Back to nature, fast | Aston Martin DB9 Carbon Edition


Most car companies use dry ice to launch a new model. Aston Martin employ James Bond. The DB10 is to be the sexmobile for Spectre next year. Derek Guthrie takes the DB9 Carbon Edition, AM’s current supercar, for a weekend in a treehouse

Back to nature, fast | Aston Martin DB9 Carbon Edition

Not so much Bondmobile, more Batmobile, the DB9 Carbon Edition is jet black inside and out, finished off with a layer of testosterone. Buffed up like David Gandy, it doesn’t so much attract attention, as create a stir. Continually papped and ogled, it looks like a car that’s been working out. Its potential replacement, the DB10, is currently for the use of 007 only. Just 10 are being made to see off the badguys in Spectre, out next year.

Continually papped and ogled, it looks like a car that’s been working out

Flared rear wheel arches and sporty tyres indicate instantly how this thing shifts when asked nicely. Driving around Brighton and the South Downs for a couple of days I got to know about 75% of it. The whole time, it was beaming a signal back to security HQ, following my movements along the seafront, Kemp Town, Stanmer Park. If the wrong driver is aboard, a call is made to see if the vehicle is being stolen. If it is, shutdown, at the flick of a switch from the automotive equivalent of GCHQ.

Aston Martin DB9 Carbon Edition

Aston Martin DB9 Carbon Edition

It emanates a rumbling roar, like an idling jet engine, particularly when you’re sat in the same static traffic as everyone else (a common occurrence in Brighton). At the lights you don’t need to rev up or challenge the boy-racers. You know they’re beaten before the off. This thing leaves greased lightning as a skid mark.

Two tiny seats in the rear come with all the harnessing required for baby chairs, but I had to squeeze in three leggy twenty-somethings whose limbs were splayed everywhere, their luggage taking up all the boot space, much to the amusement of those standing around Gatwick Airport’s pickup zone.

I returned to the car to find a few gawping fanboys snapping with their iPhones, suddenly crestfallen to see, not Daniel Craig approaching, but a bloke trying to hide a bag of doughnuts behind his back

The open road in a DB9 is part racetrack, part playground. Joyously speeding down the M23 then along the A27 to Hampshire, all manner of computer calculations aid the driver. Progressing from automatic (four flush dashboard buttons marked PRND), manual mode is activated by flicking a little paddle on the steering wheel. Sport mode makes a noise like an F22: fitting, since apart from the basic functions of steering, braking and accelerating (whoomph!) the driver’s position has the feel of a cockpit.

The ride seems hard, but at speed makes sense. Cornering is fiercely sharp. Constantly updating info feeds the brain – tyre pressures, average speed, the MPG is recalculated every three seconds – from a winking display within the speedo. A particularly brutal acceleration reduced my consumption from 23 to 12 in an instant. I slowed, and it went back up just as fast. The satnav even has an altimeter should you really take off.

While stopped at a Tesco Extra outside Chichester, I returned to the car to find a few gawping fanboys snapping with their iPhones, suddenly crestfallen to see, not Daniel Craig approaching, but a bloke trying to hide a bag of doughnuts behind his back. I roared off. In Sport Mode.

I arrived in the New Forest in record time, slowing down to glide past the wild ponies who, like those on Dartmoor, know nothing of private property, and wander around munching flower beds and grass, hedges and verges. I’d brought my own horsepower anyway – all 510 of it – as had others. Of the five Aston Martins in the car park of the Chewton Glen Hotel, one was an identical Carbon Edition. I felt as if I was at a convention.

Chewton Glen Hotel Treehouse

Chewton Glen Hotel Treehouse

Chewton Glen Hotel has always been the grand dame of English Country House Hotels, but two years ago it was extended. Rather than build a few extra rooms, spacious treehouses were erected on stilts in the neighbouring woods. Forget Bart Simpson’s elevated shed of planks, here there are panoramic views of the forest from enormous wraparound terraces, fire pits and generous hot tubs. Very Big Sur. And like that part of the Californian Pacific Coast, it’s all environmentally friendly. Built from the wood that surrounds them, the treehouse decking only gives way to glossy Portland stone flooring when you step inside (with adjustable heating underneath, natch).

Interior design is an essay in taupe, a palette so devoid of colour, it’s a room viewed through the Willow Instagram Filter. Luxurious Harris Tweed chairs, a giant brown sofa drowning under plumped up hessian cushions, and white walls all speak as softly and warmly as the cast iron log burner. Even the bedrooms have floor to ceiling glass (Maximum Nature Vision) while the bathrooms have walk-in wet room rain showers and roll-top baths overlooking the view. They should give out Frankie’s old t-shirts”: “RELAX”.

Staff will deliver everything you might need (the breakfast hamper silently arrives through a secret hatch at 7am), but facilities are hardly basic. Morning coffee whooshes and spits forth from a Delonghi Primadonna Deluxe – beans in one end, frothy cappuccino out the other – the toaster is industrial in scale, there are four flat-screen satellite TVs, and iPad and wifi, plus a fridge stocked with water, local cider and Taittinger champagne. I could happily stay here for a month, communing with nature, and never see another soul. Just the trees and ponies, the stroll down to the beach, the wifi and that Taittinger.

On the journey back, hurtling along the M3, I could only stare, helpless, at my favourite gadget on the DB9 dashboard: a silver button that isn’t for the ejector seat but a spring loaded Lamy ballpoint pen. There’s even a slit to keep some scribbling paper. Note to other drivers: Do not write reminders when roaring along the motorway. It’s way worse than being on the phone. C

Chewton Glen, New Milton, New Forest, Hampshire, UK
01425 275 341;