Guest columnist Conor McNicholas was cynical about luxury car brand collaborations in the yachting world. Then he took a closer look.


There are very few true polymaths in life. Bradley Wiggins will never win the US Open. Bear Grylls will never sing at the Royal Opera House. The reason is it’s just so bloody difficult to be truly brilliant at more than one thing. When you’re great at an endeavour that takes huge skill, complete commitment and depth of experience it’s just impossible to go and do it all over again with something else. So why would we ever think that a car company could make a boat?

There’s no shortage of luxury car marques appearing on the water. Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz, Bugatti and Bentley are just some of the shiny lacquered badges popping up in sunny marinas over the last couple of years. The motivations for premium car companies to take to the water are many – from business diversification to one-upmanship – but the trend is clearly still on the rise.

The reality, obviously, is that the car companies cannot achieve their speed boat/powerboat/luxury yacht on their own. Each has looked to partner with established expertise, whether that’s a big name or, in the case of Quintessence and Aston Martin, a new name based on established expertise set up especially to deliver the boat for the car brand.

I’m all for new stuff. I admire the chutzpa of a car company moving into boats. I can see that when your reputation is for effortless gliding luxury across tarmac then delivering the same on the water seems a natural extension. All good on the cruising front. But when your reputation is for a very specific kind of balance between performance and grace as it is with Aston Martin, when you’re known for a specific feel in that relationship between man and machine, can you really write that same poetry with the same tone of voice on liquid as on land?

I’ll confess I was deeply sceptical when I arrived on the Cote d’Azur to try out the Aston Martin AM37 speed boat. I expected a cynical badging exercise, a boat that was Aston in name only. The 37 foot AM37 certainly has dockside impact. Even amongst the Riva and Van Dutch it stood out, it’s glistening metallic blue paintwork capturing the Mediterranean light and flinging it about like a party piece. At the rear its automotive DNA was most obvious, with echoes of taillights sat above two bold pillars that framed the twin 520 hp Mercury petrol engines.

It was a surprisingly choppy day as we headed out of Golfe Juan but that didn’t stop us opening her up. Playing in the bay, we cruised, we scythed and we jumped waves. It was only when we headed for the cliffs below the modernist bubble mansion famously owned by Pierre Cardin that the coastguard stopped us for cutting circles too close to the rocks and the fun was temporarily put on hold. Pulled over by the cops for doing donuts, effectively.

While I have yet to sample the delights of Aston Martin’s new DB11 road car I can tell you that the AM37 is definitely imbued with the same spirit and raw power of the lithe, greyhound-like DB9. And that’s damn smart. To take the feel of a road car where you’re concerned with flat surfaces but restrictive curves and transpose it to a world of unrestricted space but with a flexing, living surface is something really quite clever. Filling your cabin with lashings of carbon fibre and raw leather doesn’t make your boat an extension of the car that inspires it - no matter how lovely that interior might be - but when you stand with the AM37’s Aston steering wheel in one hand and the throttle in the other it just feels like an Aston. It’s unmistakable.

The relationship between luxury car and luxury boat is one to be celebrated, a playground of creativity that will throw up new and intriguing ideas. If Porsche design can reach out from the iconic 911 to create an aluminium attaché case and a pair of trainers then why shouldn’t they head to the marina and inspire a boat expert to bring their aesthetic to life on the water?

And if you can have a car-inspired boat, why can’t you have a boat-inspired car? British supercar innovators BAC will now sell you a yacht-friendly version of the single-seater Mono supercar called the Marine Edition complete with anti-corrosive components and a unique Environmental Control Container System. So when you arrive at your chosen port you can disappear into the mountains and slake your thirst for adrenaline without even getting your hair wet. The best of all worlds as auto and boat start to merge ever closer together. Long may it continue.

Conor McNicholas
Conor McNicholas
Conor McNicholas is a content consultant and freelance writer specialising in luxury automotive. He was previously editor of Top Gear magazine and legendary music mag NME. He loves his Alfa Romeo, Radiohead and gin and tonic.