Can an Aston Martin Survive the Suburbs?
Sometimes the email gods are good to you. This particular missive came a few weeks back from a public relations genius who surely is overdue for a raise: Aston Martin has a New York–based DB11. Something tells me you may be interested. Let me know….
Not wanting to look needy, I waited perhaps 30 seconds to respond. “Yes, interested. Could I drive it to my high school reunion in Massachusetts?”
But another reviewer already had dibs on that weekend, so I couldn’t be that guy at my reunion. Instead, I settled for Friday, May 5, through Monday, May 8. The three-day challenge: I didn’t have a winding mountain road in the Swiss alps or the ocean-viewing curves of PCH or the blistering straightaways of Route 66 to test the car properly. I had only the suburbs—and a typical weekend of grueling family fare in my town of Pleasantville, New York. I was a battle-tested veteran of such marathons. But could the DB11 cope?
This, Worth readers, is the answer.
FRIDAY, MAY 5
It’s a rainy morning before I leave for work. I get the call from Aston Martin’s driver. “What’s taking so long?” I ask. “Is everything okay? Are you lost?” Everything’s fine, the caller assures me. The car is almost here.
The DB11 pulls into my driveway, where I am standing like a
dork expectant father waiting for the big arrival. It is a gorgeous car, long and sleek and sloping, as if the front end is chomping at the bit to get going already. It’s hard to call a car that reminds one of a rocket subtle, but I will say that it isn’t flashy, which is something I appreciate about Astons. They’re what I think of as a double-take car. They draw attention to themselves through the subtle details, like the air vents tucked behind the rear passenger windows that allow air to flow through and out slots in the rear boot lid, eliminating the need for a conventional spoiler. At first glance, pedestrians don’t always realize how beautiful Aston Martins are. It takes a moment.
The guy driving the Aston—I’ll call him “Brian,” because that’s his name—hops out with a serious grin on his face. “I love driving this car,” he explains. I’ve driven Aston Martins before—though not, ahem, that much—but just in case, Brian gives me a refresher: the keyless ignition, the center panel glove box that glides open at the touch of a button, the driving modes (Grand Touring, Sport and Sport Plus), the 12-inch LCD screen, the nav system with voice activation, the paddle shifters, the two conical Bang and Olufsen speakers that rise stealthily from the front corners of the dashboard when you turn on the sound system. The 20-gallon tank is full, and the on-screen display informs me that I have an expected range of 346 miles. You can do the math: If gas mileage is a priority, don’t buy a supercar. But then, you wouldn’t typically drive your Aston Martin around the suburbs for a weekend, either. “Can I take this thing anywhere?” I ask. “Go crazy,” Brian says. Or at least that’s what it sounded like to me.
I sign some form of legal release. (I didn’t read it, but I signed it.) Brian hands me the key, hops a ride from a colleague in a waiting Acura, and they chug out the driveway. I am alone with the DB11. The road is my oyster.
I take the Aston to the North White Plains Metro-North station, fully aware that driving a $254,000 car to the morning commute is the reductio ad absurdum of a midlife crisis. Still…the idea that a DB11 is my station car pleases me. And my road to the station, Route 22 around the Kensico Reservoir, was made for the DB11’s grand touring mode—big sweeping curves, views of water and forest that make a morning commute quite palatable, the sun peeking over hilltops and glinting off the flat water of the reservoir. The car seems to glide effortlessly, hugging the road, all four tires glued to the wet pavement. My only challenge: keeping vaguely close to the 50-miles-an-hour speed limit. The local constabulary doesn’t have a lot of crime to worry about, so they compensate by preying on morning-rushed drivers who nudge slightly over the speed limit, as I found out one tragic dawn when my Volkswagen Tiguan and I hit 70 in the 50. (I was going downhill!) I took that one to court because, well, you never know. It just meant that I had to wait longer to pay the ticket.
Feeling strangely energetic, I pay $7 to park the car for the day and hop on the train. When I return at 7:00 that night, the DB11 is there, untouched but—am I projecting?—slightly annoyed at sitting idle all day. But the weekend lies ahead. Plenty of time.
SATURDAY, MAY 6
The wife is asleep. The boys, 5 and 3, are, strangely, asleep. This can mean only one thing: I’m taking the Aston Martin to the Equinox gym maybe three miles away. I’m feeling the start of something big—a whole new take on life. But will the throaty roar of the ignition wake up my sleeping family? The heck with it. The energy of the 600-horsepower car is surging through my veins. Or, possibly, it is caffeine.
Stairmaster accomplished, I stop at the local overpriced supermarket. Four dollars for a half gallon of milk, $7 for a tub of Greek yogurt, etc. I throw two bags of groceries in the boot of the Aston Martin, which works pretty well for that. If you were doing something more glamorous, you could put a bag of golf clubs in there, or two weekend duffels. There’s actually more room than you think, given that the engine on this thing looks like it takes up about 60 percent of the car.
