My day in a not-a-James-Bond Aston
I am going to be completely upfront here: I am an absolute, committed Aston Martin fanboy. Possibly from birth.
All I know for sure is that I have utterly loved the cars from Gaydon for as long as I can remember. Even before I became a complete James Bond nerd.
It was almost certainly cemented by a toy I had as a child: a Corgi James Bond DB5, complete with ejector seat and small red plastic passenger. It was my undisputed prize possession as a seven-year-old and probably still is today.
Yep, that’s right; I still have it. And it I will never part with it, even though it is almost certainly worth a small fortune.
While I know now it was a halfarsed job by Corgi – it rushed out a cobbled up version that was actually from a DB4 casting – it still solidified an embryonic love for the Aston Martin marque that continues to this day. Even though I would honestly struggle tell you which model was which in the current range, with two obvious exceptions.
This says a lot about the styling dead-end that Aston has found itself cornered in recently.
Those two exceptions are, of course, the new DB11 and the four-door Rapide (for the obvious door-related reasons). And as it turns out both are strong signals that the styling dead-end is about to be utterly smashed.
While the DB11 represents at least a noticeable and distinct styling jump for Aston Martin, it is probably the Rapide’s 2015 facelift that gave the biggest clue as to what the company really wants to do, and that is break away from that iconic, but oh-so limiting grille shape.
Two years ago the Rapide quietly signalled that desire by deleting the body-coloured bar between the traditional grille and the lower intake. A small thing for sure, but it made for a far larger, more gaping mouth than any production Aston in recent memory.
That 2015 facelift also brought a new eight-speed automatic transmission and a bump in power for the magnificent 6.0-litre V12 engine, which now produces a thoroughly unnecessary, but truly fabulous 412kW of power.
The particular Rapide that I’ve just driven was a Shadow Edition model that brings some exclusive exterior and interior colours and a small bump in power (422kW), but also adds a sports exhaust and three-stage adaptive damping.
This was my first experience with a Rapide, and I have to admit that dropping myself down into the low and sumptuous interior for the first time was . . . slightly disappointing actually.
While the Rapide’s interior is beautifully made and subtly opulent, it is also rather dated now. Recent upgrades like the sexy glass touch sensitive dash buttons with haptic feedback and things like Apple CarPlay feel like a thin veneer of modern technology over what is now a seven-year-old interior.
Nothing betrays this more than the small, weirdly thick screen that rises awkwardly out of the dash when you power the Rapide up.
Not only is it almost laughably tiny by the standards of today, it also leans ever-so-slightly forward, giving it an uncomfortably half-arsed presence on the Rapide’s otherwise classy and elegant dash.
But let’s be honest here, who actually cares about an awkwardly angled, disconcertingly small infotainment screen when you have a magnificent V12 on the other end of the gimmicky (and also slightly awkward) key-thatthat-doubles-as-a-push-startbutton? Not me, that’s for sure.
Pushing the cheesy key/button produces one of the greatest sounds known to man – a big V12 with a beautifully refined, but intensely menacing rumble.
Give it a few prods on the throttle and it barks with a turbine-smooth response, but with a slightly angry crackle on the overrun; this is refined anger at its finest.
Easing the Rapide out into suburban Melbourne traffic, I instantly become aware of its size; it’s not particularly wide, but it is unnervingly long.
Sadly, we don’t have time to get further than the outskirts of Melbourne and onto some excitingly uncivilised winding roads (not that the roads around Melbourne are worth the effort), so a detailed review on how the Rapide is a precise corner-carving delight isn’t on the cards here.
What I can tell you, however, is that the Rapide is a surprisingly engaging limo that actually compromises on the whole luxury thing to provide you with a proper Aston Martin experience.The adaptive damping is subtle but effective, and it adjusts the steering weight in a similar fashion.
The ride is never toothlooseningly firm, but it is always distinctly sporty, while the steering response is always quick, accurate and deliciously communicative, regardless of setting.
Dropping the engine into Sport mode is vaguely similar to poking a sleepy bear with a blunt stick in an annoyingly persistent manner – you don’t get a feral response, but you do get a distantly angry one that suggests you should stop now if you want to keep your face.
The V12’s sound deepens and gets noticeably more prominent and harder, but still remains utterly smooth and civilised. It may well be dated now, but the Aston Martin Rapide is still an utterly magnificent example of elegance, effortless cool and raw power.
And that isn’t even taking any sort utter fanboy status into account.
Rapide Shadow Edition brings unique colours and a little extra power.