrating it when it loaned me its newest open-top car for the weekend. I was to drive the Vanquish Volante to Covent Garden for a Sunday afternoon meet-up to mark the opening of the Bond In Motion exhibition. And not just dump it in an NCP multi-story, either; Aston had arranged for us to park within Covent Garden market itself. Aston Martin has that power. It was this that demonstrated to me that for all its 6.0-litre V12-engined performance, all-aluminium V12 platform precision and impeccable high-speed long-distance comfort, one of the biggest pleasures in owning an Aston Martin is the reaction of others to it.
This was a £200,000 car that, upon arrival, Aston required me to gently drive up a kerb, along a pathway and through much of Covent Garden itself before finding my parking space. They hadn’t closed it to the public. It could have been incendiary. But no. People stopped, and waited. People admired. People took endless smartphone photos (and the odd, rather precarious, selfie as I loomed towards them). People were even smiling at me, giving me the thumbs up.
The usual super-expensive supercar envy was replaced by genuine passion for a car that costs the same as a rather nice house. I was even happy to have the roof down, safe in the knowledge that nobody would throw litter in or start shouting unpleasantries. Indeed, I’d been happy to lower it on the way down too because, shorn of the self-consciousness you get in other flash motors, the big Vantage Volante is such an elegant car to tool around in. It’s not too blustery in there if you keep speeds down and the mechanical noise of the V12 is lovely.
The only worry I had was leaving it parked in Covent Garden, because the Vanquish is Aston’s most beautiful car, and it will almost certainly prove to be one of its most beautiful ever. People seem to find rubbing their hands along its complex, curvaceous lines irresistible, trying to get a feel for the voluptuousness of it. For Aston, it was a bit of a worry to see people queuing up to cop a feel.
The only solution was to put a rope barrier around it, which upped its celebrity status even further. And with 573hp and 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds,the cross-country drive home was a also blast – removing the roof has turned the slightly over-firm Vanquish coupe into a lovely, fast sports GT car.
But staying under the radar didn’t feel right, so I diverted into town for the last part of the journey. Switched on the sports exhaust. Bond would be dismayed, for this was hardly secret spy stuff. The reaction that made me feel like a movie star was worth it, though.