007 to woo the business woman
Glamour model: Aston Martin Vantage
There are worse ways to spend a wet winter day than on a business trip at the wheel of an Aston Martin. With a sizzling 0-62 mph acceleration time quicker than four seconds, the Vantage is an aspirational model that drives as stunningly as it looks.
Although the 007 brand is assertively macho, the company is keen to woo more business women among its customers and it is notable that the Vantage has just won the Dream Car title in the 2018 Women’s World Car of the Year Awards, voted by 34 women motoring writers in 27 countries across six continents. I’m the UK judge.
This has been a milestone year for Aston Martin. Sales and profits are up, consolidating a turnaround in 2017 when Aston made a pre-tax profit of £87 million, its first in a decade. It was a dramatic and welcome reversal from a £163 million loss the previous year.
Annual production has doubled since 2016, heading for 7,000 this year. In October, the company went public on the Stock Exchange. A second factory, at St Athan in Glamorgan, is under construction. So there’s a lot going on, including a surge of new models on the way. They will start next autumn with the arrival of Aston’s first SUV, badged DBX, and the first all-electric model, the Rapide E.
So what about the Vantage, a car for the seriously successful business person, with a four-litre V8 engine, a massive 503 bhp and a £120,000 price tag? Aston calls it “a born predator, raw and instinctive”. It’s a fair summary of a car that has visual drama, massive power and tactile agility. For a high-performance sports model, it’s decently practical, too. The 270-litre boot is enough to accommodate a couple of weekend cases, and there’s room for your laptop bag behind the front seats.
The driving experience is awesome. Superbly swift and precise. All that power needs responsible use, but it feels thoroughbred not bronco and the ride contrives to be firm without the punishing solidity of some ultra-sports models. The combined economy figure is 26.9 mpg, CO2 is 245 g/km, and the corporate envy factor is off the scale.
Stretched and chunkily practical
Business savvy: SsangYong XLV
A good car for business has many roles. It has to be civilised on an urban commute, have plenty of punch for a cross-country business trip, cruise comfortably on a long motorway haul, look smart enough for outings with colleagues in office suits and practical enough for weekend jaunts with the family. The latter may well include lanky teenagers in the back seats and a small mountain of leisure kit in the boot. Or maybe a big dog, heading for walkies in the park.
Korean car maker SsangYong brought out a stretched version of its popular Tivoli model, a chunkily practical crossover-SUV, to accommodate all of those aspects of work/life balance. The Tivoli XLV is 10in (245 mm) longer behind the rear wheels than its smaller sibling, almost all of which has gone into expanding the boot space from the standard Tivoli’s 423 litres to a whopping 720 litres. That’s only 50 litres less than the boot of an Audi Q7, one of the biggest SUVs on the road.
So maybe you’re contemplating a work trip with an avalanche of samples or show kit that would normally need a van, or fancy a weekend outing to Ikea to bring home some flat-pack furniture? The XLV will swallow it. You can fit in a pair of bikes with the back seats folded.
It honestly isn’t the most exciting car you could choose to drive and you might wish for more communicative steering and a slightly more cushioned ride. But the XLV has a lot else going for it. The long chunky SsangYong handles tidily, it isn’t unduly fazed by potholes, is decently brisk with a 1.6 litre engine – either petrol or diesel – has a choice of two or four-wheel-drive and comes with plenty of kit at a pretty reasonable price.
XLC prices start from £17,495 for a basic EX diesel with manual transmission and two-wheel-drive. Our test car, a higher-spec Ultimate petrol automatic 2WD is £20,195, and the range tops out at £21,395 for an Ultimate diesel 4x4. The standard kit list includes leather seats with both the front and rear ones heated, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, satnav, reversing camera, seven airbags and a package of electronic safety aids.
Depending on which of nine versions in the range you go for, performance varies between top speeds of 99 to 109 mph, and acceleration from 0-62 mph is 11 or 12 seconds. Combined economy is from 47.1 to 67.3 mpg, and CO2 output ranges from 117 to 165 g/km. Oh, and did I mention the car’s warranty? It’s two years longer than most, at five years.
Photos: ©Sue Baker