Aston Martin Lagonda is a Company that thrives into fulfilling the needs of sporting gentlemans who desire an adequate ride to match their uncompromising taste. I believe that elegance is a lost art in contemporary car design: nowadays people seems not to appreciate smoothness anymore and all cars have to be almost standardized to be capable of blistering lap times.
The market needs differentiation to work: so why not having a fine sportscar which is thrilling to drive designed to be used on the road? Aston Martins always differentiated themselves for being the classic, elegant, British XXI Century sportscar which deliver spot on performance and 100% usability every day. While most of the crowd enjoys the sight of track-day-ready weapons like the GT3RS and F12 TdF which represent the state-of-the-art for the performance on a road car, we sure look with great sympathy to the more traditional Gran Turismos of the previous generations. I said it before and I will say it again, driving these cars is a very straightforward enjoyment, just like lighting up your cigar of choice and sipping your favorite brandy.
Astons are nothing too sophisticated and appeal to those who privilege crossing continents in supreme comfort and speed, all wrapped up in the perfect sportscar package. Aside from the 2016 DB11, the design of the current lineup doesn’t differentiate much from model to model nor has done this since the early 2000’s. While bother after all? Fashion stylists didn’t put off men from wearing a tie for ages.
Among the current Aston Martin range, the Vantage is definitely the most delicious. It’s compact, very refined and still doesn’t look too dated. Manual is still offered as standard, which still a tempts Customers not to tickle the box for the six speed automated manual sequential gearbox on the option list, and the car does come with your choice of fine materials to match your taste. What’s not to like about laying back and enjoying a relaxed pace through fast two lane roads? Nothing else in my opinion.
Many will sure expect that such a Company does not have any relationship with motor racing: quite the opposite indeed. After all, the name Aston Martin roots itself into the Aston Clinton Hillclimb of the 1910’s and the Company has produced sporty automobiles since its early beginnings, when Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford put a Simplex engine into an old Isotta Fraschini chassis and just went racing.
Throughout the years and often struggling to get the proper budget to develop competitive sportscars, Aston Martin has participated in 1950ies endurance racing with the DB3S, DB4 GT’s bodied by Superleggera and Zagato , the AMR1 in Group C racing and more recently with the competitive DBR9 and Vantage GT4s and Works Prodrive GT3s raced in the World Endurance Championship.
Behind the distinct, sporty and pleasurable GTs there’s a Company whose effort to make better sportscars over the years has generated true masterpieces: for this reason it always needs to be celebrated.
To say how much Aston Martin is valuable to motorcars enthusiasts and to properly commemorate its successful entries at the Nurburgring 24hours, Aston Martin introduced the N400 and N420 limited edition series of the V8 Vantage. Each model name refers to the specific output of their respectively 4.3 and 4.7 V8’s and they boast upgraded ECU’s, suspensions and sport exhaust over the regular production models.
Released in 2010, the N420 in both coupè and Volante form, was the most performing model of all the Vantage V8 lineup. Why did they choose the V8? Because Aston has been using such engine to be competitive in International championships, leaving the V12 only for the Zagato’s Zig&Zag team and a few other cars.
Original customers for the N420 got the sports pack as standard (stiffer springs and thicker anti-roll bars) 27 kg less over the standard car, carbon fiber seats, unique paint scheme and the sport exhaust, which lets the roar of the engine shine through louder. Aston Martin also licensed the noisier exhaust system made by Quicksilver, the official supplier of the works GT3 cars whcih could be installed as an aftermarket product, just to make sure to leave a indelible impression on envious bystanders. A robotized six speed manual could be had as an option over the standard manual.
The car we tested with our good friend Andrea Mazzuca, CEO and Owner of the driver-inspired male gentleman Brand “The Outlierman” was #235, so was a mid production example. He graciously let us loose with him in his most recent purchase, a Carbon Black and Silver N420, collected almost brand new with 5000 kms on the odometer at Aston Martin Milano. Me and Federico couldn’t be happier for the Man and we decided to celebrate by putting new and exciting kms by taking it to a relaxing drive on the Lake of Como. After all, gents need a cool place to exercise their cars properly.
