ASTON RAPIDE

PAST BLAST

WORDS JOHN BOWE WITH GUY ALLEN PHOTOS ANDREW BRITTEN

Next Issue

BOWE VOLVO

JB is reunited with the Group A Volvo he cut his touring car teeth on 30 years ago, and canít believe how basic the state of the art was way back in 1986.

AFTER SAMPLING THE ASTONíS CHARMS JB HAS BECOME A FAN OF THE BRITISH MARQUE Ė READ ON AND YOUíLL UNDERSTAND WHY

ďIíVE NEVER BEEN MOVED TO GO AND BUY ONE THIS CAR CHANGED MY MIND IT WAS A REVELATIONĒ

Aston Martin is all about two-door coupes and James Bond movies, isnít it? So itís always a bit of a surprise to come across one with two extra doors.

What youíre 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 Ė youíre 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 Iíve never been a huge Aston Martin fan. Love the looks, but Iíve never been moved enough to go out and buy one. This car changed my mind Ė 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.

Itís not a massive four-seater sedan inside, more of a generous 2+2 that James Bondís kids Ė letís call them Nigel and Samantha Ė would love.

This isnít 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.

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 Ė just that little extra length at the rear Ė 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. Itís no lightweight at 1950kg, but could have been a lot more but for the composite construction that makes extensive use of aluminium.

Itís 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. Theyíve got so many gizmos and gadgets it would take you a year to learn how to drive it. This is all quite simple. Itís got a beautiful driving position.

Youíre very aware of the low roofline and the glass, but itís not a greenhouse.

The interior appointments are beautiful.

Itís got acres of leather Ė everything is leather!

The seats are air-conditioned and heated, while thereís a premium sound system that has little speakers (tweeters) pop up either side of the dash when you switch it on.

Itís genuinely like a sports car but it has these two seats in the back, and if you switch

ďWITH SOME MODERN CARS I GO INTO MELTDOWN WHEN I GET IN Ė SO MANY GIZMOS AND GADGETSĒ

your kid brain on Ė which I rarely get away from! Ė 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 thereís 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 donít think thereís 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 Ė 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. Iím not a paddle shift lover, but it works as well as any other Iíve driven.

As for the handling, itís got a brilliant on-centre feel and reacts well to the steering.

Itís 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 worldís most prestigious marques.

I was blown away by it Ė how awesome is this? I felt like going home and getting a dinner suit (which Iím not sure will still fit me) and heading into town. Maybe to the casino (pretend itís MonacoÖ), 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, itís a hell of a lot of car.

ďI DONíT THINK THERE HAS EVER BEEN A BETTER SOUND THAN A V12Ē

2011 ASTON MARTIN RAPIDE

ENGINE 5.9lt V12 POWER 350kW @ 6000rpm TORQUE 601Nm @ 5000rpm GEARBOX 6-speed ZF SUSPENSION independent, double wishbones (f&r) BRAKES disc (f&r) WEIGHT 1950kg 0-100km/h 5.3sec TOP SPEED 300km/h Lorbek.com.au