The set up
Aston Martin. The name is synonymous with sexy, single spies and seduction, not schlepping families to Saturday sport.
But to 10-year-old boys the name means everything. A shrewd blend of style and power, it’s evocative and full of promise. It makes youngsters long for adulthood, and adults yearn for more time.
Aside from Ferrari – a very different set of wheels – few cars have both the elegance and cachet the British brand brings to the road.
Some have been left scratching their heads about the Rapide S, Aston Martin’s 4-door 6-litre V12 sports car. It’s essentially a stretched DB9, but with proper leg room in the rear to comfortably fit a family, including older relatives.
And this is the car that changed my life and my family’s life in the most unexpected way.
I took my son to weekend sport in the Rapide S and something remarkable happened. The deep rumble of the V12 is more fanfare than stealthy as you approach and the car naturally draws both attention and awe.
I can’t say specifically that was the Aston Martin, but we’ve turned up at sport in some pretty cool cars during the year and let’s just say in the friendship stakes, a couple of tough nuts cracked that day. I had another insight that morning – marketers try to make boys think the car they drive will make them appeal cool to girls, but I reckon what boys really want is to appear cool to other boys. The Rapide S delivered the street cred to my son amongst his tribe and some of the worries that plagued me as a parent all year faded that day.
I can recommend an Aston Martin as the perfect ice breaker in socially awkward situations.
Yes, at around $400,000, it’s a somewhat over-the-top solution, but the change in family dynamics is priceless to me.
The Rapide S reassures with a I-know-I’ve-got-power-in-my-hands-and-thus-don’t-need-to-use-it kind of way.
The acceleration is as thrilling as the engine’s roar, punching to 100km/h in around 4.5 seconds with so much strength left, you can fly into the license suspension zone in a blink. There’s plenty of length in the lower gears, so tootling around the city, you might find yourself staying in second using the column paddles in manual, if only to keep that engine humming, since it responds best above 5000rpm and both the sound and composure of this old-school engine is an essential part of the car’s pleasure.
There are three settings for the Adaptive Damping System (ADS) suspension – normal, sport, and track – depending on how much of the road you want to feel. It’s a smart bit of kit with an electronic control unit, which takes sensor readings of everything from the throttle position to steering wheel rotation and vehicle speed to figure out how you’re driving the car and respond accordingly.
Normal creates a very comfortable grand tourer, after that you dial it up depending how much you want to feel every bump on the road, although for such a big car it feels velcro-sticky on the corners, thanks to the 20-inch rims. Driving in sport mode delivers the most pleasure, especially aurally, and the different in the ride is stark from the smoothness of normal.
The stitched leather interior is spectacularly opulent, especially the quilted leather bucket seats and roof lining, while still delivering a slightly Spartan sports car vibe.
The boot has plenty of room for more than just underwear and a bottle of champagne for a dirty weekend – the cricket gear for three kids managed to fit in, along with deck chairs for spectators. There’s also the optional extra of folding rear seats if you need to fit in IKEA flat packs.
The good news if you’re stuck in the back is no only is there enough legroom for a decent-sized bloke, and the back-of-the-seat entertainment system with remote and headphones, fed by a six-stack DVD/CD player mounted in the boot, keeps smaller passengers amused on longer runs. The back also has its own climate control system and the rear centre console separating the bucket seats, which have their own heaters, along with the front seats.
Seriously? Two words: Aston Martin. It’s not consistently voted one of the world’s coolest brands by accident. You know you’ve always wanted one. You just got distracted by a marriage, mortgage and family along the way.
If Bond remarried and had kids, this is the car he’d drive when not fighting off bad guys in a DB10.
And because you love driving that combines both intoxicating power and sublime elegance.
This is a car that prefers to rev, with the power hitting 411kW (560 PS/552 bhp) at 6650rpm and 630Nm of torque at 5500rpm, but really, it bristles with brute force all the way from a standing start.
An eight-speed automatic feeds the rear-wheel drive and you can take control via paddleshifts on the steering column. The steering wheel has phone and cruise control buttons, which take a little getting used to. The driving panel is clean, simple and almost old school with analogue dials for speed and revs, along with digital data such as who’s got their seatbelt on.
The pop up 6.5 inch media screen above the central console system adds a touch of Q. Setting it for torque and power is probably the best value – the nav system isn’t particularly impressive – but the tyre pressure data is cool, and the tracking lines on the reverse parking camera are handy.
The infotainment system are controlled by the centre roll dial, the other functions via flush buttons on the panel. It’s both Android and iOS compatible and will even read you incoming text messages.
The standard 12 speaker sound system pumps out 600 watts and there’s DAB radio, along with two USB jacks and Bluetooth, but upgrading to the Bang & Olufsen option would be good if you like to pound the base. The percussive drive of The National revealed the limitations in the standard system when it was cranked up.
Every time you put your foot down, an iceberg melts and a polar bear dies (fuel consumption is about 12.9l/100km). If you have the cash to splash on this kind of beast, best buy some carbon credits too to salve your social conscience, wait until the E version, currently on the drawing board, lands, or make your other car a Tesla.
There’s not much storage room in the centre console – wallet and phone and it’s full.
The Ultramarine Black colour shimmers with a slightly sinister edge, but small hands quickly become all to obvious on the paintwork.
Your chances of finding out just how the car feels at its top speed of 327 km/h (203 mph) are as remote as a night with Monica Bellucci.
OK, so at $400k, it’s not the most practical and affordable of people movers, but this is a car that allows you to be a father and husband and still believe there’s a touch of Daniel Craig left in you between trips to children’s birthday parties (the further the drive the better), putting out the bins, and making your wife tea in the hope you might get luckier than Bond.
If you’re looking in this price bracket, I’d take it over some of its key competitors at half the cost, any day.
The fine print
The car we tried is $382,500 plus on-road costs. It you’re spending that much you might as well spend the extra on the 1000 watt, 15 speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system too. Carbon fibre exterior highlights such as the front splitter, side mirrors and rear diffuser are extra too, along with coloured brake callipers, and various wheel spoke designs.
Our review car came from Aston Martin Sydney. Phone (02) 8338 3993.