Culture

Driving $2 Million Worth of Aston Martins

To announce the arrival of the 2016 model year, Aston Martin hosted a press event at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, just minutes from some of the most famous driving roads in Southern California.

The British automaker brought out almost $2 million worth of cars from their model range, featuring various configurations and trim levels, and invited journalists to drive them in the picturesque Santa Monica mountains.

The event route covered legendary canyon roads like Mulholland Highway and Decker Road — narrow, technical and unforgiving paths that have claimed their fair share of over-confident victims.

John Caress, Chief Program Engineer for Aston Martin.

John Caress, Chief Program Engineer for Aston Martin.

After a technical briefing and overview of updates and features from Chief Program Engineer John Caress, we were released to enjoy an exciting selection of some of the best hand-built cars in the world.

DB9 GT Volante

Aston Martin DB9 GT

2016 Aston Martin DB9 GT Volante

Horsepower: 540

Engine Type: 6.0-liter V12

Top Speed: 183 mph

Starting MSRP: $199,950 (Coupe), $214,950 (Volante)

New for 2016 is the DB9 GT, the most powerful DB9 yet thanks to its uprated V12 engine. With its signature front fascia and classically styled body lines, this is the model that everyone thinks about when the name Aston Martin is mentioned.

The DB9 GT is nimble and very responsive — its playful nature makes carving corners effortless — but it does require some experience if you want to unleash more of its potential. With 540 horsepower on tap, the rear-end will want to step out when you’re not paying attention, but traction control is there to let you have fun without getting into trouble.

Want to look good, go fast, and not break a sweat? The DB9 GT is at your service.

V12 Vantage S Roadster

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster

Horsepower: 565

Engine Type: 6.0-liter V12

Top Speed: 201 mph

Starting MSRP: $186,295 (Coupe), $200,795 (Roadster)

The V12 Vantage S is pure soul. It doesn’t apologize for its raw performance, an intimidating exhaust roar or its head-turning presence. This is the friend that shows up uninvited to a party and owns it.

The seven-speed “Sportshift III” automated manual transmission (there’s a clutch plate, but no third pedal) bangs out shifts in milliseconds at full throttle as the engine screams towards 7,000 RPM. At neighborhood speeds though, the gear changes are slightly more abrupt — there’s about a one second interruption — but it’s because the car’s been dialed-in to go fast.

While the V12 Vantage S is really fun to drive around town, its most fitting environment is the race track. Those wanting a more casual weekend cruiser should go with the V8 Vantage model for a less intense experience.

Vanquish Carbon Edition Volante

2016 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante Carbon Edition

2016 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante Carbon Edition

Horsepower: 568

Engine Type: 6.0-liter V12

Top Speed: 201 mph

Starting MSRP: $288,950 (Coupe), $306,950 (Volante), $303,995 (Carbon Coupe), $321,995 (Carbon Volante)

The Vanquish is the brand’s flagship grand tourer, and the Carbon Edition adds seductive carbon fiber accents throughout the exterior and interior.

This “ultimate Aston Martin” feels more planted than the DB9 GT and inspires confidence on the twisty mountain roads with its seemingly endless grip.

Most of the chassis rigidity and agility come from the fact that every body panel is constructed from aerospace engineered carbon fiber, producing an incredible power-to-weight ratio for this rolling piece of artwork.

The interior of the Vanquish is also the most luxurious in Aston Martin’s 100+ year history, using one million stitches on hand-selected leather from the top 10 percent of rawhide.

The Vanquish does everything well, but its price point makes it less accessible — something that definitely adds to its exclusivity.

Rapide S

2016 Aston Martin Rapide S

2016 Aston Martin Rapide S

Horsepower: 552

Engine Type: 6.0-liter V12

Top Speed: 203 mph

Starting MSRP: $207,000

Let’s say you’ve got a Vantage GT for the weekends, but you need something with a little more room. Enter the Rapide S, a four-door 200-mph grocery-getter and family hauler.

Don’t let the extra doors and the hatchback fool you — it’s still a sports car with 100 percent Aston Martin DNA. The longer wheelbase and near perfect 49:51 front/rear weight distribution allowed me to tackle Mulholland Highway with just as much confidence as the other cars.

It shares the same eight-speed transmission as the Vanquish, and honestly, the only way I could tell that I was driving a larger vehicle was by looking back — the Rapide S behaves like a peppy sports car.

I watched as four journalists went for a ride together in the Rapide S and came back raving about the rear leg and head room. But at six feet tall, my head touched the roof liner while sitting in the back seat, so it looks like I’ll always be the driver — and that’s fine by me!

Aston Martin Touring Lineup

To learn more about Aston Martin’s 2016 model range, visit the official website at AstonMartin.com.

Photos by Andrew Chen.