Happiness on wheels

    23 March 2016

    Here it is, its engine cooling outside my house in the wrong end of W10. ‘I arrived from the A40 but turned it round so it would be facing the right way for you — seeing as you’re a lady and all,’ says the delivery man. He doesn’t actually say that last part, but I can tell he’s thinking it. ‘We don’t get many women reviewers,’ he says, as I sign for it. I smile reassuringly. ‘Don’t worry; I’ll be careful.’

    Having explained the workings as though to a slightly retarded child, he hands over the key (which is more like a smooth black pebble) with the air of Lord Elgin handing back the Marbles. I click the alarm, and the Aston Martin Vanquish winks at me, its wing mirrors retracting expensively shut.

    The next morning I leave early to attend, of all things, a menopause conference in Greenwich. Oh, the irony: a middle-aged woman driving every middle-aged man’s wet dream to a day of discussions about the benefits of HRT and maintaining a strong pelvic floor.

    My ride glistens in the morning rain, miraculously unscathed by its night in the wrong end of town. I put my foot on the brake and slide the key into its slot. The gentlest pressure brings forth a deep, throaty growl that sends pigeons flapping and wakes up the workers waiting at the bus stop. I ease out in the direction of the flyover.

    The next 40 minutes elicit a range of responses. Principally, the realisation that money — £200,000, to be precise — can buy you happiness. Somewhere around Bloomsbury, I start to wonder whether, if we sold the house and got rid of all our junk, we might be able to live in this car. Admittedly, it would be a little tricky with the children: we’d have to remove their legs in order to fit them in the back seat. But really, a small price to pay compared to the benefits of owning such a sublime piece of automotive engineering. And they’d never be late for school again.

    Besides, if you ignore the lack of boot space and the less than ecological fuel consumption (Aston Martin say they’ve cut CO² emissions by 10 per cent on average — down to 298 g/km — but it still won’t win you eco-driver of the year), the Vanquish is more practical than you might think. Unlike many high-performance cars, it is packed with creature comforts and clever touches that give it a distinctly solicitous feel, like an especially attentive date. When you’re parking it, the wing mirrors move around helpfully so you can see the kerb; the in-built satnav is superb; you can adjust your driving position to perfection. It even managed to find its way into my iPhone and extract my music without, as I recall, my asking it to. Cheeky. And when the key accidentally fell out of my pocket into Barnes Pond as I was collecting a duck-egg for a small child, it had no noticeable effect on its ability to start. Waterproof, too!

    In fact, there were moments when I started to wonder whether this car could read my mind. It is so perfectly calibrated, so finely tuned, its responses so heightened, that the pleasure of driving it feels almost organic, as though human and machine were as one.

    Plus, of course, it’s got some serious power. Nought to 60 in 3.6 seconds — and that’s with an automatic gearbox, too (which Aston Martin are very excited about: apparently it’s faster than the fastest racing driver; it certainly helped me cut through the rush-hour traffic). One minute it’s gliding along all steady and silent, the next it swoops in for the kill, so fast the human eye can barely catch it, Tarmac melting beneath its ten-spoke forged alloy wheels. It’s like the ideal boyfriend, really: a gentleman most of the time, but capable of thoroughly disgraceful behaviour when necessary.

    If the Vanquish’s responses are thrilling, so too is the response it triggers in others. Men, if you are considering purchasing this car in order to attract younger female mates, I would urge you to think again. The Vanquish is not a babe magnet: it’s a man magnet.

    Old, young, gay, straight, black, white — every single male who saw this car immediately wanted to possess it. Even in sombre navy-blue livery, about as subtle as you can get, it triggered some kind of deep hormonal response. I was practically fighting them off, even in the car park of the menopause conference.

    I have just one complaint. The name. It sounds like a bathroom cleaner. As in: ‘Housewives: banish harmful germs forever with the power of Vanquish!’ It’s as though Ian Fleming had christened Bond Kevin. Then again, I’m a girl, so what do I know?



    0-60 mph: 3.6 sec
    201 mph
    22.1 mpg
    298 g/km