Track experience #5 – The best yet!

1 March 2016
Aston Martin unveiled the DB11 at the Geneva International Motor Show.
It was around lunch time and I was – quite illegally – watching it unfold at work on my mobile. For a very long time indeed the DB4 had been my favourite Aston Martin; my favourite car even, but now? I haven’t forgotten the DB4, but the DB11 stole my heart.

5 March 2016
My best friend and I went to Geneva to see the new Aston for ourselves. We ended up spending about 45 minutes at the stand across several visits that day. We marvelled at the engine which was on display (it’s big!), the car’s cut out model, showing the technology in the bodywork, and of course the DB11s on display.

The DB11 on the Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. stand at the Geneva International Motor Show in 2016.
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13 January 2018
It’s almost 2 years after the car was unveiled in Geneva and I’ve seen my fair share of DB11s – on the road, but also at the factory in Gaydon.
On this day, though, it is time to drive it!

My best friend and I drove 4 laps (approximately 6 miles) each in the car. This is the V12 version, so not the recently released V8 car. Of course there is nothing wrong with a V8, but I was very curious about the 5.2 litre V12 that AML built for the DB11. Apparently it can go from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds. I think that makes it the fastest car I’ve driven so far.
I was not disappointed.

I already knew that when you’re inside the car it doesn’t feel very large at all, even though it is by no means a small car. Being an Aston Martin it’s obviously also not a particularly light car, despite the fact that the DB11 was created as light as possible. When you drive it however it feels like it weighs nothing. The moment you take your foot off the brake it starts rolling quite gently, but when you put your foot down it runs off with you. What a drive!

The Aston Martin DB11 at Prestwold.
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The Prestwold track is approximately 1.3 miles long, so the straight is not very long. Just before the straight there is a safe zone where you are allowed to go only between 40 and 50 mph. Thankfully the DB11 speeds up quite quickly, but the straight is not long enough to make it to 100 mph before the braking point – almost though.
Since I know the track quite well now I am certainly improving which allows me to enjoy the drive more. The shift paddles are not a novelty for me, so that is no longer a distraction either.

The DB9 I drove a while ago is of course a few years older than the DB11, but since they are both Aston Martins I feel it’s fairly safe to compare them. Like the DB9, the DB11 doesn’t dive down when you brake hard. Braking is very level and comfortable.
The DB11 did feel a lot faster, but also lighter than the DB9. If the interior didn’t very clearly look like Aston Martin you could be mistaken and feel it’s a much smaller car. Only when I had to park it did I realise this car has a very long nose. But even at slow speeds it handles really well and as light as a feather.

Overall the handling is very smooth, so you have to waste no brain capacity on driving. It is simply natural. It makes the drive the best I’ve had so far and I got out of the car with pain in my heart.
I’m guessing I will repeat this track experience. It was just too good not to.

The onboard video didn’t turn out perfect, so I have it in three parts. You can watch it here:
Part 1 of 3
Part 2 of 3
Part 3 of 3


87th International Motor Show, Geneva

After a long break I went back to the Geneva International Motor Show last year. Aston Martin presented the DB11 and I thought I couldn’t be more excited. I was wrong.

Initially I was not planning to go to Geneva, but then Aston Martin broke the news they were bringing three premieres to the show. I got the chance to go on Tuesday (press day), which meant I could not possibly resist.
I did mention last year that the show elements I had grown accustomed to have mostly disappeared. This is not the case for the first press day. Everything starts on Monday afternoon, as in the evening the Car of the Year is revealed. On Tuesday the day is filled with press conferences and these are shows! The manufacturers bring often more than one of their VIPs, promotional videos are shown and most don’t shy away from a light show.

The quiet before the storm, or – in this case – the Aston Martin stand before the press conference.
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It is impossible to see all conferences, because they follow each other in quick succession and you’d have to run from one hall to another at times. I managed to catch the conferences of Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche and Aston Martin.
Especially Lamborghini stood out for me. The actual presentation itself wasn’t that long (as in: not a lot of talking). They alternated between live presentation and a few videos and it was one of the videos that got my attention.

Video courtesy of Lamborghini

After leaving WEC at the end of last year’s season Audi Sport have now presented their DTM challenger: the new RS5. They presented the car simultaneously with its road going sibling. In addition they confirmed their manufacturer team entry for Formula E’s 2017/2018 season. There’s a lot going on at Audi.

Bentley presented the EXP 12 which is an electric car. Style wise it fits in perfectly with the Continental and the Mulsanne. It looks amazing and I hope we get to see and hear more about it soon. Between the BMW i8 and Bentley EXP 12 I think we can safely say electric cars are stepping away from looking boring.

I didn’t make it to the Volvo conference, but was right next door (at Aston) when their conference happened. I had already seen all the Volvos were wrapped up in cocoons (different, to say the least). The presentation seemed to focus mainly on how natural the car is, how great it feels, etc. Considering they were presenting the XC60 I think they totally missed the mark.
Having owned a Volvo 440 and test driven the S90 I am amazed at how horrible the XC60 is. However, I should take into account it’s an SUV and I’m not a fan of SUVs in general. There’s only a few I like, for example the Mazda CX-3 and CX-5. They at least prove that an SUV can still have nice lines and it doesn’t have to be massive.

Volkswagen Arteon
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Volkswagen and I are not really friends, but there are a few models I like. On trips to the Nürburgring I have driven an EOS and a convertible Golf. I fully believe they should have left the Scirocco alone. I also think the CC is one of the sexiest things on four wheels ever built. Safe to say I haven’t quite made my mind up about VW.
When strolling over their stand I was pleasantly surprised by the Arteon (pictured above). It has all the things I like about the CC while still being recognisably Volkswagen. Very nice indeed.

