ASTON MARTIN REVIEW

Aston Martin Review - Luxury Travel Magazine


License to Thrill


By: Sam Tinson, Issue 42 – Autumn 2010
(Aston Martin Review)

SAM TINSON TRAVELLED TO SPAIN TO DRIVE THE NEW ASTON MARTIN RAPIDE AND DISCOVERED A CAR PERFECT FOR DOUBLE-O-SEVEN DADS.

You have to hand it to the people at Aston Martin, their sense of timing is exquisite. Just as we hit the twisting mountain roads that snake up through the orange groves on the outskirts of Valencia, the James Bond theme License To Kill starts playing on the car audio. Resistance is futile – the combination of stirring soundtrack, sweeping Sbends, Mediterranean scenery and purring V12 engine is too much for my aspirational 30-something male psyche, and as I aim the Aston greedily at another Spanish apex I feel my eyes narrow to a steely gaze. I’m having a 007 moment.

You can’t blame Aston Martin for leaving nothing to chance with the launch the Rapide, their first ever four-door production sports car. For decades the company has been known as a builder of uncompromisingly driver-focused two-seaters. The family-friendly Rapide is unfamiliar territory for the brand and its devotees (Mr. Bond included), and a gambit they could not afford to get wrong.

If first impressions are anything to go by, they haven’t. The Rapide is a heart-stoppingly gorgeous machine, a sinuous blend of grace and aggression that carries its passenger-friendly proportions with a lightfootedness completely in keeping with the brand’s sporting heritage. All the signature design cues are there, albeit tailored to fit the Rapide’s longer, leaner body. The classic Aston side strake has been elongated to shrink the gap between front and rear, while the absence of a B-pillar between driver and passenger window adds to the coupe-like feel. 20- inch alloy wheels, discreet LED running lights and that iconic sharkmouth grille all add to the James Bond bling.

Once behind the wheel, any fears that the Rapide would be defanged for the comfort of its rear occupants are quickly dispelled. All the Aston trademarks – potent acceleration, abundant torque, engaging handling and spine-tingling soundtrack – are present and correct, thanks largely to the six-litre V12 under the bonnet. This DB9-derived powerplant launches the Rapide from standstill to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds: in a car this size and with this level of comfort, that feels very quick indeed, especially at around 4000rpm when the exhaust lets loose with that signature howl.

A lightweight aluminium platform adds to the limber handling, while more aluminium and liberal use of high-tech composites in the bodywork keep overall weight below the two-ton mark. Manually shifting the sixspeed Touchtronic transmission using the paddles on the steering wheel quickly becomes compulsive, helped by hearty throttle blips on downshifts and Aston’s decision to forego a double sequential clutch – and the rather removed, seamless shifting it entails – in favour of a more visceral single clutch set-up. For a passenger car the Rapide offers immense driver involvement, and my only gripe was the poor rearward visibility caused by that swooping coupe roofline.

Loathe as I was to relinquish the wheel, I did tear myself away to road test those all-important rear seats. With a keen driver at the helm, riding in the back of the Rapide is like flying business class in a jet fighter. The individual race-style seats hug the body, keeping you from gettingthrown around during spirited cornering. Finished in the same soft handstitched hide that covers the rest of the interior, they are separated by a generous armrest that houses buttons for climate control, mood lighting and in-car entertainment. Should you tire of that symphonic engine note a 1000-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system comes as standard, while a six-disc, twin-screen DVD player is optional. That low roofline means taller passengers might find headroom at a premium, but children and teenagers will have no complaints on long journeys.

Fantastic attention to detail is in evidence everywhere in the Rapide, from the lovingly crafted grab handles (which magnetise to the door pillars with a soft ‘clunk’) to the doors themselves that open and close softly on gas-filled hinges. At the more excessive end of the scale is the optional Jaeger-LeCoultre Rapide Transponder watch that, for an additional $38,000, allows you to lock and unlock your Aston by pressing touch-sensitive zones on the face.

In terms of design, craftsmanship, luxury and performance it offers nothing short of perfection, and for those who wish to feel like James Bond every time they do the school run it’s the only car to own. And if the kids don’t behave in the back? If you ask Aston Martin nicely they might fit ejector seats…


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