I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve been busy trying to survive life in the Upper Silesian countryside… that’s Poland, by the way.

I’m currently residing in a town called Grodków – my wife’s home town – which has a population of around 8,500 souls.

There’s not a lot to do here.

At the risk of repeating myself, Grodków is where NASA send their astronauts to train them to live in an environment with zero atmosphere.

The streets of Grodkow – the perfect environment for NASA

But it does serve to remind me of how much I detest the countryside, because every morning at around 3.30, I’m awakened by Mr Woody the Bloody Wood Pigeon, stomping up and down the air conditioning unit in his cowboy boots, informing his mates that it’s time to wake everyone up.

And last Sunday, I killed a couple of hours of boredom with a bike ride. Whilst attempting to pass a slow-moving tractor, the driver (presumably drunk) did his best to kill me and plaster my remains all over his foul-smelling fields. That stench comes from the rancid gunk that farmers apply to their land to make their synthetic crops grow bigger and faster; as a consequence, Grodków could be renamed Fly City.

And spare me from wind farms; there are hectares and hectares of them in the fields beyond Grodków… great cities of hideous nocturnally red-lit turbines which were the previous government’s death-throw pardon to ingratiate themselves to the under subsidised farmers. It didn’t work… they got voted out.

I digress.


What this blog is really about is cars, because my love of a good road trip in a car that makes you feel good to be alive… well, makes me feel good to be alive.

If you read my last car blog, posted way back before Christmas, you may remember that I had fallen out of love with my Porsche 911 (992) C4 cabrio.

My 911 992 C4 cabrio – so beautiful… but oh so boring

And then it got worse – the thing had the nerve to break down in Ronda on Christmas Eve. You may recall that Christmas Eve was a Sunday – I wouldn’t recommend trying to get your car recovered at such an exigency; Porsche’s Europe breakdown service didn’t want to know, Porsche’s UK breakdown service didn’t bother answering the phone, and it took my insurance recovery service six hours to collect the car and order a taxi to take us back to Marbella.

So, in late January, I decided to treat myself to something more exciting, and began the hunt for a post ’18 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster.

I’ve been lucky enough to own two of the earlier versions – an ’08 and an ’10 model. They were wonderful to drive but the ownership experience was slightly marred by questionable reliability, the need for a service every year/10,000 miles, and wallet bruising economy.

My first Aston

So why did I want another one? Particularly as I live in Marbella and the nearest Aston dealership is in Madrid – a six-hour drive away?

If you know me, then you’ll know that common sense has never deterred me from making an illogical and often regrettable decision – take Browns, the Sidmouth wine bar I bought, back in the early noughties, for instance. Time will tell whether my Aston purchase will prove to be less regrettable, but at the moment I absolutely love the car. In fact, I would go as far as to say, it’s right up there as a contender for the award of Best Car I’ve Ever Owned.

Having been a Porsche devotee for the past ten years, I didn’t even know a new iteration of the V8 Vantage had entered the Aston stable until I began looking around. I’d started with researching the DB11, but quickly ruled it out on the grounds of, a) no usable back seats (even for luggage), b) too big, c) crippling depreciation, d) more of a GT for continent wafting that a proper sports car and, e) about to be replaced by the DB12.

But my search led me to the revamped Vantage, and my qualms over reliability were assuaged considerably on discovering that this beauty was powered by a Mercedes engine.

Yes indeed… for beneath the bonnet lies a 4 litre AMG, twin-turbo V8, capable of delivering 503 bhp and 685 NM of torque. Aston’s quoted figures give the V8 Roadster the capability of reaching 195 mph (where permitted) and hitting 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. This knocks more than spots off my 911.

A week later I had found what I was looking for, and had fleshed out a deal with the salesman at Aston Martin Birmingham. But I would still want to drive it, so I booked flights to Birmingham, and a forty-minute test drive confirmed that this was exactly what I was looking for.

My new baby! The all important unveiling ceremony

This, of course, necessitated another road trip, and four days later we were on the road to Santander to take the ferry to Portsmouth, and two days after that, we said goodbye to the Porsche and picked up the Vantage.

So let me tell you a bit about my new baby.

The exterior colour is Ultramarine Black – which is actually a blackened shade of dark blue – and the interior is in black, offset with red stitching. It was specified at a cost of almost 30 grand with every conceivable option, including 21 Inch Satin Black Wheels and Premium stereo (more on this later).

The magic roundabout

The car has been wrapped in Paint Protective Film (PPF) and treated with something called “Halo” to protect it from extremes of weather,  bird shit and oicks spitting on it on their way home from the pub. It was finished with the “Hunter” rather than the Vaned Grille, which — in my opinion – makes the car more aggressively styled.

The first owner took delivery of the car in January ’22 and paid over £150k for the privilege. Two years later, I picked it up for less than two thirds of what she paid, and this included three years of the five-year service package.

Three months of ownership has confirmed what a joy it is to drive, but I had yet to fully explore its potential – other than Friday afternoon blasts on windy, mountainous southern Andalusian B roads – so the proposed road trip to Poland held undeniable appeal.

