Essex. Land of the loud, home of the brash. Where better to road test a car with more front than Southend?
It’s the Saturday morning after the inaugural curry club and while my brain is contemplating committing Cobra-inflicted suicide the pain is soothed by the pearly-white Vanquish Volante that’s waiting for me in the underground car park beneath my flat.
Berocca. Beans on toast. Time to make plans.
Regrettably, at some point, apparently, we’d promised to dog-sit for the sister in Basildon. Triffic. That said, timings weren’t all bad. Sam had just bought a pad in Billericay and I’d yet to visit Bosh’s new place in Chelmsford. Three birds, one soft-top stone. But first, Canary Wharf.
From Monday to Friday, Canary Wharf is the habitual home of the two-seat sports car. Some wannabe Bruce Waynes make it 50 yards from the Batcaves beneath their offices before they bump into another Boxster or 911. On Saturdays, east London’s bankers’ republic is lost-looking tourists and people from Chigwell going for bottomless brunch at ROKA. Which means its gridiron streets are empty – they’d make for the perfect race track if it weren’t for urban nuisances like traffic lights and speed limits. (NB If someone from E14 hasn’t yet approached the organisers of Formula E, they should; Canary Wharf would make for a far superior backdrop to the British E Prix than the currently used Battersea Park – just saying).
Roaring between sets of traffic lights 50 metres apart elicited the attention of all four people in Canary Wharf that morning. Encouraged by an inflated opinion of ourselves we pulled up on a stretch of pavement that’s clearly not meant for cars. Low-level rules like parking restrictions are for the sort of plebs who don’t drive supercars.
Positioning the car so that a phallic 1 Canada Square rose triumphantly behind us, we took pictures, tagged ourselves on Facebook, waited for the likes to roll in. “Can’t believe you would rent a car for the day and make it your profile pic,” someone commented. We bounced before security showed up.
Essex bound on the A13 – apt, really, given the county’s status as the proverbial home of the prodigal boy racer – we took in our surroundings. Fluffy carpets, vast expanses of leather, a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system that was made for the sort of songs they play on KISS FM – the Vanquish Volante is a gentlemen’s club on wheels.
A press release says the car is the first convertible from Aston Martin to feature a fully carbon-fibre body. This, says the press release, means stiffness. This in turn means speed. Thanks to a 6.0-litre V12 engine, 0 to 62mph takes 4.1 seconds. Apparently top speed is 183mph. I translated these fantastic figures into real world terms by putting my foot down around Dagenham. I’d scared myself witless by Rainham.
The Vanquish’s dashboard is a piece of art. On it, there is a buttoned marked ‘S’, which stands for Sh*t-Yourself-Mode. Press it and the chassis stiffens, the ride grows rigid and the growl of the exhaust goes from lion snarl to saber-toothed tiger roar. The next day, with ‘S’ mode engaged, father and I defecated ourselves all the way along the one-mile straight that lines Hanningfield Reservoir. For complete lunatics, there’s also a button for ‘Launch Control’. We gave that one a swerve.
Rumours suggest that Sam got his three-bed semi for an absolute steal, something to do with the priest that previously lived there and the £30,000, Hansel-and-Gretel-style shed he installed in the garden – weird but whatever. The job of a supercar is to turn heads; in commuter-belt suburbia the Vanquish Volante got more than one curtain twitching.
What sort of madman would spend £200k on a sports car with a roof made of metal?
During that afternoon, the difference between S mode and regular mode became increasingly apparent. The former transforming the car into something far more worthy of its £200k price tag. If that’s a sum of money you’re seriously considering spending, don’t seek validation in the Vanquish’s infotainment system.
A 6.5-inch pop-up screen initially provides the James Bond wow factor. From there, things go decidedly downhill. Input into a prehistoric satnav is controlled by an oversensitive joystick that saps your energy by the second. The car’s radio controls eat away at your soul. In the age of the touchscreen tablet it’s remarkable that a car manufacturer would get things so wrong. (Sensibly, Aston has opted to borrow from Mercedes’ electronics in the DB11.)
At the previously mentioned, first-ever curry club – an unmitigated success by anyone’s standards – Bosh had been clocked sporting a new Submariner. Quite the upgrade from his previous Bulova. A turbulent year in politics hasn’t been all bad for the boys in FX. The standout feature of Bosh’s new abode is, without doubt, its large, south-facing conservatory, a complete game-changer come barbecue season.
Along several stretches of the A12, I impressed Bosh with my ability to both accelerate and brake. He managed to turn the radio both up and down. Considering ourselves bona fide playboys by now, we elected to enjoy the spoils of our retractable roof, rejoicing as it collapsed in a remarkable 14 seconds.
Captured in the thralls of what can only be described as a thrilling fresh-air-to-face sensation, we flew up Chelmsford’s Three Mile Hill with only one question on our minds: what sort of madman would spend £200k on a sports car with a roof made of metal? Why forgo such exhilarating windburn? A particularly pertinent question in this case, given that both the coupé and convertible versions of the Vanquish share the same acceleration and top speed credentials.
While we’re lingering on pragmatics, more conventional car critiques would discuss things like boot space. The Volante offers 279-litres of the stuff, roof up or down. That’s a 50 per cent increase on the DBS Volante, or 72 extra two-litre bottles of R White’s Premium Lemonade. Handy if you’re ever invited to a barbecue around Bosh’s. (It’s worth noting here that Debbie has recently granted Bosh planning permission to construct a bar at the end of their garden, elevating the potential of future soirees to biblical new heights.)
The Vanquish Volante transforms you into the sort of person who would wantonly park on a double yellow outside somewhere like Sexy Fish to pop in for something like a Blue Lychee Martini. Parking tickets, tarking pickets.
It’s like that time in that club in Las Vegas when Shayler ordered those magnums of Dom Pérignon that were delivered by that team of supermodels who were waving Union Jack flags who set off a full-on firework display at your table which made absolutely everyone on the dance floor stop and look at you even though the actual Super-Bowl-winning Denver Broncos were on the next table along. It’s exactly like that. Every moment you’re driving it.
Maximum power: 573 PS (565 bhp) at 6,750 rpm
Maximum torque: 620 Nm (457 lb ft) at 5,500 rpm
Acceleration: 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 4.1 seconds
Maximum Speed: 183 mph (295 km/h)