/ 5 September 2007

Detox your soul

We live rather toxic lives these days — Al Gore tells us that our planet is very sick, and we’re not in terribly good shape either according to books such as Fast Food Nation. So every now and again we feel the need to purge our physical demons with some vile-tasting tonic in the hope that we’re restoring balance to our bodies.

The intensity of the detox varies from one person to another, but whatever the method, we always hope the end result is a renewed vigour for life through a healthier body that will hopefully see us paying our taxes well into our twilight years. But what about a tonic for the soul? What are we doing to recharge our exhausted spirits?

My mum has been meditating for many years and believes very strongly in the cleansing effect that meditation has on the spirit, so she makes a point of going on spiritual retreats a few times a year to recharge her batteries.

Of course, I’m too busy to do the same. So, like anyone, I look for quick fixes to replenish the physical and the spiritual.

Music has always been cathartic for me and I recently realised that there are other types of aural stimulation that can be just as powerful.

I know this might sound corny, but the sound of the Aston Martin Vantage Roadster’s V8 engine gave me indescribable pleasure. Yes, I’ve driven V8s, V10s and even a V12-engined vehicle before, but none has ever sounded as viciously sweet as this.

Tramp the accelerator and the V8 engine roars to life. Hit the brakes before a corner and it drops a gear, but keeps the engine growling because it’s expecting you to power through whatever lies ahead. It’s as if the engine doesn’t think you’re slowing down because you might want to stop — it assumes you’re slowing down to negotiate an obstacle and that you will be hitting the gas very soon. The change-down sounds almost like someone clearing his or her throat before saying something terribly important.

Settle into the Vantage, press the start button and focus on the speedo as the trip computer flashes the words “power”, “beauty” and “soul” on the screen, where you will then find readings for fuel consumption and such.

Those three little words epitomise what this car is all about and it’s the reason why I felt like spending just one day with it had gone some distance in recharging my tired spirit. A great deal of passion has gone into production of this vehicle, and the driver feels that passion.

A few minutes after leaving the Aston Martin dealership in Sandton, I waited patiently to turn when a middle-aged woman in a Mercedes Benz SLK stopped, smiled and waved to give me an opportunity to turn. I was shocked. People, especially in Sandton, are never courteous. In fact, taxi drivers are more courteous than most Sandton drivers. But there she was, telling me that she thought my car was worthy of going ahead of hers.

“You see, it just proves my theory that moneyed people are only ever nice to other moneyed people,” said my friend Lisa. “But, I don’t have any money,” I protested. “But, your car says you have money,” she said.

And she was right. Well, sort of. I don’t know about her theory on rich folk, but the Vantage certainly spoke volumes about the driver and you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that anyone who drives an Aston Martin is bound to be loaded.

The upholstery inside the Vantage Roadster is exceedingly classy and the sports seats hug you tightly as you settle in. The combination of suede and leather works nicely throughout the interior, but the flip-down sun visors with the mirrors that look like they were superglued on to the visors lower the tone of an otherwise exceptional interior.

The six-speed Sportshift automatic gearbox goes into manual mode when you use the flappy paddles on the steering wheel and the transmission, which is fairly smooth at normal speeds, feels quite jerky when you’re pushing the car to its limit. However, the road-holding more than makes up for the gearbox.

It took me a long time to find open roads outside of Gauteng, but I did, and the Vantage displayed an impressive sense of composure whenever I threw it into a twisty section. Then again, this is a very low-slung vehicle and the suspension is quite hard, so it only stands to reason that it would handle bends confidently. However, the manner in which the engine reacts to a heavy right foot and the ease with which the speedo needle rises to highly illegal speeds makes you want to drive it all day long.

While driving the Vantage Roadster I wondered if it was worth its hefty price tag of R1,5-million as there are other, cheaper contenders in this class of two-seater sports cars and so I came to this conclusion: it may not be the quickest in its class, but it is worth every cent because it’s a beautiful piece of machinery and is also one of the most soulful cars I’ve ever had the pleasure of testing.

Fact file

Model: Aston Martin V8 Vantage roadster

Price: R1 550 000

Engine: 4,2-litre V8

Tech: 283kW, 410Nm

Top Speed: 280km/h, 0-100km/h in five seconds

Tank: 80 litres

Services: 15 000km