At the headquarters, Agent Sophia handed over a rectangular capsule to me, which I presumed was an extra thick USB with encoded classified information. “Insert it deep into the centre slot till it aligns itself invisible”, she said, “that’s when the mission would begin”. I held the tiny glass capsule at one end and did exactly what I was told. And the mission roared to life.
The mission is the Rapide S, a renewed version of the Aston Martin Rapide launched in 2010 which is arguably the most beautiful, four door sports model available in the market and the Aston Martin’s only one. At 550 bhp and 620 Newton metres of torque from a V12 engine, it’s also one of the most powerful.
UPSIDE: V12 engine and transmission, high engagement quotient, youthful cabin appointments, Unique configurations
FLIPSIDE: Drive train delay, Extended side view inadequate, navigation cues slow, rear squeeze for large adults
SPECS: 5935 cc V12 front mid-mounted engine with 48 valves, Rear Wheel Drive, Touchtronic 2 6-speed transmission / Limited Slip Differential, 550 bhp @ 6750 rpm, 620 Nm @ 5500 rpm, 0 – 100 kmph in 4.9 sec, Predicted maximum speed 306 kmph
DIMENSIONS: LxWxH: 5020 mm x 2140 mm x 1350 mm, Wheelbase: 2989 mm Fuel tank: 90.5 L, Weight: 1990 kg, 20” 20-spoke alloy wheels
For a sports car, the Aston Martin Rapide S is rather smooth. But the code to a firmer, sportier ride is concealed within two glass buttons on the dash – one quickening the car to Sport mode and the other tightening the adaptive suspensions from Normal to the firmer Sport or Track modes.
On Normal drive, very little of the road imperfections get transferred to the cabin and this powerful V12 is shockingly silent in its stride. Well, even the Sport mode settles down soon after a quick tumultous spurt when you let the tachometer fly past 3,000rpm. Unlike many overzealous sports cars, the Rapide S plays out subtly at the start – it is a short wait before the car quickens up to your already racing pulse. The cover-up continues with the steering which seems too easygoing for an Aston. But that doesn’t intervene with the swiftness of response both on lane changing manoeuvres or while negotiating ramps.
Start with disappointment if you expect track like controls on the normal driving mode, but shifting to the Sport mode and track-syled suspensions lend the car surer handling skills. Despite its near perfect distribution of 48:52 (front:rear), the four door sedan weighs in at 1,990kgs, which along with the fact that this is probably the longest Aston Martin shows up in your manoeuvres. The brakes worked well, but not without a bit of tailspin at sharp turns. The Bridgestone Potenza 20 inch wide rimmed radials it rode on were filled to a rear advantage.
Deception is standard in this ‘Bond’ family saloon. The undersized aperture that serves as the rear windscreen actually opens a wide window to the road behind, complemented by the side view mirrors for most part. Blind spots in the immediate lane are mostly anulled but with the B pillar almost leaning on to the front seatback, 007 had better watchout for the tank further aside, if he plans to sweep across the six lane.
Even with the monstrous power to cross the frontier of 100 in 4.9 sec, the V12 was as fuel efficient as any V8 winding up at 17.7 litres per 100kms (5.65 km per litre) on my drive.
The Rapide S retains the characteristic façade of the Aston Martin, but the slightly larger grille with its vertical and horizontal slats make it a tad more aggressive, amplified by the two multi-finned hood vents. The bling lined chrome strip on a mesh serve as side vents, just before the A pillar, and are a part of the aerodynamic package that makes this new Aston Martin so ‘rapid’.
The Cabin and Controls
The cabin of the Aston Martin Rapide S in its crimson full-grain leather reminded me of the Bentley GT V8 but, with the iridium silver surround and graphite central console that runs all the way into the rear like the Panamera’s, the cabin is more youthful and vivacious. The appointments are marked by a firm softness rather than plush luxury. I really liked the way the Aston Martin Rapide S configures the driver inside the cabin. Just the right stretch of arms and legs with the nice-to-hold leather steering comfortably in place.
This might not be Bond’s preferred Aston, but it is dramatic nevertheless – beginning with the concealed door handles. By the way, the four doors of the Aston Martin stays ajar whichever position you leave them instead of opening in stages. So you live and let live by not swinging open inadvertently into a car parked too close! The drama continues inside, both in the emerging screen of the concealed navigation system as well as the Bang & Olufsen speakers that rise next to the A pillars like Blofeld’s extra terrestrial antennas.
The transmission buttons as well as those for the adaptive suspensions, Sport mode, traction control and fog lamps are all encased in real glass; not candy plastic! The controls are pretty much simple but for the rotary jog dial, which makes keying in navigation destinations a drag especially if you have 007’s patience for these kind of things.
However, the Rapide S cabin is stripped of showbiz like the blind spot monitor, the active cruise control, forward alert warning and such gizmos that answer to the middle class concepts of driving luxury. That’s perhaps because the Aston owner is a proficient driver and not just any rich bloke.
Well, this is one Aston Martin that’s not just for Bond but also for some bonding because it has reasonable space in the rear, and surprisingly large luggage space to boot. But the armrest just seems wide – there is hardly space underneath for more than your wallet and a couple of cards.
Children fit in comfortably in the rear and adults too; but you better be in shape for the Rapide S, because if legroom isn’t an issue, the narrow seats could still make it a tight squeeze for larger people. The front seatbacks are shaped and inclined for a good ride, even though there is little help from the lumbar support.
The 1000W Bang & Olufsen stereo inside is nothing short of connoisseur class with very distinctive sub-woofer beats and a choice of pleasing cabin acoustics. The DVD entertainment system is provided with headphones in the rear and unobtrusively placed screens. The rear gets its own controls for air conditioning (though the cool air blows out from closer and higher up than you normally expect), seat heating and entertainment, and two cup holders as well.
The essential Aston Martin Rapide S
This Aston family car can easily prop you up for the racetrack – they’ve done it with an earlier Rapide with only minor modification. But if you’re looking for a sternly precise and severely sporty saloon, you might not hit bull’s eye with the Aston Martin Rapide S. With a higher sport quotient and a firmer road connect, the Maserati GranTurismo or the Bentley GTC could perhaps be a little more involving.
What cannot be ignored is its humbling V12 power, quick response, delicately vulnerable dynamics, tactile luxury and the supreme ability to enthrall imaginations. As the badge it wears like a pilot’s brooch suggests, the Aston Martin Rapide S ‘gets you engaged in flight.’
Drive Courtesy: Aston Martin ME
Pictures: Sudeep Koshy