Test-driving the brand-new DB11 around the English countryside from Aston Martin’s HQ in Gaydon, Warwickshire, to Cowley Manor in the Cotswolds
Words Katie Monk
I don’t see it coming. It’s gaping jaws are upon me before I know what’s happening. I slam on the brakes and stop just in time. I’m sure James Bond didn’t have any run-ins with tractors, but then again, he didn’t spend much time in Stow-on-the-Wold.
I’m test-driving a brand-new DB11 around the English countryside, taking it from Aston Martin’s HQ in Gaydon, Warwickshire, to Cowley Manor in the Cotswolds. It’s a two-hour drive, and absolutely nail-biting from start to finish. Not just being behind the wheel of such an expensive piece of kit, but navigating narrow lanes and blind bends and sticking to the speed limit. It feels a little bit like riding a racehorse in a bungalow.
“I’m sure James Bond didn’t have any run-ins with tractors, but then again, he didn’t spend much time in Stow-on-the-Wold.”
As with any luxury experience, driving an Aston eclipses anything else you’ve ever known. When you slip into the driver’s seat, a range of settings and angles mold the seat to your body like a very classy massage chair. The leather is beautifully soft – hand-cut and stitched in-house, like an haute-couture garment on a supermodel.
In fact, everything on an Aston Martin is designed and hand-crafted in England – aside from the engine, which is made in Cologne. The DB11 is Aston’s most advanced and powerful DB yet. The aluminium body is lighter, stronger and more aerodynamic than previous models. And under the bonnet is a potent 5.2-litre, twin-turbo V12 engine, which goes from 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds, with a top speed of 200mph. There are nine gears, operated by ‘paddles’ on either side of the steering wheel. Or you can just keep it in automatic and play with the driving modes – GT, Sport and Sport Plus – which gradually intensify the engine’s response.
Whilst at Aston HQ in Gaydon, I attended an Art of Living Design Masterclass to watch the cars being made. Each vehicle begins as a series of sketches on paper or iPad, which are then turned into clay models, where each element can be manipulated until it’s just right. Then a number of talented craftspeople and engineers bring all this to life. Over 700 people work on the factory floor, turning the designs into the finished article.
Each component has its own section and specialists, and everything runs like clockwork. It’s the cleanest and classiest factory I’ve ever been to. Once a customer has made their purchase, they can come here as much as they like and watch their car being created. Because much of the vehicle is bespoke, the buyer can choose the colour of the paint job, the leatherwork, and the interior. Some match it to their lipstick, others to their favourite tie.
The care and attention to detail is staggering. These aren’t cars at all – they’re works of art.
Which is why I really, really don’t want to crash mine. I make it to Cowley Manor unscathed, and enjoy a fabulous pit-stop lunch on the hotel’s terrace. Then we hit the road again for the short drive to the newly opened Painswick Hotel – a converted 18th-century Cotswold stone mansion – where we stop for the night.
Painswick is famous for its Rococo garden and close proximity to Prinknash Abbey and the lovely town of Stroud, but I think we’ve had enough fun for today, so we hang back and enjoy the hotel’s open fires and cocktails instead.
The following morning, I’m ready for my adrenaline hit and busy plotting where we can go next in this car. Ice-driving in New Zealand, perhaps? A spin around Lake Lugano in Switzerland? Suddenly the world feels like a very different, are far more thrilling place.