Among numerous test facilities that dot the European tip of the Arctic Circle, those surrounding the small Swedish town of Arvidsjaur are justly famous.
It can drop to -40deg C here and it snows frequently. Perfect conditions, then, for freezing lakes, and keeping them frozen for the business of car and tyre testing.
Aston Martin is here with the new Vantage because Continental is here. Buying an ESP system from the German tyre giant also buys you test time on its winter facility – not for cold weather stuff specifically (Aston does that in Finland) but rather to fine-tune the stability control software so that it delivers a dynamic experience that is suitably ‘Vantage’.
At this point in development, early in 2017, the Vantage in question is barely worthy of the description. The mule’s body is a mongrelised version of the DB11, and you’d have to lever it off to know that the chassis and Mercedes-AMG 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 are all present and correct.
In the driver’s seat is Mark Barron – project engineer, stability control systems, and the lead figure in a small team from Aston that has already been in Sweden for a fortnight. It’s Barron’s job to liaise with the Continental engineers and adjust the software’s default parameters as Aston sees fit. Although this involves tracing thousands of signals and calculations, he confirms the assessment itself is pleasingly subjective – and the results impressively immediate.