Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster : the name's Bond (well, for one day at least...)
Even if you didn't quite make it into the Surrey Life Rich List this year, that doesn't mean you can't look the part. ALAN TOVEY took the latest Aston Martin onto the country lanes of Surrey
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine 2008
When I first learnt that I was to take custody of a �100,000 Aston Martin for a weekend, it drew a fairly standard response from all those that I informed of my good fortune. "Wow, that's amazing", "you lucky bleeder" and "can I have a spin in it?" were the stock replies. Not me, though. My first thought at the prospect of receiving a low-slung and menacing-looking V8 Vantage Roadster was: "How will it get over the speed bumps in my road?" Evidently, I'm more practical than prosperous. But in an effort to drag me out of penury (if only temporarily), Aston Martin were willing to lend me this masterpiece of British engineering to transport me from my hovel to the high life - and, needless to say, I wasn't going to say no. A Bond for life... Things started well. It was delivered at my golf club, where it drew jealous sideways glances from the BMW and Mercedes drivers who normally sneer at my Renault.
As Hugh, the frightfully English delivery driver, ran through the controls I realised I liked this car... a lot. "It's great for the country lanes," said Hugh, with an infectious enthusiasm. "You have to rev it - it's a little squirter!" His turn of phrase surprised a nearby golfer, who was earwigging on our conversation - probably hoping to tip off Crimestoppers about the bank job the club's scruffiest member had obviously pulled to be able to afford such a motor. During the demonstration drive, I soon learnt how to, er, 'squirt'. "You just give it some throttle and listen to that wonderful sound," said Hugh, as the exhaust barked the kind of noise guaranteed to attract envious looks and install a huge grin on the driver's face. Oh yes, I liked this little squirter... and so did the people of my hometown. Driving - very gingerly - with the top down along the high street, the Aston drew smiles and approving nods from shoppers, and even praise from young boys on BMXs. "Nice car mister!" shouted one. Other motorists, meanwhile, happily let me out of junctions, a rarity on my local roads. It seems money - or at least the illusion of it in my case - brings manners when it comes in the form of an Aston. As I parked up and the electric rag-top did its impressive business, a hoodie-wearing teen informed his pal: "I'm gonna get me that car when I'm older." Me too, I thought, as I realised my hoodie had won over its far less attractive namesake. Visiting the in-laws... But what to do with such a vehicle? Of course, a cross country drive to see the notoriously hard to impress in-laws! Caressed by the seats and drinking in the waft of leather from the upholstery, the mother-in-law was immediately won over. "It's always been my dream to have a ride in an Aston," were her first words. They were also pretty much her last for some time as conversation was limited to strange excited giggles from her after that. The father-in-law liked it too. Well, until I confessed that his daughter hadn't landed a hedge-fund manager, just a lucky hack. So there you go chaps. Don't bother wasting time being nice to the in-laws to win their favour, just buy an Aston and the job's done for you - and it's quite probably the best �100,000 you'll ever spend. With family duties out of the way, it was time to enjoy some of Surrey's sights. I decided to begin by putting the car through its paces with a blast around the country lanes. Even in a part of the world that has one of the highest numbers of millionaires per square mile, the car still drew appreciative nods, and occasionally jealous looks, from all who saw it. Following a fantastic lunch at Camberley's historic Frimley Hall Hotel and Spa (see below), a spot of wine-tasting seemed in order and the Aston drew more approving looks as I drove into the famed Denbies wine estate. The Aston sparkled in the sun as I sampled Dorking's finest sparkling wine (why those bothersome French don't relent and let them call it champagne, I don't know) and I drank in the spectacular views of vines around one of Surrey's leading tourist attractions. By late afternoon, I was starting to think I could get used to this kind of lifestyle - especially when driving away from Denbies, a policeman parked at the entrance made an intriguing proposal. "That's my dream car. If you give me a go in that, I'll let you have a go in mine," he offered, pointing towards his overworked squad car. You just don't get that kind of response with any other vehicle. Back to reality... But with time running short - an Aston may be capable of 175mph but even it's not a time machine - I couldn't squeeze much more into the day so I had to head home. Unfortunately, that's when reality kicked in. Even driving sensibly, I'd averaged only 17.1mpg and that's when the daunting prospect of fuelling up came into play. I won't go into exact figures but let's just say that being rich costs money. Which is why I found myself in an unusual situation getting my dinner... Tight for time before returning the car, and nearly bankrupted by its thirsty engine and greedy oil companies, all I could afford was a McDonald's Happy Meal. Apparently, Ronald McDonald doesn't see too many Aston Martins in the drive-thru... All too soon, my peek into how the other half live was over. I handed the keys back to Hugh and it was time to go back to the real world... after all, the washing-up was waiting for me.
The technical stuff: Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster
- 1 20 of the best places to eat out in St Ives
- 2 6 waterfall walks in Derbyshire and the Peak District
- 3 16 beautiful beaches in Devon you have to visit
- 4 Seven Falls, Tintwistle - a hidden gem in the Peak District
- 5 Win Castle Howard Prom Tickets & a VIP Hamper
- 6 20 of the best restaurants in Hertfordshire
- 7 8 great family walks in the North West
- 8 Win the full range of Bashall Spirits Gins
- 9 12 beautiful waterfalls in Yorkshire
- 10 10 of the prettiest Villages in Dorset to visit
Body: Two-seat, two-door, soft-cover convertible with a bonded aluminium structure. Engine: Front-mounted, all-alloy 4280cc V8 engine driving rear wheels. Performance: 380bhp at 7000revs, capable of 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 175mph. Cost: �91,000 (basic) Best bit: The noise it makes when "squirted". Best colour: Green - because it's the colour of money.
With grateful thanks to Aston Martin for the loan of the car, and to Frimley Hall Hotel & Spa in Camberley and Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking. For more details about buying an Aston Martin, visit www.astonmartin.com
A spot of lunch Having wowed the staff when I pulled up at Camberley's Frimley Hall, I felt a little like James Bond as head chef Max Pettini and I discussed what to have for lunch. "I keep the menu small so I can do everything perfectly," said Max. "People want local, seasonal things done simply. The quality of the ingredients means the food sells itself."
Settling for a delicious pan-fried pork belly and potato starter with apple puree, its exquisite flavours danced across my taste buds. Being British, I then went for the organic beef, and loved it. The dessert menu was enticing but leading the high life puts pressure on the waistband so I skipped it. In any case, it was time to get back on the road again...
Frimley Hall Hotel & Spa, Lime Avenue, Camberley. Tel: 0844 879 9110