ASTON RAPIDE

AF­TER SAMPLING THE ASTON’S CHARMS JB HAS BE­COME A FAN OF THE BRI­TISH MAR­QUE – READ ON AND YOU’LL UN­DER­STAND WHY

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“I’VE NEVER BEEN MOVED TO GO AND BUY ONE THIS CAR CHANGED MY MIND IT WAS A REVELATION”

Aston Martin is all about two-door coupes and James Bond movies, isn’t it? So it’s al­ways a bit of a sur­prise to come across one with two ex­tra doors. What you’re look­ing at here is a 2011 Rapide, which was built in very small num­bers and un­der­went a pretty ex­ten­sive make-over in 2013.

In its day, this was a very ex­pen­sive piece of ma­chin­ery – you’re talk­ing some­thing over $400,000 by the time you got it on the road in Aus­tralia. So you had to be pretty keen to have one.

Now I must ad­mit I’ve never been a huge Aston Martin fan. Love the looks, but I’ve never been moved enough to go out and buy one. This car changed my mind – it re­ally was a revelation. To my way of think­ing it kind of falls into a niche of one: a proper sports car that has an ex­tra cou­ple of doors and seats.

It’s not a mas­sive four-seater sedan in­side, more of a gen­er­ous 2+2 that James Bond’s kids – let’s call them Nigel and Sa­man­tha – would love.

This isn’t the first time the mar­que has built a four-seater, or used the Rapide name. David Brown of Aston Martin used the Rapide mon­icker when he first at­tempted to re­vive Lagonda back in 1961. It was a four-seater based on the DB4.

“WITH SOME MOD­ERN CARS I GO INTO MELTDOWN WHEN I GET IN – SO MANY GIZMOS AND GADGETS”

This car is very much the spir­i­tual suc­ces­sor, based on what the com­pany called the VH plat­form and the DB9. At first look it can seem a lit­tle out of pro­por­tion – just that lit­tle ex­tra length at the rear – but you very quickly get used to the looks.

The me­chan­i­cal pack­age is very much per­for­mance car, with a 5.9lt nat­u­rally aspirated V12 up front, matched to a six-speed ZF trans­mis­sion and rear-wheeldrive. It runs some pretty good per­for­mance num­bers: 470hp (350kW ), 0-100km/h in 5.3sec and a top speed of just over 300km/h. Se­ri­ous num­bers. It’s no light­weight at 1950kg, but could have been a lot more but for the com­pos­ite con­struc­tion that makes ex­ten­sive use of alu­minium.

It’s run­ning 20-inch wheels with 295 rub­ber out back (245 on the front), big six-pis­ton brakes and niceties such as vari­able sus­pen­sion and en­gine modes. The lat­ter means you can drive it like a low-roofed limo, or change to sports mode and have some fun.

In­side the con­trols are sim­ple enough. With some of th­ese mod­ern cars, I go into meltdown when I get in. They’ve got so many gizmos and gadgets it would take you a year to learn how to drive it. This is all quite sim­ple. It’s got a beau­ti­ful driv­ing po­si­tion. You’re very aware of the low roofline and the glass, but it’s not a green­house.

The in­te­rior ap­point­ments are beau­ti­ful. It’s got acres of leather – ev­ery­thing is leather! The seats are air-con­di­tioned and heated, while there’s a pre­mium sound sys­tem that has lit­tle speak­ers (tweet­ers) pop up ei­ther side of the dash when you switch it on.

It’s gen­uinely like a sports car but it has th­ese two seats in the back, and if you switch

“I DON’T THINK THERE HAS EVER BEEN A BET­TER SOUND THAN A V12”

your kid brain on – which I rarely get away from! – the back seats are like lit­tle cap­sules. In­di­vid­ual, beautifully up­hol­stered with a big sep­a­ra­tion from a con­sole, plus in­di­vid­ual DVD play­ers in the head­rests of the front seats. It sup­plies this very un­usual James Bond fam­ily kind of thing. Kids will love it.

Then there’s the dual per­son­al­ity. You can drive it in D and it just rolls along like a limo, then you can drive it in man­ual pad­dle shift and it crack­les and pops and has this awe­some noise. It has a beau­ti­ful note. I don’t think there’s ever been a bet­ter sound than a V12, whether it be Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston or what­ever.

Open the bon­net, and the en­gine looks like an en­gine – too many cars get their heart hid­den away un­der anony­mous cov­ers. Noth­ing beats a nat­u­rally aspirated V12 en­gine. It looks im­pres­sive, you start it up and it sounds im­pres­sive.

The six-speed trans­mis­sion can be used as full auto, or in man­ual mode with a pad­dle-shit. I’m not a pad­dle shift lover, but it works as well as any other I’ve driven.

As for the han­dling, it’s got a bril­liant on-cen­tre feel and re­acts well to the steering. It’s got very sure-footed han­dling, the ride is firm but not jig­gly, the steering ac­cu­racy and feel is fan­tas­tic. When you think about it, so it should be, it is one of the world’s most pres­ti­gious mar­ques.

I was blown away by it – how awe­some is this? I felt like go­ing home and get­ting a din­ner suit (which I’m not sure will still fit me) and head­ing into town. Maybe to the casino (pre­tend it’s Monaco…), park out­side and see what sort of peo­ple I can at­tract!

This has changed my tune on the whole Aston Martin thing and I reckon that, while the $167k ask­ing price (via Lor­bek in Vic) is a lot of money, it’s a hell of a lot of car.

ABOVE A bit more bulk in the rear, but that’s the only give­away to the ex­tra seat­ing.

ABOVE LEFT Is there any bet­ter sight than a V12? I don’t think so.

ABOVE Th­ese early cars were built in Aus­tria. Pro­duc­tion even­tu­ally moved back to the UK.

LEFT Big wheels, big rub­ber and big brakes. You need them in a car with this po­ten­tial.

ABOVE Rear seats be­long in a high-end air­craft. Kids will love it.

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