I am a huge fan of the James Bond movies and Aston Martin. So, when the British luxury car manufacturer invited us to put several of their models through their paces in the UK, I felt as though the gods were smiling my way. In fact, I saw this as my moment to awaken the Bond in me.
The history of Aston Martin and 007 spans back some five decades, beginning in the third instalment of the Bond series, Goldfinger, which featured the iconic DB5. It’s the most famous Bond car of all time, having made appearances in Thunderball, GoldenEye, The World Is Not Enough, Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale and featuring prominently in the most recent instalment – Skyfall.
In line with the luxury brand’s standards, we were housed in the magnificent Mallory Court in Warwickshire. It’s the quintessential English country-house hotel, nestled amid lush gardens in the picturesque West Midlands.
When we got to the Aston Martin factory in Gaydon, we were greeted by a chrome-covered Vantage perched neatly on a large rock across the parking lot. It’s a strange sight, but it sends the clear message that you can have your Aston Martin however you like it. We’re told that the possibilities are almost endless when it comes to customising them.
Our tour of the factory began with a look at the historical origins of the brand and we strolled along a wide corridor where Aston Martins dating from as far back as the 1930s are on display. Last year the iconic brand celebrated 100 years of being in business.
It was seeing the Bond models however, that really got my mojo charging like a raging bull. The DB5 is truly a classic car, the V8 Vantage from The Living Daylights is a well-sculpted machine and the DBS of Quantum of Solace is what dreams are made of.
The factory is an immaculate vessel of efficiency. There are just a few robots, with most of the work being carried out by craftsmen who boast years of experience in the Aston Martin factory. Here, cutting-edge technology, craftsmanship and heritage complement each other. Unlike many other vehicle factories, assembling a car takes place at a less frenetic pace here, as attention to detail is everything.
With the tour of the factory ticked off my to-do list, the next item on my itinerary was putting the cars through their paces at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedford.
We sampled a few cars in the 007 stable, including the Vantage, Rapide S, the DB9, and the range-topping Vanquish. We took them through various manoeuvres on the handling and speed circuits, pushing them to an exhilarating 220km/h on the oval and 280km/h on the straight mile.
But it when I took the beastly Vanquish Volante convertible around the hill circuit that I felt the most alive. I hammered it without inhibition, knowing well that it could stand the abuse. It bellowed a glorious sound up and down the hills, and I could have sworn it was shooting fireballs through the exhaust pipes all the way.
When I stole a quick look in my rearview mirror I expected to see the heavens ripping open behind me, but it was just the intoxicating rapid-fire crackle playing tricks on me.
The following day, the Vanquish Volante was in its element as we drove to the Daylesford Organic Farm in Gloucestershire. With the roof off, it felt as if my hair would be ripped from my scalp and the rapacious rumble of the V12 becomes the official soundtrack of the day as we carved our way through tiny villages before hitting the highway towards Berkshire, where we enjoyed lunch at The Hinds Head in Bray.