Here’s what 2020 and my cars have taught me about driving.

If you’d said to me at any point during 2019 that I would own 3 of my dream cars in 2020, I would call you a liar and ask for some of whatever you’ve been smoking. However here we are … Things started with a bang as I took ownership of a 640bhp Nissan GT-R two weeks before my 25th birthday and immediately spent those two weeks scaring the absolute shit out of myself. Now I like to think I’m pretty mature for my age, I like to keep ego out of things and learn as much as possible. I can honestly say I was nowhere near good enough as a driver when the GT-R arrived. I’d still get the mad adrenaline hits while spearing off on full boost, slightly misjudging steering inputs and such. My usual style has been smooth but fast, yet my first weeks with the Nissan I just couldn’t modulate my steering inputs smoothly, the car would feel forced into corners rather than persuaded to take them. My only saving grace was youth and very quick reaction times (thanks RAF CBAT) the GT-R’s propensity for oversteer in the cold and damp meant more often than not I was being caught out by slides and terrified beyond belief. Yet once I’d known it for a while I soon realised speed was all it had to offer , yes they handle well but once you’ve adapted your driving style you’re comfortable at much higher speeds and catching the tail when it steps away. I developed a lot as a driver in those 6 months, as I feel big Audi’s encourage bad habits. You’ll find yourself mashing the throttle mid corner to pull out on your desired line without consequence, yet try that in a GT-R and you’ll pirouette through a hedge before you know what happened.

The Audi RS7 made me realise I’m a bit of an old bastard in a young mans body. I found myself wafting about more than driving it hard, it’s an effective way of covering a lot of miles very very quickly. But it is not fun, the GT-R always urged you on like a drunken mate on a Friday night. The RS7 is your accountant, everything is very professional very business like but in no way amusing. I’ve famously said it felt quite slow when compared to my tuned Datsun and it did. I let a friend drive it and from the passenger seat the big Audi felt like a missile but I had the same levels of feel and involvement from the passenger seat as I did when driving. Everything felt very muted, the big RS in undeniably capable but what’s the point when you can’t feel anything? There’s a cheeky chicane on the way to Witney I frequent and the RS7 is easily 10-15mph faster than the Aston. But thanks to the electric steering I’m totally clueless to what’s happening. The sports diff was a decent option at factory but it feels bloody horrid when you mash the loud pedal out of a comer. You get torque steer like you’re in a hot hatchback which in a 2 tonne barge is not the “feel” I want. I think the RS7 would be a much better car with hydraulic steering and more rear drive bias, that being said with the air con on, heated seats and cruise control it’s a luxury yacht for the road. A part of me regrets not remapping it as for £600 and around 140bhp increase and 900nm total is a bargain but would it improve the experience? Not in the bends no. I’ve always been more into a back road blast through the twisting lanes than a 200mph motorway blast.

The Vantage has always been a dream of mine yet one I never pulled the trigger on. The amount of road tests that call it heavy and slow in V8 guise , the underwhelming performance stats and the tax for parts and servicing always put me off. I wouldn’t have bought this car with money not for a second, but taking one part exchange seemed like a safe bet for me to try a small sports car. My supercharged RS4 is the one that changed the direction of my driving portfolio. It gave a manual gearbox and the best part of 650bhp all wrapped up in an unassuming small estate body. My first dream car had become even better, yet when stepping back down to a naturally aspirated RS4 they felt slow and heavy, the magic had been lost by comparison. It was this feeling which always made me doubt the Aston’s credentials. I’m so proud to report how wrong I was, yes mine is completely re-worked from the new engine and manifolds to the £4000 Nitron coilover setup, this is a vantage that goes as well as it looks. Again by relevant terms it’s unbelievably slow but it just doesn’t matter anymore, I feel special every time I go near it. I went for coffee in Burford the other day, the admiring looks and waves are enough to brighten even the gloomiest day. The v8 howls thanks to the Larini exhaust and manifolds, the manual gearbox is heavy like an old signal box and you feel like a proper bloke driving it. It’s like an old Ferrari you can enjoy the rev range and selecting cogs yourself even though you’re not going very quickly. Picture this, a sunny Sunday morning a fresh Starbucks and an Aston Martin to look at it, could be much worse right?

2020 has taught me to embrace new experiences as much as possible and that I can learn new skills simply by driving different cars. Rev-matching in the Aston is totally different to all of my Audi’s as the throttle response is slower. You need to be heavy-handed with it, it’s a grab it by the scruff of the neck type car and I love it. Naturally I’ve already got my eyes on something new but I’m chuffed I finally caved and bought an Aston Martin hopefully there’ll be a v12 in the pipeline soon.

Published by Sam Busby

a big nosed bearded idiot who likes to write about cars. Lucky enough to have owned a few quick ones too.

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