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Four up in an Aston Martin Rapide
If you ever land yourself behind the wheel of an Aston Martin Rapide don't, as I did, take it to a wedding. Because turning up at a wedding in a Rapide is an upstage on the scale of inviting Pippa Middleton to be a bridesmaid. Let's just say cameras were pointed in the wrong direction...
The bride in question was my sister and, as an ardent Aston Martin fan, I obliged her by borrowing a Rapide as wedding wheels. However, there was more of a purpose to this story than causing a stir at my beloved sibling's nuptials with a flash four-door supercar.
Part of my brotherly duties was to ferry her and her beau from Northern Ireland to England where they would catch their honeymoon flight. That meant four adults and luggage in the Rapide for the 500-mile trip back to Hertfordshire. Impossible? Maybe...
If I misjudged the Rapide's space I wasn't going to win any brother of the year awards (sorry sis, I only have room for either your suitcase or your husband - cue the inevitable slap, tears, tantrums... ).
It was probably wise then that I did my homework in advance. Looking at the figures, I discovered that the Rapide has a luggage-carrying capacity of 317 litres (with the rear seats up). A meaningless number, until you compare that to a Ford Focus hatchback and realise that the Aston's boot is bigger by a whole litre. Impressive...
Even so, my sister's suitcase was bound to be on the large side, so my partner and I packed gingerly for the outward-bound trip; two squashy bags and a suit carrier fitted effortlessly into the flat, wide load bay of the Aston Martin - and there was even space to spare.
The boot is actually very accommodating; a deep crevice at the front rises to a flat load deck, with a divider that separates the boot from the cabin. This partition can be folded down for more space, or kept up to hide the contents of the boot from outside view.
Space wasn't the only concern, though. There was a very real danger I would file for bankruptcy at the end of this trip thanks to the price of fuel. Aston Martin's best estimate is a 19mpg average. With a large, 90-litre fuel tank I'd at least minimise my stops at the pumps, even if each one would cost the same as dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Day one of my week with the Rapide called for a 5am alarm call and the need to be in Cairnryan, Scotland, in time for the 3pm ferry. With a 6.0-litre V12 providing the propulsion, surely only a catastrophe would prevent that?
Boot packed, I push the jewel-like Emotional Control Unit - or key to us plebs - into the dash-mounted slot.
A couple of seconds later the most ungodly noise reverberates around my sleepy cul-de-sac. The noise is fierce, menacing and loud. I'm awaiting an inbound egg from an irate and now-very-much-awake neighbour.
Thankfully, I'm sheltered from yolk-based disorder in the comfort of the Rapide's cabin. It feels as snug as a DB9, sits as low to the ground as a DB9, and has the same dashboard layout as a DB9. Is this a DB9 with two extra doors tacked on?
Get out of it, the Rapide is purpose-built by Magna Steyr in Austria. It is the spiritual successor to the Aston Martin Lagonda, a four-door super saloon that ended production in 1989.
Like all Aston Martins, the Rapide has a quality, hand-built feel, with precision-stitched leather garnishing the dashboard and seats. Walnut and metal are fused seamlessly to give a classic yet modern atmosphere.
The Bang & Olufsen surround system's tweeters rise from the dashboard when you start the engine. The seats are contoured and comfortable. After five hours I feel fresh. The Rapide is a wonderful place to while away a long trip.
The commuting riff-raff haven't started invading the roads yet, so after a 20-minute warm up it's time to see what this V12 can do on the B-road that connects the A41 with the M40.
I manually override the gearbox by pulling the left-hand paddle back twice, third gear is selected swiftly and I give it full throttle. Initially the V12 responds lazily, but after 3,000rpm the Rapide pulls purposefully on a wave of torque.
Commit yourself to higher revs and the V12 turns manic as the red line comes into focus. It's proper, schizophrenic performance; docile and relaxing, hyper and exciting when you want it.
Silent but deadly
At motorway speeds the engine sounds like a Victorian child - silent. The exhausts emit only a distant rumble. With the stereo on, there is no extraneous noise, no wind rustle and minimal tyre roar. I could be in a Mercedes S-Class. Supercars shouldn't be this comfortable. However, tickle the revs north of 3,500rpm and baffles in the exhausts open to emit a satisfying, hard-edged bark. Only a true supercar could sound like this. Only an Aston Martin could sound like this.
Motorway dispatched, and only one stop for fuel thanks to the large tank, we're nosing across the border into Scotland and on to a fantastic stretch of A road that hugs the coast. Sport mode selected, I allow the inner sportscar out and the Rapide doesn't disappoint.
For a two-tonne car, it is nimble and lithe, turns into corners just as well as any Aston Martin I've previously driven and overtakes slower traffic with typical supercar ease.
Parked up, waiting for the ferry, I have that self-conscious feeling celebrities constantly moan about - everyone is attracted to the Rapide. A Bentley Mulsanne rocks up, but not even that can divert eyes away from the beautiful curves of the Aston Martin.
The wedding day comes shortly after. First off I'm on a mission to collect the cakes and flowers. I'm amazed it all fits in.
Flowers and cakes dropped off, I'm off to pick up the bride. It's a struggle for her to climb over the wide sill but once in the rear she has plenty of space to relax. Needless to say we get to the church on time...
Wedding over, it's time to take the Rapide on a final blast along Northern Ireland's Antrim Coast Road - one of the most scenic and best driving roads in the UK. It's raining, the wind is blowing hard, my grandmother is on board (so smooth driving is essential), but the Rapide just shrugs all of this off with typical effortlessness.
With the boot full of luggage and all four seats occupied, it's time to depart for the eight-hour journey home. My sister's suitcase is, as expected, rather large, but it fits naturally across the top shelf of the boot.
Nothing is left behind, not even the groom. Thankfully, all four of us are under six foot, and there are no complaints about a lack of space in the rear.
Several hours later, we're easing back into the driveway at home. The Rapide is being collected the following day. Sit in and watch TV or take it for a final drive? My brother-in-law and I opt for the latter.
The Aston Martin Rapide might upstage weddings, but if you need to move four people and their luggage there isn't a more sophisticated, special or exciting way of doing it. It really is a supercar for the family.
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