If you have any blood in your body at all and have any semblance of proper driving ability, you know speed is good. Adding horses to any performance car is a good idea, especially if you’re dropping in enough additional steeds to drizzle a tiny bit of that fear of prematurely meeting a higher power down your spine.
Now, add a significant additional horsepower to an Aston Martin, and you’ve kicked in the door on a sort of engineered equine ecstasy. While another automaker can just slap down a brace of Mr. Eds and get the wheels spinning with more irresponsible urgency, the trainers behind an Aston know how to lead well-fed thoroughbreds from their stable and put them in proper harness.
Aston Martin invited journalists to the Atlanta Motorsports Park in Georgia recently for a track day devoted to testing the limits of the Rapide S. Since the car has a reputation for being the most civilized entry in the Aston line, company execs seemed excited about showing just how easily the Rapide S can handle the rigors of a professional race track.
The 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S increases the model’s horsepower aggressively from 470 to 550 via its new 48 valve V12 engine. That’s a beefy British roast packed into a front-engine, rear wheel drive touring five-door. An official 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds and a thirsty average mileage of about 15 mpg might seem to fit better in a pure performance car, but the Rapide S is the British automaker’s top drawer luxury ride.
It’s a symphony of leather, carbon fiber and technology dedicated to driver convenience. Drive mode selection allows you to keep the ride in a comfortable touring mode or lock up the suspension and handling in Sport Mode. The overall result is a luxury grand touring car that can manage a top speed of 190 mph and handle the sharp turns of a top shelf race track like the Atlanta park.
During my early laps at the wheel, my instincts wouldn’t allow me to let the Rapide S release those new horses. This wasn’t the elegantly bestial Vanquish I drove months earlier. This was a larger luxury car. I thought I had to grip hard at 10 and 2, keep the back end under control, and keep those rimshot turns fat.
After a few early runs, I realized this was every inch an Aston. Yes, there’s room for a baby seat in the back and golf clubs in the hatch, but this is a worthy track day car. I relaxed. I hit every apex. I tore over rumble steps. I brought it back with sizzling breaks.
As one professional Aston test driver put it, “It handles so well on the race track that you forget there’s a full backseat behind you.”
Starting at $202,775, the Rapide S is a car you can revel in during a track day, before you drive it homeward to pick up the kids or embark on a tour of Northern Welsh coastal towns. Admittedly, folks in the Aston Martin buyers’ income bracket are most likely less interested in the car’s versatility than they are its performance and styling. If Nigel “DB” Vantage III wants to transport Mrs. Vantage, little Ian, Colin and Felicity around Greater Mutton on Sheep, he’s going to buy a Land Rover or a luxury German SUV. He buys the Rapide S to tear into London with head-turning urgency.