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Ready for the
Ride of the Valkyries


Get to the chopper!

Writing a car review used to be easy- you’d sit down at the laptop with a roaring hangover, eat a bacon sandwich and imagine yourself as Jeremy Clarkson. From there on things just seemed to take care of themselves. As if by osmosis, your mind would gradually acquire the sort of thoughts that exist with gammony totality inside Jezza’s ludicrous fuzzy head. Before long you’d be reeling out war film references like a Bletchley Park codebreaker pulls ticker tape and dropping your typically controversial hot take on the topic du jour, making sure to fly in the face of what most people consider ‘just being nice’.

‘Take that Snowflakes!’, you’d burp to yourself as you slammed down the final fullstop, channelling Churchill furiously pointing out the particular bulldog he wanted in the 2019 Rule Britannia catalogue. Reviewing cars, you internalised, was the last place where it was still possible to behave like a freakishly tall, beer-swilling, assistant-punching, ex-public school boy. And so you did, with gusto. Indeed, everything was set up to do so, right down to art direction of the pictures accompanying your copy. Nobody shoots cars at a Prosecco brunch or a baby shower. And I may be wrong here, given the speed with which things seem to be moving, but the last time anyone checked, the recent climate protests didn’t feature the latest SUV-supercar crossover as the centrepiece of the Extinction Rebellion fuddle. The point I’m driving at is that the world of cars is macho, talking about cars is macho and macho is helicopters, guns and stuff on fire.

But times, as they say, are a-changin’. It’s time for the old guard to jump on the last transport out of Saigon and make way for a new, less toxic style of vehicular commentary. And what better way to usher in the changes than with the Aston Martin Vantage, the sort-of-new model of the affirmatively British 503bhp more-than-a-sportscar. Less car, more game-changing, paradigm-shifting harbinger of The New Way.

'Be the change you wish to see in the world' appears to be the maxim taken to heart by Aston in true woke fashion.

And it really is all change behind the wheel of the Vantage. Let’s not forget that this is a baby of the Aston Martin stable, the car that’s meant to whet your appetite for the real beasts emerging from the darkness the further up the money ladder you climb. Entry-level but with a 4 litre V8 hammering out 3.5 sec 0-60 with a top speed of 195mph. And that engine… ‘the’ engine of the moment, the devastatingly good AMG 4.0 bi-turbo hot vee brought into existence for the GTS but tweaked for a Three Lions soundtrack in the Aston.

The face-melting throttle response remains, the sense of being sat on an enormous about-to-be tapped well of bellicose V8 power- still there. But in an Aston! An Aston, a car that you’d expect to contain a bonnet full of nitrous-powered tractor engines welded together and anodised emerald green, fitted with a few gold-braided pipes so that no one would notice. It’s both a revelation and a revolution.
However, when we come to shifting gears, the Vantage is back in territory that ought to be familiar to anyone who’s ever been at the paddles of an Aston. In short, anyone looking for the sort of preternaturally efficient gear changes that might be found in a 911 Turbo or an R8 needs to come to the Vantage with their expectations managed. It’s by no means bad, it is, indeed a quantum leap from the glacially-timed Aston paddle shifts of yore, but it’s not quite what you’d expect in the getaway numbers. In mitigation you can expect gloriously sonorous, raspy up and down changes when engaged in a spirited bit of peddle-work

May you live in interesting times... goes the backhanded Chinese salutation that doubles as an insult.

Let off some steam

0 s
Figures shown are for the Aston Martin Vantage

So we come to the drive… and once again the playbook is torn up and reimagined for the new reality. Gone is the occasional spookiness associated with past Astons, that will-it-wont-it feeling that something deeply troubling could happen if you were to drop your guard in a moment of James Bond reverie.

In, is the feeling that you’re being looked after by a car with an understanding that you want to be thrilled without feeling anxious about the fact that you haven’t updated your will for a year or two.

Ride and handle is firm without shaking your teeth out, tight without snapping your neck with steering that promotes positive driving by flattening out, through its generous gearing, the occasional over-commitment experienced by anyone who doesn’t drive for a living.

Shorter than a 911, the Vantage has a burlier rear end which manifests a flatter arrowhead shaped footprint geometry, feeling planted but simultaneously agile.

This could have left the rear feeling lumpen and draggy. In reality it is anything but, especially when you level-up your confidence and switch to a sportier driver setting. Combine this with the sublime pilot position and you experience a feeling of connected perfection that’s rarer than the smile on a Millenial’s mug.

The verdict

Get out there into the streets. Sing it from the rooftops that you’re on board with the kids. Write it on your placard that you, like the Vantage, have changed and are ready for the brave new world in which we find ourselves.

Then put your foot down and get the hell out of there…things are about to get interesting. Enjoy it while it lasts.

How we're responding to COVID-19.

At XL we've introduced several measures to ensure the safety of our customers and staff. Our head office is open for drop-offs and collections and all our vehicles are fully valeted and sterilised. Collections and drop-off staff all have full PPE including face masks, sanitising spray and hand cleaning fluid.

Our procedures for customers collecting vehicles:
  • New vehicles will be cleaned, sanitised and disinfected by our staff member, who will then place the keys on the windscreen and then go 2 metres away whilst the client goes to the vehicle to inspect it. Once our customer has checked and is happy with the vehicle a copy of the inspection report is emailed straight to them.
  • The handover is complete, and no contact is made between the customer and staff member. Spare gloves and sanitising wipes are available for our customers to use should they be required.
Our procedures for customers returning vehicles:
  • When a customer arrives with the vehicle our staff member will direct you to park the vehicle in a dedicated parking area and ask you to leave the vehicle, locking it and placing the keys on the windscreen. Once our customer has done this and is the required 2 metres away our staff member will approach the vehicle to disperse the sanitising/disinfecting fluid on the keys unlock and enter the vehicle sanitising the dashboard, steering wheel, handbrake, door and window controls, seat adjustment controls. Our staff member will then perform the initial visual checks inside the vehicle, such as mileage, servicing and fuel levels. A full external check of the vehicle is performed, along with tyres, under to bonnet and boot. Any new damage is noted. Once the inspection is complete a copy of the inspection will be emailed straight to the client.

Keep on keeping on... and stay safe!