Car design has come quite a way since the beginning when they pretty much shoved an engine on to a cart. Those almost cartoonish winged-back chairs and brass head-lighted machines that you can still see running today on the Veteran rally between London and Brighton bear little resemblance to the mass produced technology centres we parade around in today.
Some are powered by fossil fuels that are still unrefined fossils and produce steam while others have at least got a regular petrol powered unit fitted, normally underneath a carcinogenic lead panel, that rambles along depositing some hours later, the plucky driver and passenger/s to the stony seafront. Others will have arrived before them as they broke down, waited for the AA and still beat the working competitors to the fish and chips. And by some margin.
That isn’t to say that the modern way is better, merely quicker. Or is it?
On a recent trip back from the north west to home, the Twatnav decided to inform me of no end of incidents, accidents, blockages, tailback and spilt loads that I thought carmageddon was happening. The screen looked as though it was hemorrhaging rather than informing me. What to do? Did I chance it and hope that it had cleared and started to move before I got there? Did I pull over, purchase a Road Atlas and attempt a manual override? How in the hell could I get home in less than the five hours it was currently looking like it would take?
I’ll tell you viewers. I went off piste. I went rogue. I opened my windows, I threw caution to the wind and I made it up. I put my own tunes on, I turned off my phone, I knew I needed to get south and I hit the side roads.
And do you know what happened? I fell in love with driving all over again. It turns out that if you don’t try to be clever, don’t get into the race for a space or lane hop your way to oblivion and go against the grain, there’s a lot of driving space out there. Admittedly, I didn’t have the luxury of a service station charging me over the odds for a refill of the tank and neither did I have to pay £2.99 for a bag of midget gems. Because, as I found out, if you trundle down the A6 then go through Whaley Bridge, you can pull up at a shop and instead of worrying about your place in the queue being lost, you can pay £1.00 for the same bag of midget gems and then carry on for a nice drive through the countryside while you enjoy them.
Then, when you get to Buxton, if you so desire, you can pull up and admire the small but perfectly lovely Opera House while you have a stretch before carrying on. Burton upon Trent, somewhere I hadn’t been since I was a youth, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, not as romantic as it sounds, Ibstock, Market Bosworth, little lanes around them all until I was meandering behind the radio masts outside of Rugby, the ones you can see while sitting in traffic at rush hour next to the M1/M6 interchange.
It was at this point, that I realized that since my last stretch out of the car, I hadn’t put any music back on, I hadn’t turned my phone on, in fact, I’d done nothing other than enjoy my drive. A bit of local traffic wasn’t an issue as I had been enjoying looking at middle-England’s little towns and villages. I’d retraced a few long forgotten memories of lanes I’d traversed when I first got my driving licence and now, unwittingly, I’d managed to find myself heading to the wrong side of the country, opposite to where I live, and rolling headlong towards the area of Britain that is predominantly warehousing. Bugger.
The reason for this not paying too much attention is because I’m driving an Aston Martin DB9. A car that arrived in 2003 while Aston was part of Ford, the car does contain traces of the Ford Group owned factories of that time. We don’t need to add too much about the negatives that really get on our tits, most of which is that daft nav system that you a) can’t see and b) fails to see where you are, so that’s the reason why I’m on roads from my past.
What we do like though is how this car makes you feel. It does have that sense of arrival when you get in it and even here and now, on the roads here, the car looks more modern and more at ease than many contempories around it. That said, the design has probably been pushed as far as it can go in the most recent editions but this car is ageing well.
You can be unkind and claim issues with the layout of the interior and the driving position, but this isn’t a road test here, it’s a search for the essence of driving, the pleasure you can gain from it and whether this is delivering any rewarding owner experience at all. To that end, yes, yes it does.
Is it nimble? No, but that isn’t the point. This is a car that you will want to get in and eat up distances with, as befits a GT car. It does like a tipple though but you can forgive that for the noise it makes while drinking is quite divine. The switch-gear, from the glass starter button and milled aluminium dials, has been thrown around a little but they all make it a unique, if not sensible, experience.
But, all that said, this car does deliver in being a very nice place to be. I guess that’s why we decided that just sitting in stop/start traffic wasn’t the right call. Looking over, I can see that the M1 appears to be doing something quite alarming though compared to my road; it’s moving. Decision made, I’ll jump on it and get some speed up for the next chunk of my return. This is, after all, where the GT car should excel. Easing it up to a cruise and some twenty miles down the road, yep, not disappointed.
And so, with my leisurely diversion over and my final drive more in-keeping with the commuter style run home, the Aston has me hooked. It’s a lot of car for the money these days and while I agree it is high time that Aston made a big bold change of design, these cars still turn heads. As the final versions are literally rolling off the line right now, it is quite apt that we’ve been for a spin in this car.
I arrive quite relaxed and, even with my delightful stops, views and vistas around the countryside, I’ve got back an hour earlier than the delightful satnav has suggested it would take me.
Although, as this unit is universally agreed as the worlds worst navigation system, that probably doesn’t count for much. Truth be told though, I could get lost in this car quite happily. All you need do is ask the satnav to get you somewhere and you probably will.
Just remember the midget gems for sustenance.