It was great to see so many race cars at the show. Ford brought their WEC racer, Rebellion brought their LMP1 car. Abt was there with their Formula E car. Toyota had their LMP1 car at the stand including a part-car display where you could have a better look at the cockpit.

A look inside the Toyota LMP1 car.
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Last year Aston Martin shook up the car world by presenting what was then called AM-RB 001. It’s low, it looks mean (yet smooth), its aerodynamic characteristics are created by Adrian Newey, it’s very fast and will be road legal (yes, really).
The day before Geneva they revealed the lady’s name: Valkyrie.

Not surprising then that it was very busy at the Aston Martin stand when the time for their conference came. Even though the car has been shown already and further details have been released in the past year, it still draws the crowd. Who wouldn’t want to see this with their own eyes?
Now I have seen the car for myself I can confirm she’s a sight to behold. I find it unbelievable that you can sit behind the car and look underneath it from rear to front. Especially the rear is quite high, despite the car being very low overall. It will be very interesting to see (and hear!) this car when a working prototype is completed.

Aston Martin Valkyrie
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Aston Martin also had a surprise for us: AMR.
They took the opportunity to launch a new brand which will be bringing racing technology directly to road cars. The Rapide AMR looks surprisingly sporty for such a big car and wears its makeover quite well. I understand the Vantage AMR Pro will be track only whereas the Rapide AMR will be a road car.
As if this wasn’t enough they also brought a special Q edition of the DB11 and a Vanquish S Volante. I am still drooling now…

Going to the Geneva International Motor Show on press day has been a privilege. It gave me the chance to have a much better look at the new cars and to hear the details from some pretty important people.
I can’t make any promises, but I will certainly try to get press passes to this show and other shows/events. It will allow me to get that just that little bit more to write about.

86th International Motor Show, Geneva

It was back in 2005 that I visited the ‘Salon International de l’Auto’. It’s a well-known and very large car show which is often chosen by car manufacturers to present their latest model(s). This year Aston Martin decided this was the place to unveil their new car and, of course, I couldn’t miss that. So, instead of heading to Barcelona for Formula One testing, I flew to Geneva.

Something I had noticed through the years is that all three car shows I visited it somewhat regularly – Geneva, Frankfurt and Amsterdam – the way cars were presented/unveiled and promoted was getting less extravagant. Of course this was most noticeable near the credit crunch.
Now it seems things are picking up again. I’ve not seen any repeated shows to present a new car model, but I have seen dancing girls, more brochures being handed out (as opposed to the emails you can get, and only for one model, mind you!) and the stands looking generally better fitted out.
It was also extremely busy, however I don’t think that that ever changed much, especially on a Saturday.

My main focus and reason for visiting was the new Aston Martin, but I’ll get to that later.
When visiting any car show I have a tendency to visit any brand I’m interested in first and spend time just browsing if I have any time (or energy) left. I also like to have a look at the prototypes and I was surprised to see how few there are nowadays. The Peugeot Fractal stood out, though.

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I am not sure I’d ever want to buy one, but the styling is definitely different. I certainly hope Peugeot are on to something here, because I find their cars consistently boring when it comes to styling. About a decade ago I loved visiting their stand, because the cars were an absolute joy to look at. It would be nice to see them returning to the same styling standard.
I can’t say anything about the driving experience, because I have never owned or driven a Peugeot.

The Audi stand was so busy you could barely see the cars. Of course this is a good sign for Audi, but it’s not good from a photographer’s perspective. Unfortunately for me there was also no A7. I would have loved to sit in one, just to see what that’s like. I absolutely love the styling of it and I’ve had a soft spot for Audi for a very long time (thank you, original Quattro!). I guess I will just have to plan my next track day and make sure I get to drive an R8. To be continued…

Another car I have a huge soft spot for (and trust me, it needs to be a huge spot!) is the Toyota Hilux.

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No, it’s not a very pretty car and yes, it is very big indeed. I think that’s probably it. I do like large(r) cars and this one takes the biscuit. I know there are bigger – and usually American – cars out there, but I like the styling of the Hilux. It’s a good looking beast, it IS a beast and, depending on what type you pick, it can be very practical. I sat in the one on the photo above and the view is also not bad at all. It’s certainly a vantage point over all cars around you.
Now if only they’d sell these at a price that falls within my budget.

One of the other stands I visited was McLaren. My friend had not yet seen the 650 ‘in the flesh’. It gave me a chance to have a good look at the 675LT. That is not an ugly car at all.

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There were quite a few stands I visited, but my main focus was on Aston Martin. It’s where my day started and I spent about 20% of my total visiting time there.
On the Tuesday (1 March) I had watched the unveiling of the DB11 live. It made me very happy I had decided to skip F1 testing and go to Geneva instead. What a car!
For a long time my favourite Aston Martin was the DB4. It’s the original, the one the other DBs took their looks from. Yesterday that title was stolen and it is now held by the DB11. To be honest, I have no words to describe this car. I love it. It’s as simple as that.

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This is the way Aston Martin is heading. I cannot wait to see what they come up with next.

But let’s for just a moment go back to the main topic: the car show itself.
Yes, it was busy and yes, it was warm. That is to be expected at a big, international car show. The quality of the stands is definitely improving again. The public seemed to enjoy themselves. There were a lot of interactive elements at many of the stands. So there is not just a lot to see, there is also more to do. The brochures and bags are making a comeback. Let’s see if the balloons, stickers and caps will follow.
The atmosphere was good. It’s time to start visiting more car shows again.