We left behind the traffic of Milan by exploiting the wonders of the potent V8, which is the proper getaway vehicle from crowded streets to much more glamorous locations and exclusive places. We enjoyed a cruise on the Autostrada, savouring the fantastic noise insulation and comfortable suspension damping.
Whoever gets bored in an Aston is either a fool or a tasteless person: craftsmanship is present everywhere with fine stitching of the premium grade leather and soft Alcantara. As it sits, the Aston is a proper man GT: you never feel in tension to exploit all the performance it has, but you rather enjoy it at any speed and never feel the urge to do anything stupid. That’s why kids don’t buy such cars.
The N420 is a pleasant cruiser on the Highway and is one of the most intriguing vehicles to use on long journeys and, personally speaking one of those cars I had always dreamed of driving on the lake Como, where my 18 year old self learned to drive. Spending some invaluable time behind the wheel of an Aston Martin is one of those experiences you’ll hardly forget.
No serious driving was involved f course: it was just taking pleasure in driving a fine road motorcar and enjoy its smooth and elegant character.
As we went down the curvy roads with the suspension set in sport, the car feels very well balanced and has great, but not extraordinary mechanical grip. The sport pack tricks you into thinking that the Vantage is not heavy for being a sport GT: the overall balance of the car was exceptional. The glued aluminium structure and hydraulic assisted steering rack will make for a great driving experience and under no condition, the Aston felt that it was rattling around or suffering under high speed loads. The seating position was great and the outward visibility outstanding: the vantage will feel old when compared to the present competition but Aston Martin customers have more than one good reason not to care. Besides the positive response, the Aston has an irritatingly slow gearbox: although smooth when operated under minimum loads it almost feels like it is suffering when it shifts under heavy accelerations. While Aston fans will recall it as part of its character from a wider perspective it seems to get in the way of the driving experience
The exclusive Carbon Black paint on the bodywork was just reflecting the sunshine and the sparkles of the Lake Como. The familiar roads and town names just had another taste from behind the windscreen: Cernobbio, Menaggio and Argegno just looked so much better than usual.
With an Aston at our hands, we had to celebrate with something unusual. With the heading straight up north on the Lake, we went to Mezzegra, to visit Legendary Power Boat builder Tullio Abbate, who let us park the Aston inside his factory to take a few pictures and talk about the same passion for motoring. Adorning his office are countless pictures of famous F1 drivers and celebrities. Just in case you’re wondering who Mr.Abbate is, just think about the famous Ferrari power boats: he is the only one allowed to use Prancing Horse engines for marine use.
Let me unveil a small anecdote of Mr.Abbate: Herbert von Karajan famous sentence “no conductor could ever replicate the harmony of a Ferrari 12 Cylinder engine” was referred when he heard the sound of two Testarossa Boxer engines on a bespoke Tullio Abbate Ferrari powered speed boat.
Tullio Abbate history is one of those that made the Lake of Como famous in the entire world. Speed boat records, countless wins in international competitions and the first ever boat manufacturer that used Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Lamborghini engines to power their creations. Speed on water has the name Abbate.
His kindness in welcoming us in his amazing boatyard made us feel truly special and honored. Spending some invaluable time with him with the background of the lake waves was a unique experience and something we’ll never forget and we’re sure as hell to return soon in his outstanding boatyard.
Of course, being a loyal Italian in love with 12 cylinder engine he only wished the Aston had the more potent 6 liter V12 instead of the 4.7 V8 that “our” Vantage proudly showed. After all, what else can say a man that owns a carbureted 512 BB and has a long, outstanding and exclusive relationship with Ferrari?
As the sun was setting behind the hills that surround the Lake, the roar of the unleashed Aston V8 was the perfect soundtrack to leave this beautiful day behind and move on with another escape.