Casual Sunday morning drives are all well and good, but it’s a widely acknowledged fact among India’s sportscar and supercar owners that nighttime is the right time to really drive your car. Which is why we find ourselves in Gurgaon’s business district at this ungodly hour. An Aston Martin Vantage is being offloaded from a flat-bed truck and I’m gleefully going to be its custodian till daybreak. Just as the covers come off, I hear the whine of a Triumph Daytona that seems to be on a night sortie of its own. A few minutes later, the fully kitted rider rolls up, gives the car a once-over and leaves with a thumbs-up. Supercar and superbike folk are kindred spirits.
Time is of the essence, so photographer Ashley and I have worked out a gentleman’s agreement. I’ll do as told till he gets his shots and then the car’s all mine. Just as well, because I can use the photography time to do my recce for the proper driving session later in the night.
I love how the Aston’s doors open, swinging upwards ever so slightly presumably to clear any kerb you might park next to. It’s a drop down into the cabin but the snug driver’s seat embraces me like a long-lost buddy would. I like what I see inside, but for now, it’s a firm press on the bejeweled starter button to get this show on the road. The Vantage doesn’t rumble to life as much as it erupts to it. It sounds angry, and I can’t say I have reason to complain.
Smooth roads make life a whole lot easier for photographers when shooting tracking or car-to-car shots, so we’re pleasantly surprised by how well-surfaced the asphalt is in this part of the city. The roads are really well-lit too – and then it gets better. There’s not one, not two, but three long underpasses in close proximity. I’ve made a mental note to return because I know for a fact the Aston will sound mega here. It does take monk-like restraint to fight the urge to floor the throttle all the while Ashley’s clicking away. I have to remind myself, good things come to those who wait.
My wait is set to get longer because I can see Ashley methodically unpack his lighting equipment
for the static shots. He’s an old hand at this gig, but something tells me he’s taken a liking to the subject. We’re now at the Andaz hotel near Delhi airport and the staff here have very kindly opened up the rear section of the beautiful complex to us for the shoot. I’m joined by some of the hotel staff in admiring what is a stunner of a car.
It’s tightly packed and the rear is a work of art.
The Vantage is so tightly packed that it actually appears smaller than it is. Aston Martin wanted the Vantage to have the stance of a predator, and it does. The slim headlights give it a focused stare and the more time I spend staring at the car, the more that mahoosive grille grows on me. What’s been elegantly worked into the design is the air channel aft the front wheel arches, but it’s the Aston’s tail that is worthy of a design award. There’s little body work behind the rear wheels and the manner in which the cabin flows into the stubby tail is a work of art. The rear LEDs are a cool detail that replicate the shape of the Aston grille. Even more striking is the diffuser that looks straight off an endurance racer.
From Germany, with love. AMG V8 sits far back in engine bay.
Just as I get lost in imagining my Vantage (I’d like one in Lime Essence green with black rims, thank you very much), Ashley pops open the hood. The engine is pushed all the way back against the firewall and the arrangement in part helps the Vantage achieve a coveted 50-50 front-rear weight distribution. Aah, the engine. Our test car’s unit bears a plate that reads ‘Final Inspection by Harrison Bluck’, but what the badge doesn’t tell you is that the engine actually started life in Affalterbach, Germany, the home of AMG. The Vantage uses AMG’s sensational 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that, among other cars, powers the Mercedes-AMG GT that the Aston goes up against. On the Vantage, the engine makes 510hp. Power goes to the rear wheels via an 8-speed auto that sits behind the cabin. There’s also an e-diff for added measure.
Ashley’s done. It’s go time. The first thing that gets me is the noise. There’s a mild rumble at part throttle, and the sound just grows and grows in volume and fury the harder I press down. Full throttle builds into a full-bodied guttural roar that I’m sure can be heard in Jaipur, 250km away. Those underpasses in Gurgaon I was talking about are soon filled with the sound of an eight-cylinder heavy-metal band. The encore performance comes on the overrun when the exhausts let out all manners of pops, bangs and crackles. It’s like Diwali on the move.
I’m not going to put the 3.6sec 0-100kph figure to the test tonight, but I don’t need a Vbox to tell you this thing is fast. There’s no delay in power to speak of (the turbos sit in the Vee of the engine for quicker responses) and the brute force of this engine has me pinned back to my seat every time I go for it. A naturally aspirated engine might be more ‘authentic’, but this twin-turbo unit’s relentless charge to 7,000rpm is hard to get bored of. Gearshifts are quick too and the large metal paddleshifters are particularly satisfactory to use. There’s also the option to dial things up further. ‘Sport’ (yes, Sport!) is the default setting for the powertrain and suspension (independently adjustable), there’s ‘Sport+’ that’s my go-to mode tonight, and there’s also ‘Track’ for all-out driving.
The theatrics will have you break into a grin on every outing.
It’s a pity there aren’t too many corners in the vicinity because the steering sure feels good; it’s weighty and quick. On the few tight turns I come by, the Vantage changes direction like a shark on the prowl. The small wheelbase helps, and with the rear axle sitting just behind my backside, I feel at one with the car. It’s got a frisky tail too; powering out hard has the rear end do a little jig. The sense I get is that this is a car that would be immense fun at the Buddh International Circuit. But that’s for another day.
End of night’s play
The sky’s changing colour and we still have some daylight photography to do, so it’s onwards to the Gurugram-Faridabad highway. The road surface isn’t as good as what we’ve been on so far, but what’s nice is that the Aston doesn’t feel unduly firm. There is some compliance, so owners won’t need a chiropractor on speed dial. In the soft morning light, I also take a good look at the interior. There’s a certain charm to it and the craftsmanship that’s gone into making it is all but evident. Okay, the squared-out steering is unusual, but it really hasn’t been a bother to use all night long.
Traffic is thickening and the office cabs coming closer and closer to give the occupants a good look at the Aston is getting unnerving. I think it’s time to call it a day. But not before one last full-throttle lunge for the horizon. I can only hope the fellows in hot pursuit recorded the sound for posterity.