Every onlooker gawks with obvious jealousy at the curvy rolling statue Aston Martin created and then, for some reason, loaned to me for a weekend. Jealous of what, exactly? I'm frankly terrified of having to dodge a million ankle-deep potholes and trying not to scratch the carbon fiber bumper against a cab. The Aston Martin Vanquish is art, sure, but no sane person would wear a Picasso sketch as a necklace and then decide to judge a water gun fight.
To understand the pure aesthetic pleasure of an the Aston Martin, it's perhaps important to understand what you must endure to own one in a crowded city like New York, in a winter that's convinced people they've somehow been forsaken by their God. I also don't have the best record in NYC.
Let's start right at the beginning. To drive an Aston Martin press car you have to sign a few forms stating that, should anything happen, you're on your own. This isn't a Mazda. If you break it, you buy it.
I finally get why James Bond drives Aston Martins. First, because he can. Second, because he's trying to save the world, and if you fuck up a car in pursuit of such an esteemed end people will forgive you something so slight. I'm not saving the world. I'm just an auto journalist hoping to save my 401k from being depleted.
Then, when the car arrives, you have to go on a point-by-point walk around to assure that they know that you know that they know how little damage has been done to it. As this particular deep magenta car is almost brand new — just 1,000 miles odo — it looks as if the exterior was polished by hand with Cupid's very own angelic diaper. The streets of New York, like most of the cities in the Northeast, looks as though it was polished by hand with Thor's own mighty godhammer.
Once I'm through the with ritual of signing the better part of my current and future earnings away, I then notice that everything that used to encourage lust in me now encourages dread. The swish carbon fiber splitter poking out around the lower valence suddenly reminds me of a condom designed with holes around the ejection point, with the same limited performance value and the same kind of performance anxiety.
Further back those wide 20-inch wheels appear to almost float out of their PZERO tires and creep towards jagged curbs. Those wide hips simply beg to catch a wall when wheeling it into a tight parking spot.
I spent about five hours in the car and only about an hour of that time was of the kind of pleasure that Aston intended when they built this car. That was when I drove out of the city towards the outer beaches of Long Island. Then the V12 Aston thrummed its wicked V12 thrum and I downshifted completely unnecessarily to experience the thrill of our holy mother of acceleration.
Untethered to the harsh realities of city life it's exactly as wonderful as every Aston Martin you've ever dreamed of driving. From the leather roof to the kevlar seats, every surface is designed to make the driver feel like they're in the sex dungeoun of an affluent duke.
Even starting the car is ridiculous. The Vanquish doesn't have a key, it has an "emotional control unit" that plugs into the center console and glows an evil red when you insert it into the carbon fiber opening. It might as well blare R. Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)" when you start it up because all you'll think about is going to someone's room and freaking somebody.
But that's an illusion. I don't live in the beachfront part of Long Island, I live in the soot-and-asshole-drivers part. Returning home in traffic I have to avoid the cabbies trying to cut me off, the ambulances darting in and out of traffic, and the pedestrians just begging to become an expensive hood ornament.
At one point a pair of New York's finest hit their lights and took off, in reverse, towards the back of the Aston. I thought they'd seen me launch from a traffic light but, if they did, they didn't care. They just wanted to talk about the car and no one around dared to honk at us. All I could think was "Thank God they didn't reverse right into the trunk."
And yet, for all of this, the feeling I have when I hand the keys back to the fleet driver picking it up isn't just relief. There's a lot of regret. I should have driven it more. I should have driven it faster.
As he pulls out of the parking garage and back out into the city I suddenly become one of the jealous ones. The only place worse than the behind the wheel of an Aston Martin Vanquish in Manhattan is the outside of one.