Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Aston Martin Rapide in San Francisco

Aston Martin's Rapide looking right at home in the Palace Hotel

Over the years, San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, the first grand hotel west of the Rockies, has played host to many an international luminary. The morning of the Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the world-renowned tenor, Enrico Caruso was shaken out of bed in the Palace. So perhaps it is fitting that the automotive world’s latest earth shattering virtuoso was hosted amid the gleaming marble, polished brass and delicately crafted wrought iron lacing the Palace Hotel’s majestic interior.

There, the all-new Aston Martin Rapide looked entirely appropriate blissfully ensconced like the piece of ultra-rare and exquisitely fine art it is. But this is fine art that rolls. Aston’s first four-door since production of the very rare Lagonda sedan ended in 1989, Rapide, at first glance, simply appears to be yet another strikingly beautiful Aston coupe. Upon closer inspection though, a second pair of Aston Martin’s signature swan wing doors reveals themselves.

Francesca Smith, Aston’s charmingly gracious representative explained, in her lovely lilting British accent, this stop in San Francisco is part of a seven-city tour around the U.S. to give potential owners an opportunity get up close and personal with a car most people have only seen in photographs – or at the Frankfurt Auto Show this past September.

“The people coming here today have either already placed deposits for the car, or are very close to making a purchase decision.” said Smith. “This gives them an opportunity to see the car in the flesh, select the color combination they’d like, and just basically reaffirm that Rapide is all they expect it to be.”

And indeed, as I stood there discussing the car with the ever-affable Smith, busy business people wafted in to admire the curvaceous flanks of the stunningly beautiful automobile. One guy announced broadly as he arrived, “ I have seven minutes, what’s the story?” Another group flew down from Western Canada in a chartered jet to bask in the glory of the vaunted automobile.

Smith continued, “ The car goes on sale in June, so this gives our customers an early preview. Right now, this is currently the only production Aston Martin Rapide in the world.”

With that quite firmly in mind, I very gingerly sat behind the substantial steering wheel and looked around.

As to be expected, Rapide is hand-finished in a manner thoroughly befitting its estimated $200,000 price tag. The interior features a combination of blue and bone colored leather complimented by Rapide's lusciously luxuriant walnut and aluminum trim. But just saying that doesn’t quite do it justice, you have to see it to feel it. The compartment looks more like that of a concept car than a production automobile.

Rear seat passengers enjoy video entertainment via monitors placed in the back of the front seats and can benefit from entirely separate programming on each monitor if they desire. Bang and Olufsen provides aural pleasure via 15 speakers placed strategically around the cabin.

A center console, on which reside controls for the climate control functions divides the rear compartment. Additionally, the rear seats are heated and cooled.

The boot (that’s trunk for those of you who are less than fluent in English) is accessed via a hatch that opens to reveal a nicely configured cargo area, one more than capable of handling soft luggage for four (yes, a set of fitted luggage is available). A partition keeps cargo separate from the passenger compartment, or it can be removed to provide even more cargo capacity. Yet another removable partition blocks the view inside the cargo area from prying eyes outside the Aston Martin. The rear seats fold for even more carrying space and Aston provides a cover that can be placed over them to prevent scratches.

Up front, underneath the bonnet (that’s hood y’all), resides the 470-horsepower 6.0-liter V12 engine that can also be found in the DB9 – Rapide’s closest relative in the current Aston Martin lineup. As I couldn’t do acceleration runs inside the Palace, I can’t speak to 0-60 times or how the car feels on the move. But given its 50-50 weight distribution, front mid-engine configuration (the engine is positioned behind the centerline of the front wheels), ultra-smooth and powerful V12, and the fact that it must exist alongside some of the most desirable sports cars in the world, there is no reason to expect the Aston Martin Rapide’s performance to be anything other than well – Rapide.

The Aston will be in Chicago from the 23rd to the 24th of November, Manhattan from the 2nd to the 5th of December, Charlotte, North Carolina from the 9th to the 10th of December, Palm Beach from the 14th to the 17th of December, and Dallas from the 21st to the 23rd of December.

No comments:

Post a Comment