Living with an Aston Martin Rapide S: live blog

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I have an Aston Martin Rapide S this weekend and will be using it just like I use my Kia cee’d Sportswagon long-termer.

How practical is Aston Martin’s most practical car? Can it really make a fine family machine? Does it ‘do Sainsbury’s’ as ably as the big-booted Kia?

Over the next three days, I’ll find out. While not forgetting all the other stuff you do when you have a V12 Aston to hand, of course. Follow me as I go (and scroll down to the bottom for the gallery, too)…

Monday 27 May

17:50

It passed the Tesco test. Squeezing into the parking bays was interesting – I chose to leave the nose rather than the tail sticking out, so people could better admire the new front end – but extracting small child wasn’t a problem, nor was loading the boot up with tonight’s tea, either.

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The best bit was starting it up, though. God love enclosed car parks: I honestly believe everyone within earshot (that’s a lot of people) turned around. Goodness, even we could hear how savage it was, and that’s despite the double glazing.

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Just one problem – no cupholders. The Diet Coke had to be secreted down the side of the seat instead. Oh, hardship.

13:20

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Back home after a morning of pure Aston Martin indulgence. I vowed to have a dawn raid and disappointed only the neighbours who may have been woken early on a Bank Holiday Monday by my 4:50am wakeup call (the V12 startup rasp is hardly subtle – Aston’s even engineered a few exhaust crackle-bangs into it: marvellous).

It takes 15 minutes to reach the twisty stuff. Just time to get heat into the engine and get a clear feel for the Aston in luxocruise mode. Then, pull over, make some notes, take a picture of the pretty yellow fields… punch both adaptive damping and ‘Sport’ buttons, before blasting away.

(It was literally a blast, too: Sport mode ramps up the accelerator mapping, so previously meek inputs suddenly deliver three-figure levels of torque to the rear wheels…)

The shift in attitude, as I alluded to yesterday, is stark. It doesn’t actually get noisier and throatier until over 3500rpm, but even before then you’ll have felt the more clamped-down body, the heavier steering, gearchanges behind held onto longer and the fact you’re now finding it much harder to keep the speed down. Aston’s got the balance of character change just right here, I reckon: you don’t care to use Sport in normal mode, yet wouldn’t dream of not using it when being sporting.

B-roads first and the Rapide S belies its size with quick-respond steering, excellent front-end response and an accurate agility remarkable for such a long, heavy car. Be really silly and the nose will push wide but more often than not that’s because you’re going way faster than you realise – generally, the existence of a big heavy V12 beneath there is kept well disguised (thank you, transaxle weih distribution).

A great effort, one that a passing Jaguar XK driver was clearly astounded at. Poor bloke nearly jumped out of his skin at my rapid progress). But, ditching B from A, it’s clear where the Rapide S’ heart is. Fast, flowing, smooth roads show this to be the continent-crusher you kinda hope it would be, blending comfort with involvement and driving satisfaction in a way regular luxobarges can’t. Crumbs, is it fast, too. By the time you even hint at third gear you’re usually being illegal – use the full rev range and it’s simply indecent.

Sunday 26 May

18:00

As you can tell, I’ve mainly spent today driving. And, you’d think, getting used to people staring at us, but not quite. Again, it was only after an hour that Mrs. A caught a glance of the Aston in a shop window and chimed: “NOW I realise why they’re looking at us!”.

Perhaps the luxocruise had made her forget the big V12 up front: with double glazed refinement and air conditioned seats gently keeping the surprise sunshine at bay, we could’ve almost been in a Benz (albeit one with a low stance, firm seats and a curtain-twitching startup blap).

I ventured into Sport mode for the first time today. Daisy was drifting in and out of sleep so I couldn’t indulge, but the difference in feel was still obvious – it felt like I’d gained 200hp, a whole lot more sharpness and a general focusing of attitude. Fatherly duties meant I switched it off before I got too tempted.

That’s to be investigated early doors tomorrow, instead – yes, the dawn raid is on…

09:00

What’s it like starting up an Aston Martin Rapide S? Thanks to Vine, you can find out.

05:30

Waking up, it’s a very satisfying feeling to look outdoors and see an Aston Martin Rapide S on the drive (as, I guess, you’d perhaps well imagine it would be). Particularly as, if I had £150k, it could quite easily belong there as the family hack: we did everything we’d normally do in the Kia yesterday, and the Aston didn’t once lead to any compromise. Missus loved it, daughter loved it, I adored it.

So, those who’ve always wanted an Aston Martin sports car but haven’t been able to justify it because of the compromises, here’s your answer. For the same reason some people only buy Porsche 911 sports car because of the four-seat practicality and overall usability, here’s the Aston Martin that is as beguiling as a Vanquish but also, on experience thus far, does everything a Kia estate does.

Will it continue to fit into my life as easily, though? Well, today is the next challenge: the shopping centre. We shall see…

Saturday 25 May

15:00

Fine day’s drive in the Rapide S with missus and daughter. Props to the car right away – Daisy was instantly mimicking the startup bwap with her own ‘bruum, bruuum’ noises. That’s my girl. Two mintes later (literally), she was asleep. That’ll be the double glazing refinement and the surprisingly compliant adaptive-damped in-town ride.

 

Mrs. A wasn’t initially so keen, due to the heavy doors and, er, ‘immediacy’ of pickup off the line (it had to be demonstrated). Duly admonished, I spent the next half hour being smooth and elegant, like the car itself, and she came round. Seats, plushness of the interior and Classic FM clarity of the stereo were particularly noteworthy.

 

Me, I’d become totally beguiled by the time we stopped for a country pub lunch. The body control and fluidity of the damping really is quite something – I could happily drive it all day long and feel the control and composure over British B-roads that shrug off their harshness but still remains utterly dignified no matter what crests, cambers, ripples or ridges they throw in. It’s magnificently classy.

 

As is the steering, constantly chattering and gently writing with a tight, firm immediacy lacking from a modern EPAS Porsche. It’s terrific. Oh, and there’s something very appealing indeed about the creamy, linear and firm but gentle surge of a big V12.

Something else I discovered too: stick the suspension in Sport and you can drive a whole lot faster without Mrs. A noticing – body control and roll are tighter but the ride doesn’t suffer as a result. It’s now my default.

 

10.20

First drive thoughts: Firm seats are more purposeful than any other saloon. V12 starter motor whirr is ever-special. Gearchange buttons are starting to feel old now. Interior materials are deliciously rich – like palming a really expensive leather wallet. Expected V12 engine drama isn’t realised in town – it’s decidedly refined and quiet. Steering is immediately chatty.

Car is ‘fast’; it’s easy to flash past speed limits without realising. Ride displays extreme-wheelsize tautness over potholes, but it’s not crashy, just focused. Turn back at traffic lights and the amount of space in the rear comes as a surprise.

It remains special when you get out – the doors open up, you step out over deep sills, the doors close with a gas strut-assisted, aluminium-composite-sounding thunk. And, turning back, it looks sensational – long, low, jewel-like.

09.00

Picked it up. Looks stunning. Love the Aston 100 year graphics. Apparently all the neighbours have been photographing it too. Looks hewn from solid in sleek silver metallic. Brief update here, though: some #first5minutes to be done.

 

 

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