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