Time to take the boys to their swimming lesson at the Greenwich YMCA. Good news, bad news. The boys are awake and have seen the car. Instantly, they gravitate to it—they’ve seen this kind of thing in futuristic cartoons. My 5-year-old figures out how to open the car doors—push one handle of a lever in, which pops out the other end, which you pull. Actually, make that bad news-bad news. Very shortly the hazard lights are flashing, the glove box top is sliding back and forth, the knob that clicks through the Sirius XM stations is being spun like a top. Aston Martin people, sorry about the cover over that rear speaker—but it did seem to pop off a little too easily. And also the foldable plastic rings that serve as cup holders in the glove box. Those pop off too. My apologies to all the highly skilled artisans who worked so hard to make this car by hand. Just think of it as quality control.
The other bad news: You cannot take one wife and two children to their swimming lessons in an Aston Martin, whose rear seats could contain a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, but not their car seats and possibly not their legs. Instead, we must take the Ford Flex, which is a fine vehicle and roomy but smells powerfully of old applesauce pouches, cheese goldfish and empty baby bottles. Is this really my life? Stay strong, inner James Bond.
A family friend is celebrating his birthday on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. A decision is made. We will take the DB11. Let’s stretch her legs on the 40 miles into the city.
The decision feels like the right one, when my wife, who is, objectively speaking, pretty hot, gets into the car. Stunning car, beautiful wife—clearly, I am a highly successful individual. And the early miles reward my decision; driving the DB11 on a decent highway is a joy. The ease of acceleration and passing, the road grip, the confidence of the steering, create a feeling that I’ll call ecstatic safety. Or maybe safe ecstasy. I don’t know that I got the chance to see if the DB really hits 60 in 3.9 seconds, but it sure felt like it.
Then it starts to rain and various fender benders clog the roads, and we get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Perhaps I should have tried for a test drive in the Alps. When we finally exit the FDR Drive, we pull into the only garage we can find in the neighborhood. It looks, frankly, a little rough around the edges—a few locals are hanging around drinking beers—and after I park the car, I hesitate when I hand the key to the attendant. Buh-bye, Mr. Bond. Hello, Ferris Bueller.
As the strains of “Happy birthday…” fade into the night, we return to the garage. Three drinking guys are sitting around listening to a fourth playing Jorma Kaukonen’s “Embryonic Journey” on a Fender Stratocaster—he’s damn good, actually, really ripping through it. The Aston remains where I parked it. “Forty dollars,” the attendant tells me. I point to the sign that says 20 bucks. “Sir,” he says, “you have a beautiful wife…”—see? Told you—“…and you are driving an Aston Martin.” And throws up his hands as if to say, “Do you really hesitate to part with another $20?” I hand him the 40.
And holy cow, the roads on the way back are largely empty. Sticking to the speed limit, more or less, we get home in about half the time it took us to get into the city. A near-perfect night.
SUNDAY, MAY 7
Crisis: My boys have two birthday parties to attend, and no one has bought presents for the celebrants. I drive the Aston to the Target in Mt. Kisco. Doing so makes me feel immeasurably better about the fact that at 9:00 on a Sunday morning I am driving to a Target to buy Duplo.
I throw a booster seat in the DB11’s passenger seat and haul my 5-year-old to the nearby “Kids U,” a bomb shelter-like space where young children climb on things, so that I can show off the car to the middle-aged fathers of my son’s friends. Before you get upset—a booster in the front seat is not technically recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, but it’s not illegal in New York either—and for a four-minute drive and the biggest smile you’ve ever seen on the face of a 5-year-old, I’ll take the chance. I will concede, though, that when this maneuver was later discovered by aforementioned beautiful wife (Love you, honey!), a nontrivial amount of marital discord ensued.
It’s worth it: At Kids U, I am newly popular among the local dads.
I get a text from my neighbor, Rick, who is in advertising and has awesome hair: “Is that a DB11 parked in your driveway? Got time to give me a ride?”
If you’re not religious, this is one of the 11 commandments: If you do happen to have a DB11 parked in your driveway, and your next door neighbor asks you to take him for a spin, and he is not a total wanker, which Rick is not, you pretty much have to say yes, I have time to give you a ride. Rick sprints over from his house. It turns out his parents used to own a gas station on Long Island, and his mom was a race car driver, which is not only pretty cool but also means that he knows quite a bit about cars. He takes pictures of the front grille, inhales the satisfying smell of the “Sahara tan” leather interior, and oohs and aahs as we pop the hood to reveal the twin-turbocharged V12 engine.
I drive Rick around the reservoir, knowing that come the morning I will have to return to the daily grind, putter the Tiguan to the train station and abandon the Aston in the driveway for Brian to pick up. (Brian giveth…and then he snaps your heart in two like a twig. Damn you, Brian.)
The sun is starting to set, and the sky is a helluva blue. What the heck, I let the Aston run a little bit. And at maybe eight miles over the speed limit, I blow by a cop wasting taxpayer dollars on the side of the road.
But sometimes the email gods are with you, or maybe this particular officer has a fondness for British sports cars, because there is no wailing siren, no whirling red in the rear view. There is only the whoosh of wind and the purr of engine, and a few more miles to go before Monday.