I’ve been working with this car and this film for over three weeks now and I’ve just realised the word 'Aston' fits rather well into the word 'astonishing'. I cannot think of a more perfect word to describe the Aston Martin Rapide S.
When the UK-based company first announced it was going to make a four-door version of the beautiful DB9 coupe, I think all of us car nerds had a good laugh. How on earth were Aston's engineers going to squeeze four doors and four seats into a low-slung, wide-bodied supercar?
Well, they have. Thankfully it hasn’t dramatically affected the look of the car, in fact, I think the Rapide has more presence. It is remarkable because it is so absurd. I caught the reaction of a seven-year-old kid as I burbled down a busy street and I think I might have made his whole year, just by driving past.
Arriving at an event in this car is not advisable. This car is the event.
The reality is retaining that sultry form does not make for a roomy rear, and as you’ll see in our video’s very scientific test of the rear seating, it’s certainly not for everyone. However, if you’re a dad trying to convince mom that you can own a practical super car, the good news is that as long as your offspring are under 6 foot, they’ll be mostly comfortable in the back. And there really is a decent boot.
But with a price tag of well over R3-million, this is closer to a very nice family home, rather than an affordable family car. And there are other four-door supercars which will cost you a lot less. The Maserati Quattroporte for instance, is a stunner, the outgoing model had a Ferrari engine which sounded like angels gargling honey and a new one will only set you back around R1.6-million. You can buy a Porsche Panamera for less than that.
The Panamera is interesting. It will likely run rings around the Aston, offer more rear space and probably cost less to maintain. You can even have a diesel and a hybrid. So why not save a fortune and opt for that? Well, until the next Panamera arrives in 2015, that car remains proactively ugly. And I imagine it’s made by German robots, whereas with the Rapide S, you have the satisfaction of knowing that men called Barry, Harold and George shaped and stitched your car by hand. In fact, if you’d like, you can go and meet them when you order your car.
I have a feeling that this particular model might go down as a classic. As Aston Martin has signed an engine deal with Mercedes AMG, the next Rapide will feature a powerplant from Stuttgart, which I feel may change its character quite significantly. Not necessarily for the worst, however. Pagani is proof the Germans can still make an outrageous V12 for the right clientele.
While the current 410 kW, 6.0 litre V12 featured here is a sonorous, exquisite lump of petrol-burning nirvana, it is horrendously thirsty, falls foul of future emission regulations and every now and then might just give up on life, as hand built V12 motors are prone to do.
I must stress that absolutely none of this matters. What we have here is the very best of machines. A collection of parts so complex, detailed and beautiful that it creates real emotions in human beings. Every single person who I showed this car to had the same reaction: silent awe. Every person I took for a drive made really odd noises and then climbed out of the car with perplexed faces. The sort of expression that occurs when your mind has been slightly altered by what’s just happened.
The Aston Martin Rapide S is not the fastest supercar, or the cheapest or the most practical or reliable or economical. But it is extraordinary. It affords you the opportunity to share the emotions of a supercar experience with twice the number of people. That makes it very special. Very special indeed.