Aston Martin Initiation: Driving The 2016 Lineup


You don’t buy an Aston Martin if you are looking for the best sports car for the money. Several more mainstream brands build cars that are more reliable and less expensive while delivering as much or more performance. Instead, you buy an Aston Martin because you want that beauty in your life. Yes, you are getting a world-class sports car or a grand tourer, but what you are really buying is a work of automotive art.

All of the Aston Martin models are based on the brand’s VH platform that features a bonded aluminum structure. An alloy torque tube running down the middle houses a carbon fiber driveshaft and gives strength to the platform. Most of the models use a 5.9-liter V-12 engine, with horsepower figures ranging from 540 to 568, though the entry-level Vantage is also offered with a 4.7-liter V-8 that makes 420 horsepower in the base model and 430 horses in the S and GT.

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I’ve had very little exposure to Aston Martins. I’ve managed to get behind the wheel of a Rapide and a now-discontinued Virage in the past, but I’ve never really lived with these cars. That all changed last week when I took a crash course in Aston Martin at a media event in Westlake Village, California. Situated near the Santa Monica Mountains, the location proved a perfect place to test the handling and responsiveness of England’s most beautiful super sports cars. Aside from the limited edition Vulcan, which isn’t even legal on the street, I had access to the entire product range. Here are my thoughts on each.

2016 Rapide S
Base Price: $207,000
Performance: 0-60 mph 4.5 seconds, 203 mph top speed

I started the day in the biggest, heaviest car I could, the four-door Rapide. Like the rest of the Aston Martin lineup, getting in and out of the Rapide requires a step across a wide sill that says this car cares more about structural rigidity and therefore dynamics than comfort.

Unlike the rest of the lineup, the Rapide has two usable rear seats, though they are cramped and their raiser outboard seating position makes occupants feel like gargoyles perched behind the driver.

Despite the four-seat capacity, 552-horsepower V-12-powered the Rapide is a true 200-plus mph sports car. The overall feel is firm and responsive. The steering is heavily weighted but direct, the cornering attitude is flat, and the road manners are planted and stable. However, during my morning drive, I found that the Rapide doesn’t play too well on tight mountain switchbacks. On several occasions the front end started to push forward (understeer) rather than rotate and the stability control system had to step in to bring the car back on its intended path. I attribute that to a combination of the cold tires and the Rapide’s long wheelbase.

The flipside to that performance is a lack of comfort and convenience. In addition to a relative lack of space, the rear window is just a slit, and the adjustable suspension feels stiff in the base setting and stiffer yet in Sport mode. This is a great car to drive on smooth roads, but you’d probably grow weary of it on rough roads. If you are looking for space to go with performance, the Porsche Panamera is a better, but far less attractive, choice.


 
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