The Sound of Silence of the Mas de Torrent
The Cascading Sonorous Humming of this Wickedly Breathtaking Beautiful Beast, the Aston Martin Rapide S – a genuine example of fully fledged sportsmanship
“Are you a member,” intonated the voice behind me. My answer was prompt and perky: “No, I am not, but I have come with a member.” This incident which happened to me at one of the posh golf clubs in Surrey many years ago reminds me of the “U and non U” of the Aston Martin society, a society very much aware of its unique tradition and quite rightly so. Its philosophy embraces exquisite luxury and true sportiness. The mythical attraction is further heightened by the impossible missions which 007 alias James Bond, gentleman and sportsman through and through, accomplishes with sheer prowess and virtue. In short, Aston Martin has become a legend and is going stronger than ever – regarding racing, sales figures and renown.
This year, this marque with its impressive Headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, celebrates one hundred years of sports car excellence with a Grand Tour from the Middle East through Central Europe and Great Britian to America and ultimately Asia – starring the Aston Martin Vanquish. In fact, the legendary British carmaker has heralded a succession of exquisite celebrations throughout the year. One such unforgettable event was the launch of the Aston Martin Rapide S in Catalonia, Spain, in springtime to which we feel honoured to have been invited. It soon became very clear that the Aston Martin team has managed to unleash yet another iconic masterpiece of engineering and design.
A secretive mystique envelops all 65 000 exemplars of these beautiful sports cars. 65 000 is the number of cars sold in the course of a century. A mere 15 000 Aston Martins were sold up to the turn of the millennium, eighty per cent of them in the United Kingdom. Since Dr. Ulrich Bez joined the company as CEO the marque has begun to compete on the international market. Since then a further 50 000 of these handcrafted cars have been sold, world-wide. Just think: this makes even the premium, expensive and highly sought-after Porsche 911 a mass product. The selected few who can pride themselves on calling an Aston Martin their own, are acutely aware of driving an exquisitely special car, a car full of controlled understatement. The marque, like the British Monarchy, has managed to outlast quite a number of difficult times. It therefore comes hardly as a surprise that this epitome of Britishness in style, demeanour and sturdiness, this first-rate charismatic brand is employed in Her Majesty’s Service. The royal seal “By Appointment to His Royal Highness the Princess of Wales – Motor Car Manufacturer and Repairer” has a definite ring to it and makes these cars so supremely British and so very special.
After all, how many countries can boast not only a surviving monarchy, but one that for centuries has been enjoying widespread acclaim? As for the elitist car manufacturer Aston Martin, the marque has become another uniquely British institution enjoying worldwide acclaim and admiration. An Aston Martin accordingly has to be driven in style. It is a majestic, a royal and an overtly sporty car – as became obvious once again when the Earl of March and Kinrara, better known as Lord March, host of the Goodwood Festival of Speed and generally Goodwood supremo, chased the new Vanquish up the famous 1.16 mile Goodwood hillclimb with its blind corner and sudden wall towards the end of the hillclimb.
It has spirit, it has soul, it has sound, it has speed, it has style, and it has luxury. In fact it does not leave any wish unfulfilled. Driving an Aston Martin is racing and revelling on Cloud 9. How is this possible? Any Aston Martin model is quite simply constructed with love. A small dedicated team accounts for the genuine authenticity of these cars, be it a Vanquish, a Rapide, a Vantage or one of the DB models. The latter being named after Sir David Brown, who in 1947 purchased the company for just over £20,500. The most famous of the so far over 14 individual DB models and derivatives is the Silver Birch DB5 figuring in the James Bond film “Goldfinger” and regarded by many as the most beautiful Aston Martin ever, the most famous of the James Bond cars and possibly the most famous car in the world. And, just in time for the 100 years celebration, Sean Connery’s DB5 has made its reappearance in the latest Bond film “Skyfall”, the most historic James Bond film to date.
Over the years, quite a number of different Aston Martins have figured alongside the MI6 agent in Her Majesty’s Service. This liaison has proved very successful as it combines genuine Britishness in the best possible fashion.
Noblesse & Tradition Obligent: Rapide S
Just as the loving hands of the masseurs in the Spa of the Mas de Torrent, which served as headquarters during the Rapide S launch, manage to accomplish a maximum sense of care and well-being, the Aston Martin is handled with maximum devotion during the act of being shaped into existence. This car is yet another example of the designers’ belief in simplicity. The Rapide S’ pure design means that it is incredibly well proportioned, the “S curve” being the typical Aston Martin signature. But design is not only shape. To the Aston Martin team it furthermore includes colour and the play with shades. “The team has looked closely at the individual contour lines of each of the cars to determine not only the right colours and shades, but also to create a template by which the paint changes from dark to light and where the graduated effect sits,” Aston Martin design director Marek Reichman explains.
