Figuratively speaking, an Aston Martin can leave most men weak in the knees. Driving one for the first time has as much impact as being bombarded by a smart cluster bomb in the Korengal valley in Afghanistan – only you’ll probably survive to tell an awesome tale. I figured that Bharat Aggarwal, a 26-year old business tycoon, is now a veteran of such a barrage. His 2008 meteorite grey example, probably the oldest V8 Vantage in the country, sounded like I was revisiting a slightly de-tuned, but no less virile copy of the Gulf Oil liveried Aston Martin DBR9s that visited Mumbai a few years ago.
In essence, I could see why someone like David Richards would want to pick up a brand like Aston Martin – and my knees hadn’t stopped playing ping-pong. Admittedly, this was my First. Real. Time. behind the wheel of an Aston Martin, so some exaggeration is, well,anticipated and therefore forgiven (humour me, please). Also, forgive Bharat and me... okay, mostly Bharat, for having bought a 4.3-litre V8 Vantage and not the current production 4.7 motor. But then it doesn’t take away from the fact fact that it is an Aston Martin, the sum total of which means there were, as of December 2010, no more than half a dozen examples of the winged logo resting on Gaydon’s finest in the country.
But since the calendar turned a new page, more cars have been quietly finding their way into the homes of the rich and famous across the country. Yes, Aston Martin is officially in India, through two dealers (Delhi and Mumbai) and they have big plans when their showrooms open in April – but more on that later when I’m done telling you about the Vantage. Shall we proceed?
Oh yes, the V8 Vantage. Sonorous, stupendous, stupefying. It may only be a traditional 911 contender, but it shames it for presence. The veil of fog had long lifted and it revealed the Aston’s stunning lines with Delhi’s power corridor as a backdrop. Mystique always surrounds Astons, which is why they turn heads, in a non-Ferrari sort of way. It’s hard to put a finger on a qualifying reason, but there’s something intrinsic about the way the exterior design leaves your aorta feeling a bit narrow for the job on hand. Even in a non-loud colour, it has this ability to stand out in a world filled with styling-deprived motors. Respect!
Lionel Martin, the founder, said about his cars, ‘A quality car of good performance and appearance: a car for the discerning owner driver with fast touring in mind, designed, developed, engineered and built as an individual’. No doubt about its styling then, but how about its performance? The throaty V8 sounds good enough for the Gods to leave the door to heaven slightly ajar for a late entry into the celestial club. They won’t blame you for being delayed by your one-excursion-toomany in the Vantage – it just sounds fabulous! The 4.3- litre V8 is a development of the long-gone 4.2 V8 that used to power the Jaguar XK, but with 380 bhp on offer, instead of the current 4.7-litre’s 420 bhp. It still has the measure of anything that even a modern-day 997 Porsche non-Turbo has to offer.
And that’s something Aston is very good at, just like its erstwhile sister company, Jaguar. It doesn’t have the sort of engineering finesse of a Porsche, nor the hallowed heritage of Ferrari, but it does make some wonderful and achingly beautiful cars. With 50 cars to sell in the first year in India (which both dealers say is achievable) and a price tag ranging from a respectable Rs 1.2 crore for the Vantage to ` 2.4 crore for the Rapide and DBS, it also seems to be nicely positioned to steal some fury away from the German and Italian brands – in hushed tones, of course.
A big thank you to the nice men and women at Cannonball Club, New Delhi, for the Aston Martin Vantage
A U T O D A T A
Price: Rs 1.25 CR (EST)
Displacement: 4280cc, V8
Max power: 380 bhp@7300 rpm
Max torque: 41.7 kgm@5000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
F/R: Independent double wishbones
235/45 ZR18 (f)
275/40 ZR18 (r)
L/W/H (mm): 4382/1866/1255 mm
Wheelbase: 2600 mm
Kerb weight: 1570 kg
0-100 kph: 4.9 secs
Top speed: 273 kph