When it comes to an Aston Martin you immediately think of noble British heritage, breathtaking design, stellar racing pedigree, unparalleled beauty and, of course, James Bond.
The Aston Martin Rapide S ticks the boxes for all of these categories. It is one of the most provocative cars I’ve ever laid eyes on. It is modern yet proudly asserts its heritage. It’s bold but not obnoxious; commanding but not dictatorial; and proud but not arrogant. It turns heads and causes hearts to flutter.
The Rapide S is almost entirely handcrafted. Every stitch in the seats and every inch of the dashboard, steering wheel and door inlays have been tirelessly and carefully sewn by human hands. Some of the aluminum body panels have been molded in the same way. The engine, similar to that of the Mercedes AMG, has been entirely put together by one person. The leather on the sumptuous seats is from the famous Bridge Of Weir leather company. They farm their herds of cattle in a location in Scotland where the conditions are so perfect that the cows are blemish-free.
The interior spec options include every type of trim – from bamboo, mahogany or walnut woods to carbon fiber woven panels. The Aston Martin key fob is topped by a Swarovski crystal, within which is embedded the Aston Martin logo. The badges that carry the same logo and sit gracefully on the boot and bonnet are made by an old and trusted jewelry company. They too, are entirely crafted by hand.
The fairy tale continues when you learn of the Q division – derived from the James Bond movies. This division is where the real magic of craftsmanship happens. Q division offers owners a unique personalization service, where an owner can design the car they have always dreamt about. Obviously the basic mechanical design and architecture of the car won’t change but everything else can. Q by Aston Martin is defined by detail, individuality and design statements. Bronze control rotaries, uniquely crafted carbon fiber fasciae and painted front splitter blades are just some of the options available to create a car that is as unique as its owner.
Amid global pressure to reduce emissions, Aston Martin is adamant that they can lessen their impact on the environment with the use of naturally aspirated motors. In the engine bay of the new Rapide S sits another work of art in the form of a white Aston Martin 6.0 Liter V12 handcrafted engine. It’s the same engine inside the DB9 and Vanquish models, albeit with slightly different outputs. Push the crystal key start button in the middle of the center stack and the car bursts into life like a beast that has just been awakened. The sound is glorious.
Controlling the transmission is done via buttons on the center stack as well. They have graced Aston Martins for some years but they haven’t lost their beauty and add a touch of class to the fairly complex control panel.
In Normal driving mode, the car is exceptionally comfortable; more than you’d expect from a GT car with a V12 engine and intentions of immense performance. The ride is soft and smooth, befitting of a luxury four-door saloon. But the Rapide S is not a saloon; it’s a sportscar that happens to have four doors and four individual seats. When you bury your foot into the floor, the true excellence of that V12 engine is evident. The delivery of power is smooth yet the gathering of pace befuddles the eyes. Again, the soundtrack is spectacular especially as the active bypass valves open in the stainless steel exhausts.
The car will reach speeds close to 306 kilometers per hour, the claimed top speed. It’s a car that involves the driver entirely. You need to rev this car hard in order to truly capitalize on its talents. At times, it feels slower to respond than you’d expect, until you eye the speedometer and realize you’re gathering immense speed. That’s just how the V12 works. 0-100km/h is claimed to take 4.9 seconds.
Switching the adaptive dampers to Sport mode changes the suspension characteristics significantly and the comfort I mentioned before is thrown out the window to make room for an expectedly harder ride and sportier suspension. In Track mode this is even more evident and the car can be thrown around bends with gusto; enough to make you forget that this car is a two-ton machine. It is not as sharp as a Porsche Panamera but it’s certainly in sports car territory. On turn in, you can feel the weight playing against you a little and in hard corners it feels slightly uncomfortable. It’s a car more at home playing the GT game, out on the open road eating up the miles.
The Rapide S costs over $302,000 but one has to wonder if the car really needs to be measured in numbers. Possibly not. It plays in a league that is as much about engineering as it is about romance.
It does have some flaws though. The rear is very cramped and there are also varying levels of quality on the central console. There are some beautifully crafted buttons that sit in the middle of material that is on the opposite end of the quality scale.
The Aston Martin Rapide S is a car that has a sense of occasion; a car that is more about leaving and arriving, a car full of magnificence that leaves you in awe. It should be described as a classy choice; a car that you know is better without any logical explanation; the car you buy with your heart rather than your head.