With Spectre, the latest installment of the James Bond franchise scheduled for release later this year, one marque is perpetually brought to mind for the motoring aficionado: Aston Martin.
Ever since Goldfinger, the British marque's iconic grill shape has graced the vehicle of choice for the intrepid spy – so linked are their identities that there will even be a special model built, the DB10, just for the new film.
Away from Pinewood Studios and the silver screen however, Aston Martin's Vantage N430 provides similar levels of excitement.
Tweaked, tuned and coloured with provocative accents, it is a striking presence. Its reason d’être, to bring race tuning to road: the club sport ethos.
Delivering extreme performance and handling to any road is one of the greater challenges for supercar manufacturers. Firm suspension and potholes simply aren’t the best of friends and grip can easily be compromised on tired, worn surfaces. Our very real test for the N430 edition is not a Bond-esque escape from a mastermind bent on global domination, but a winter day in the mountains – a feat not without its challenges: the snow has mostly melted but the lanes remain slippery and ice-ravaged, the low sun blinding as it skims across the mountain tops.
The most obvious aspect of the N430 – named after its development at Nürburgring and developing a healthy 436PS – are those colours. Our Speedway white model – with red lips, roof line, rear splitter and mirror caps – is cheekily bold and rather the looker. It is one of the five colour schemes available for the N430. All look fresh and the Alloro Green with yellow graphics carries the pleasing historical reference to the classic DBR1.
The next immersion into this special Vantage is its sound, an unashamed, leonine roar on start-up before settling down to comfortable burble. The short, precise throw of the manual lever is perfectly satisfying and the clutch – though fickle from standstill, requiring a tickling of the revs – engages swiftly and crisply. The short ratios are fabulously suited to the car’s character and as the rev counter needle sweeps up anti-clockwise, the evocative soundtrack urges the driver on. Sixth is high enough for comfortable long stretches at motorway speeds.
Despite the clear skies and bright light, the wind is biting. Thankfully the Aston’s interior is snug, the Alcantara steering wheel both grippy and warm, and the cockpit a safe, stitched-leather cocoon. Seating is supportive and relative positioning of pedals and gear lever spot on for reach.
Traction is mightily impressive. Shod with winter tyres, much of the power from this race-bred engine is accessible without too much electronic intervention: quite an achievement on these roads. A little care is needed powering out of corners where the weak winter light has failed to dry the road but the fore-aft balance is good and this sporting Vantage – lightened by 20kg over the standard - retains its composure well. The stiff ride demands care and concentration reading the path ahead but on the open road, it settles well and the tautness inspires confidence.
The real pleasure of the Vantage N430 remains its usability. Although the media interface isn’t the most friendly, small turning circle, good visibility and the low ratio gears make for excellent manoeuvrability and the controls are positive and precise.
For the aspirational spy however, we would suggest anything but the Vantage N430. It would simply present far too great a distraction.