We’ve done this trip – in various different Porches – many times, but this one was going to be different. One of the main reasons for this is that my wife does not travel light, and the luggage space in the Aston is okay for a shopping trip or for a weekend away, but sparce for a seven week stay. There are no back seats to fold down, so you are limited to boot space. 200 litres or 7 cubic feet may sound a lot, but it isn’t. And the salesman at Birmingham Aston Martin made a mortal enemy of my wife by getting the boot dimensions wrong.


If you’re anticipating that I’m about to tell you that this was my most enjoyable road trip between Spain and Poland, you’d be right. Having said that, parts of it were a bloody nightmare.

We left Marbella on Wednesday midday and arrived in Grodków on Saturday evening. If you are Polish, you would complete this 3,250km journey in around 28 hours, stopping only for fuel and necessities.

But that, as far as I’m concerned, is a journey and not a road trip – and here’s the difference: when I stepped out of the Aston each evening after around seven hours’ driving, what I was looking forward to almost more than a cold beer, was getting back into it the following morning.

Our journey took us through Spain, overnighting at Castellón de la Plana, through France, where we broke the journey in the delightful town of Valence, in the Rhône Valley. Our third day took us through Germany where we stopped in Waldenburg, an enchanting hilltop town, east of Heilbronn, and our fourth and final day took us to the metropolis of Grodków.

Spanish roads were by far the best… no tolls, no hold-ups and reasonably priced petrol. Driving through France cost over €100 in tolls, and the most annoying thing about this is that once you’ve queued and paid at a tollgate, they have speed cameras waiting to mug you on sections of road which are restricted to 90kph for no reason other than to generate money.

What about the German autobahns? Officially they are called “Bundesautobahn,” the literal meaning of which is “Federal Auto Track,” but they could also be known as “Federal Car Parks,” because they range from the sublime to complete bloody nightmares. The derestricted sections tick the first box. I got the Aston up to 245kph before the speed limiter in the passenger seat kicked in. But then we hit traffic… a lot of traffic… a lot of hold-ups, one of which closed the motorway and caused a 25km diversion through villages due to an “incident,” as accidents are now called.

However, the worst of the four countries in which to drive – by a very long way – is Poland. There ae two driving modes in Poland: Old Woman Driving Mode, and F***ing Moron Driving Mode, and there is no middle ground. Everyone in Poland who owns an Audi and thinks it’s a Formula One car, sits in your boot and flashes you even though you may to exceeding the speed limit by 40kph. It was a holiday weekend, and I later learned that there had been over one hundred deaths on the Polish roads. Why was I not surprised?

What? No turning circle in Grodków?

So that was the road trip. What about the car?

Let’s look at the economy first: a typical day’s driving would be around 7-800km at an average speed of somewhere in the region of 120kph, returning over 27mph. This included stretches at well over 160kph, and the car was always driven in Sport + and with use of the paddle gear shift.

The reviews I’d watched prior to buying had warned me that it’s not the most comfortable car for a long journey, but I found nothing to fault here. A few minutes spent configuring the 18-way electric memory seats is all it takes to acquire the perfect driving position.

I love the fact that there is no touchscreen – all the functions are controlled by buttons or easy to find stalks. What I also love is the Blindspot Assist. If you’re planning to drive on the “continent,” this is an absolutely essential option which you must have. Why all cars don’t have this is beyond me. Okay, the sheer size of the wing mirrors can make exiting roundabouts a tad tricky, but you quickly learn to adjust to this.

The chassis, with selectable settings is simply perfect, and I could not imagine needing a car with more “grunt.”

And to finish, I’ll go back to something I touched on earlier – the Premium stereo. I would never spend money on an upgraded sound system, because I rarely switch it on, preferring to listen to the engine. However, my wife does not share this view, so we had the radio on for most of the journey, and I have to say I have never had a better sound system in a car.

Road noise? Very little, certainly much less than in the 911.

So that probably brings us around to The Question: which is better, the Aston Vantage V8 or the Porsche 911? To make a fair comparison, one would need to opt for the 911 GTS. This would give roughly comparable performance, and we would be looking at a similar outlay to get hold of the keys, for a two-year old model.

By Grodków station… do a soft shoe shuffle dance

I’ve not even bothered to mention the seven seconds it takes to lower the hood in the Aston. Does this really matter? No – it’s a bit of a gimmick. And I’ve also not mentioned that the Aston’s “keyless go” is actually a “keyless go,” unlike the Porsche, which had a keyless entry, after which you will – at some point in your ownership – invariably lose the key.

The 911 and the Aston are both brilliant in their own ways. There is little doubt in my mind that the 911 is more of an everyday drive; if nothing else, the service interval tells you that. And I would certainly not own a Vantage if I still lived in the UK – the roads are rapidly becoming more of a disaster left to fester than the NHS.

But living in Marbella… or even Poland – providing not too much goes wrong with it – I cannot think of a car I would rather own.

Finally, there’s exclusivity. How many Astons did I see on the trip from Marbs to Grodków? Precisely none. This car has road presence to the extent that even bikers and boy racers sit behind it to enjoy the view… well, maybe not in Poland.

And while it may not be an Audi, stop for a hot dog in a Polish motorway services, and you will return to find it surrounded by camera clicking admirers of all generations.

Right now, I’m looking forward to the journey back – only three weeks to go!

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