As one presses one of the buttons on the lavishly designed dashboard to start the engine, go into reverse or start the sport mode, it feels a bit like acting in her Majesty’s Secret Service as MI6 agent.
The car certainly conveys this aura – an aura which in Spain was distinctly augmented by the presence of the men in black servicing the dozen Rapide S sports cars cruising and speeding through flat and mountainous Catalonia. The new luxury Gran Turismo Rapide S with its new 6.0-litre V12 engine producing 558 PS is the most powerful four-door Aston Martin to date. Naturally, it can be ordered in Skyfall silver. This is further proof that the bonds between 007 and Gaydon remain forever strong.
“More power, more beauty, same soul”. This demand on the new model has been miraculously accomplished. The stunningly elegant four-door silhouette perfectly suits the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Once the naturally aspirated V12 powerplant is started, the beast instantly awakens to life. Its sound just takes one’s breath away. Why listen to the undoubtedly perfect 1000-watt Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system, when the engine of the Rapide S delivers an aural experience like no other! The wolf in sheep’s clothing cannot hide its true character, which besides the race car qualitities of this luxury sports car is further emphasised by the impressive and striking new full grille. It is almost double the size of the Rapide’s front grille, imbuing the new car with an even more sporting, forceful demeanour. And Dr. Bez is extremely proud of the fact that this innovative new front grille design also complies with the latest European pedestrian protection regulations. Aston Martin holds a patent on the construction of its aluminium front grille which will move rearwards on impact, whilst the central and outboard chin stiffeners give rigidity to the lower structure and support achievement of the leg impact regulations. This ingenious solution means that Aston Martin can remain true to its design ethos, and avoid the use of plastic grilles and nose cone bumpers that stretch up in front of the bonnet.
It would be tedious to enumerate all the various changes distinguishing the Rapide S from its predecessor, the Rapid. The fact is: This car is not just a facelifted Rapide, which in 2010 was Aston Martin’s first four-door coupe. The Rapide S has an entirely new engine, rocketing its power from 477 to 558 horsepower and its torque from 600 to 620 newtonmeter.
Moreover, the whole design has been aesthetically further heightened, making this Aston appear very sporty, longer, extremely sleek and elegant at the same time. Needless to say, every sinew, every stretch of hand stitched leather, every appealing detail of the Rapide S is so enticing and full of life because it has been chiselled with the outmost love and dedication.
Congratulations and Celebrations
Aston Martin. This uniquely charismatic brand with its honourable racing history will celebrate its centenary in a racy fashion. As early as 1959 the DBR1 won Le Mans. Many successes in racing were to follow. In fact, with the Vantage GTE, the V12 Vantage GT3 and the V8 Vantage GT4, Aston Martin boasts a full portfolio of race cars. Sir Stirling Moss, an Englishman and sportsman through and through and considered the best driver never to have won the Formula One World Championship – due to his chivalrous and altruistic behaviour towards his rival Mike Hawthorn – likes to remember his races in the DBR1: “At Goodwood I could really push the DBR1 to its limits. And on the Nürburgring, which in my opinion was the best circuit in the world in my time, the DBR1 was a great car to drive around there. It handled beautifully, you could really throw it around, which was how I wanted to drive. The brakes were great and the car had lovely balance.”
The models in the decades to follow have kept their lovely balance and have excellent brakes. And as research and development never stops, one highlight in this year’s string of centenary events will be the hydrogen Rapide S starting in the Nürburgring 24-hour race. In January the FIA gave this car its seal of approval. About 20 per cent of the qualifying laps were driven with zero emission using hydrogen. This hydrogen Aston Martin Rapide S will signal a premiere in racing history. CEO Bez is convinced that in 20 to 30 years to come Aston Martin will be able to deliver sports cars exclusively using hydrogen, thus producing zero emission.
Apart from the Nürburgring in which Aston Martin apart from its hydrogen car will compete with a line of its most impressive cars, the charismatic marque will parade one hundred Aston Martin road cars around the famous La Sarthe circuit. And for the devoted Aston Martin customers there are Centenary Editions of the V8 Vantage, DB9 and Rapide – each restricted to 100 examples. These cars are now available to order in each of the 46 countries in which Astons are sold. Befitting their low-volume status, the Centenary Edition cars feature a bespoke paint finish and solid sterling silver Aston Martin wing badges with tailored ‘trans flux’ enamel inlay.
Will iconic cars like the Aston Martin Rapide S soon be consigned to the history books, as Jeremy Clarkson predicts with sadness? No, never ever. We firmly believe in the ultimate sanity of mankind. It would thus be utter madness and ludicrous to get rid of these beautiful sculptures of speed emitting inimitable sounds of music. We do however go along with the view of the protagonist of the BBC car series “Top Gear” on the 12 cylinder Vantage, which no doubt also applies to the Rapide S, as to any other Aston Martin creation: ”It is fantastic. It is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.”