Forget track days and hot laps, learning to drift the entire Aston Martin fleet almost 2000m above sea level is next level automotive adventure.
For those 007 aficionados, there are certain car chases (all featuring Aston Martin’s, natch) that stand out: The speedy weave through Rome in Spectre (2015), the epic French battle in Goldfinger (1964) (starring an Aston Martin DB5 prototype, no less), the manic opening scene in Quantum of Solace (2008) set in Italy and the slippery chase across a frozen lake in Die Another Day (2002). Now, the latter might be the most ridiculous film of the franchise, but if you had a choice to replicate, would you not rather turn your hand at drifting an Aston Martin Vanquish, Vantage or DB11 across an icy alpine playground?
Nürburgring Driving Academy training, Formula One and Le Mans escapes, private tours of the Aston Martin factory… these are some of the experiences offered by Aston Martin’s adventure department, aptly titled “Art of Living”. But none of the experiences on offer are as achingly cool (literally) or to be fair, as usually inaccessible as the British brand’s On Ice program. Considering how, theoretically, one could book a hot lap at the Nürburgring, buy tickets to attend the F1 or Le Mans and take a factory tour when in town (they’re actually free if you’re an Aston Martin customer), driving the entire Aston Martin fleet atop a snowy mountain is a rare, not to mention, enviable experience.
Held in various locations around the world, including Europe and the US, the On Ice program has most recently been announced to land in picturesque Hokkaido, Japan, which will offer customers the very first chance to snow spin the new DB11 Volante, a 4.0L twin-turbo V8, GT convertible with 375kW of power and 657Nm of torque (on par with the DB11 Coupe), no doubt even more exhilarating to slide across sub-zero snow fields than its all-enclosed, hard-top sibling. We were lucky enough, however, to attend the local odyssey, just across the Tasman at the Southern Hemisphere Proving ground in New Zealand’s adrenaline capital Queenstown (where else?). Three days of heart racing adventure were on offer: a leisurely meet and greet champagne evening, day spent driving on the ice and a final day of choose-your-own-adrenaline, where customers can pick their flavour, ranging from snowboarding or skiing, to canyon swinging, skydiving, jet boating, horse riding or golf. If you really need to calm down after the heart palpitations of roaring 68-cylinders on a mountain, you could also consider a massage or spa day at the famed Millbrook Resort Spa (our homebase for the week). We might also recommend foodies taking up any offer to dine at nearby Amisfield winery and bistro, arguably one of the best eateries in the vicinity.
Being Aston, it’s important to mention the sheer elegance of the event, from the fine details provide for us at the chalet atop the proving ground, to the stylish merino driving jackets and beanies ( smugly emblazoned with the Aston Martin logo) down to, of course, the luxurious cars we are provided. DB11s, Vantage V8s, Rapide S’ and Vanquishes….a wonderful naturally aspirated and turbocharged baritone symphony if there ever was one. Slide into one of these majestic drives, particularly the jewel in the crown, the cognac perforated-leather cabin of the DB11, and it’s not hard to see why the British brand has just reported a record year in sales, with manufacturing at a nine-year high. Why wouldn’t you want to own one of these and drive it every day?
And that’s exactly where the joy of On Ice starts: not only are you learning the priceless skill of oversteering and understeering on tricky terrain, the dance of throttle and brake balance and the ballet of correcting your steering and foresight on slaloms and gymkhanas, while satisfyingly catching spurts of snow off the wheels in your side mirror; as a driver, customer or thrill chaser, you’re falling in love with the machines themselves – head turners, dream rides and smile-growers which many of us don’t get to drive very often, let alone spin in circles on studded tyres… We warn you, as suddenly, track days will seem so dull.
Aston Martin Hokkaido On Ice will run 8-12 February 2018; for more information on New Zealand On Ice and Aston Martin Art of Living Experiences, contact your local Aston Martin dealer or visit astonmartinartofliving.com