Anyone who has ever spent any serious time in luxury hotels knows that your expectations rise with each subsequent experience. We get so used to being pampered that we often actively seek out minor faults, imagine unintentional micro aggressions, or simply assume the tea you ordered for breakfast won’t be the way you get it in London.
After spending a weekend in June at The Maybourne Riviera, I can easily say it exceeds expectations, period. It is a rather grand and beautiful hotel, and in two years has already become something of an icon in this particular part of the Côte D’Azur. The Riviera is a huge but strangely intimate modern construction in the hills way above Monaco, a monument to serenity and glamour, built seemingly entirely from glass and taste. Also, importantly, the staff are welcoming and accommodating (even when they discover you’re not actually French but British).
Another thing about hotels like these is your suitability for staying there. Unless you look the part, act the part, or are the part, you’re going to look like a fish out of water (or at least the sea around Monte Carlo).
You also need the right car. Turn up in a dodgy rental, an ex-company run-around or a beaten-up Mondeo and you’re going to be ceremoniously ignored. Trust me, I should know, as I’ve done it. Turn up in an Aston Martin DB12, however, and the staff will be rushing out of the hotel asking if they can help. Sure, some of them will be looking for tips, others will be trying to ingratiate themselves, but most of them will be offering to park it. Just so they can touch it, just so they can drive it, just so they can tell their friends that today they saw an Aston Martin DB12. Because why wouldn’t you?
The DB12 I turned up in wasn’t exactly subtle either. It was in beautiful hyper red, the kind of car that doesn’t just turn heads – it positively makes them swivel. The staff at the hotel all turned into those Tex Avery cartoon characters, where their heads spin around in excitement.
Not only did it have a wonderful exterior, but when I climbed inside I thought I’d just stepped into a private members club. Modern, chic and almost unbelievably cool, the designers have managed to mix all the whizz-bang technology we expect now, with some of the finer heritage accoutrements that many of us like about so-called vintage cars. Like knobs and dials and wood and stuff like clocks that don’t blink at you.
In this car I felt as though I was moving into the future while stepping into the past.
What more could you ask from an Aston Martin?
While the DB12’s exterior may look a tad familiar – something I was extremely happy about – its interior is something of a revelation. “This is where the really big investment has been,” says the Aston Martin Director of Design, Miles Nurnberger. The redesigned dash features a sassy, horizontal, full-width vent graphic that underpins two 10.3-inch hi-resolution screens with ultra-black display technology, one for the instrument panel and one bang in the centre of the car for the (loud) infotainment. It all looks very space age but not too space age, if you get my drift, which is what Aston Martin drivers like. It’s definitely what I like, anyway.
I felt as though I could press the screen and play the new Chemical Brothers track while turning on the washing machine at home, while also imagining I was about to compete at Le Mans.
That’s how this car is meant to make you feel. And that’s precisely how it makes me feel.
This DB12 is a genuine world-beating Super Tourer, a car that feels as though it could take you across America in the time it takes to fill the tank. It feels big but is smaller than the previous model (how they do this stuff I don’t know, but they do and it’s very impressive). It is so fast I bet hardly anyone will touch its top speed (and I’m not telling you how fast I went), and it handles so effortlessly that you feel as though you are being chauffeured.
At least I did as I navigated the often treacherous roads of the Riviera.
This new Aston Martin is the latest offspring of the DB bloodline, the branch of the family tree that’s marking its 75th anniversary this year. The successor to the DB11 and arriving in showrooms in the autumn.
The low-slung chassis is even sexier than its predecessor, it’s a quieter ride, and it’s got a souped-up engine that will appeal to those owners who like having more than a tiger in their tank.
The DB12, says Aston Martin’s Group Chief Technical Officer Roberto Fedeli, is a “statement car.” And when you look at some of the headline numbers, it’s difficult to disagree: 680PS, 0–60mph in 3.5 seconds, and a whacking top speed of 202mph. And it’s all in the details: there’s a bigger grille and dramatic venting in the hood, plus spanking new headlights, bumpers and side sills.
And the handling? Well, it sticks to the road like Velcro, even at speed and even in fast traffic. The 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 under the hood offers more oomph than Mr Oomph from Oomphville. You don’t really want to know what’s under the bonnet as it will simply scare you.
As I was negotiating the treacherous roads above Monaco, I hit a rock which had miraculously appeared in the road, seemingly a gift from the Gods. I knew I’d hit something, but it wasn’t until I stopped a mile ahead that I realised I’d got a serious puncture. In any other car I would have probably careered off the road into the sea, never to be seen again. But in the DB12 the puncture was only a minor inconvenience.
That’s how good the handling is.
After a day in the mountains, I returned to The Maybourne, to be greeted once again by admiring glances and looks of unbridled lust (it was the car receiving this attention, I’m sure, not me). One of the doormen even asked if he could have it.
“I can’t afford it, it’s probably completely rude of me to ask such a ridiculous question, but what I can tell you is that giving this car to me will improve my life so much,” he said, smiling. “I would never need anything else in my life. I would die happy knowing I had had this car in my life.”
Of course, he didn’t want the car, and obviously didn’t expect me to give it to him, he just wanted to say it. That’s the effect this extraordinary car has on people. Now, as top-end car companies start to reimagine their relationships with their own past, it’s becoming imperative the cars they build today will be genuinely remembered in years to come. Nobody wants to acknowledge the past for no reason, no one wants to celebrate their legacy without a reason to do so, while the leading marques know that their design principles need to mirror those driven by technology.
And, as that relationship stands, I’d say that Aston Martin is making as good a fist of it as anyone. In fact, if this new DB12 is anything to go by, the next few years are going to be extremely exciting.
Are you up for the ride? I know I am.