Aston Martin looks toward the future

Maintaining a legacy.

The 2017 Aston Martin DB11 in striking Frosted Glass Blue.
The 2017 Aston Martin DB11 in striking Frosted Glass Blue. –Aston Martin

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Some cars are perfect for the morning commute. Others are perfect for getting the kids to school. The Aston Martin DB11 is perfect for filling your childhood dreams of being James Bond. It’s the kind of car people aspire to buy one day, and the British automaker is keenly aware of its over 100-year reputation as a singular automaker.

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Sitting in a parking lot on a typically overcast day in Portland, Ore., the DB11 was stunning. Its Frosted Glass Blue paint, which is made using real shards of glass, gleamed in the smattering of sunlight sneaking through the clouds. Long, low, and wide, you don’t need to know a thing about cars to know at a glance that this one is something special.

If you were still somehow unsure of the DB11’s pedigree, then taking a seat clears away any doubts. The interior is jaw-dropping. The whole thing is hand-stitched by a single person and takes over 300 hours to build. In other words, you won’t find a factory full of noisy robots building an Aston Martin. Instead, you’ll hear the hum of sewing machines as skilled artisans create that beautiful interior one stitch at a time.

Hand-stitched leather adorns every surface. —Aston Martin

Driving the DB11 through the congested streets of Portland attracted plenty of attention. Random passers-by nearly fell off the curb trying to get a better look. People in cars that command attention on any other day gave thumbs up from their windows and cast appreciative nods before driving away.

Once out of the city on a twisting road, the DB11 proved the attention was well-deserved. Tight switchbacks weren’t a challenge — they were a joy. On the open highway, the DB11 blatantly showed off the 600 horsepower of its twin-turbo 5.2-liter V12. With a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds, it felt and sounded every bit the exclusive supercar.

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You might imagine the person who is the president of a storied company like Aston Martin would be a bit old school, but nope. Laura Schwab, the president of Aston Martin the Americas who has been at the helm for about 18 months, is a down-to-earth American.

Schwab landed at Aston Martin after 15 years at Jaguar Land Rover. She admits she wasn’t sure about taking the job, and the idea of being the one in charge was a bit intimidating at first.

“I thought, I don’t know, then — wait, what am I thinking?” Schwab said. “Of course, I know. This is the coolest job on the planet!”

Schwab said she’s excited to guide the company’s efforts as it embarks on its Second Century Plan, which includes the rapid introduction of seven new models including the DB11. It also includes a partnership with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as a brand ambassador, which all came about through a chance meeting with Marek Reichman, the brand’s creative director.

Brady expressed his admiration for Aston Martin despite never having owned one. He wanted to drive the Rapide, so Aston Martin parked one in his driveway. Brady liked it enough to take it to practice the week of the Super Bowl and even brought a few other players along for the ride. From this, the idea of an ambassadorship took hold.

“We’re quite picky. We don’t have a slew of product ambassadors. It’s not really been our path to market, but this felt so right,” said Schwab. “He’d expressed his interest, and… we’re thrilled.”

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The shoot featuring Brady lasted about four hours and went longer than expected — not because anything went wrong, but because Brady wanted to be sure it was all exactly right, according to Schwab.

“He’s a perfectionist,” she said. “He kept asking ‘Are you getting what you want?’ to make sure we were happy with the shots.”

With the Brady deal under her belt, Schwab is looking toward how she can pull a company with a long legacy into the future.

“It’s a great honor, and huge responsibility. You can never relax. But I’m getting the hang of it. In the past, I’d always had someone to ask, “What do you think?” but now I’ve got to trust my instincts, my gut,” she said. “We’re going to make mistakes, but we do what feels right, and what we believe in. And that’s the same as what you do in life.”

Nicole Wakelin is a contributor to BestRide.com and CarGurus.com; she can be reached on Twitter @NicoleWakelin.