Let’s be honest here: Automotive journalists are like crew members on the set of a porn film. You are allowed to get near the buxom actress, touch up a few skin blemishes here and there, chat her up, maybe even have lunch with her. But in the end, she always steps out of your ephemeral fantasy world and into reality—where she goes home to a buff partner, and you to your Netflix backlog.
This is why I hate going to events hosted by luxury carmakers where they throw you the keys to a P15-million sports coupe and make you gingerly drive it around the corner—with an escort who looks like a goon in a Fernando Poe Jr. movie. I don’t know why there are industry executives who think we find this exciting, or that we’re so talented we can whip up a decent car article from going 30km/h over a 2km distance.
So you see, I wasn’t expecting much when Aston Martin Manila invited me to a morning joyride in one of its luxury offerings. I was sure it was going to be another one of those short runs around Bonifacio Global City. After which the director would shout “cut,” wrap things up, give me a consolatory pat, and send me back to Season 3/Episode 4 of my pathetic existence.
I was wrong. Well, half-wrong, because I was still a utility man in this daydream, and I would still watch the voluptuous automobile roll away and leave me wondering why I hadn’t applied myself to the goal of becoming a billionaire.
Anyway, I was told I could bring the Rapide S to C5 and back. Starting point was Aston Martin’s boutique showroom in BGC. Better than the usual right-then-left-then-right-then-back Mickey Mouse route I had been accustomed to when “testing” these ultra-opulent rides. But this being a weekday, the thought of driving an Aston Martin through crawling traffic failed to pump me up.
As per usual, I was assigned a babysitter. Thankfully, it wasn’t a thug-looking bodyguard who wouldn’t think twice about whacking me in the head should I attempt to hit 100km/h in his boss’s mobile bank vault. Instead, I got the grandfatherly Rupert Crook, a professional driving instructor from the UK who had decided to retire in the Philippines with his wife. There were a couple of nice things about having an elderly driving expert in the passenger seat next to me while I betrayed my mediocre skills at the wheel. First, because he was an expert, he was used to witnessing blunders all the time; second, because he was elderly, he couldn’t (hopefully) whack me in the head.
As you can now tell from the inferior photos that accompany this article, I didn’t have a photographer with me on this day. I only took snapshots of the car using my phone. Like I said, I didn’t adequately prepare for this. Then again, at least I didn’t have a lensman tailing me to attract even more unwanted stares. Believe me, if you drive the Rapide S, everyone will try to size you up.
Now, I’m sure not all passersby will be familiar with the logo. Many of them surely haven’t heard of Aston Martin, or how it is the preferred automotive marque of James Bond. Therefore, they’re not gawking at you and your Rapide S because of the badge—they’re doing so because it’s one heck of a car, styling- and size-wise.
For one, there’s the physical appearance. The Rapide S is certainly like nothing else in a metropolis populated by Innovas and Vioses. It has four doors but looks every bit like a supercar. From the gaping grille up front to the imposing haunches out back, this car announces its presence like royalty. And those massive 20-inch wheels with equally massive (398mm front and 360mm rear) brake discs? You know this sports sedan takes driving very seriously.
For another, there are the exterior’s extraordinary dimensions. At 5,020mm long, the Rapide S is just a tad shorter than its direct rival, the lengthy Porsche Panamera. It’s also lower at 1,360mm but wider at 2,140mm. What this translates to is a crouching stance that feels more glued to the ground than the competition. It also accommodates four adults, although the two bucket seats in the back might upset healthy passengers suffering from claustrophobia.
Everything about the Rapide S is a spectacle, especially if it’s your first time to drive an Aston Martin. That includes the impeccably crafted key featuring what looks like some crystal—apparently sapphire—material. To start the engine, you insert this key into a prominent slot flanked by the transmission buttons on the center console. The sonic assault arrives, the infotainment screen flips up, and the Bang & Olufsen tweeters rise from their resting position. This dramatic audiovisual show alone should be worth a small piece of the price tag (which, at the time of this exercise, was P21.9 million).
The level of craftsmanship inside the Rapide S is unparalleled. From the aluminum knobs to the leather material, you’ll immediately understand where all the money went. We always hear the phrase “attention to detail” when studying a high-end product. This car’s cabin received attention to molecules. It’s that detailed.
Speaking of the engine, raise the lightweight hood and you’ll see the neat cover stamped with “6.0 V12,” even though the displacement is technically 5.9 liters (5,935cc, to be exact). I guess if you’re Aston Martin, you’re entitled to round digits off—nobody would mind.
The power is a brawny 552hp, and the torque a bus-pulling 630Nm. I got to taste neither, because, as mentioned, this was a regular workday morning, and all the cars in Metro Manila seemed to be out in force. But even in short spurts, I could tell the Rapide S was fun and solid to drive. The steering was precise, and the handling was sure.
What I had imagined to be a 20-minute trip turned out to be an hour of getting to know the Rapide S. The affable Mr. Crook (a misnomer, for sure) let me bring the car all the way to the southern end of C5. Unfortunately, the congestion was really bad. Picture yourself behind the wheel of a car that can do 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds, but you’re only able to go 20km/h. Amusingly, I seemed okay with the slow procession, because I was too mindful of the passing motorcycles to even truly enjoy the experience—too paranoid to perceive the action of the ZF-developed eight-speed automatic transmission, and too uneasy to fiddle with the paddle shifters. Never mind experimenting with the controls for the adaptive drive recognition and the adaptive damping system.
That’s the thing about inviting a journalist to try an Aston Martin. It’s like asking an underpaid film set worker to have coffee with a porn star. The worker will always be too nervous—too overwhelmed—to even notice his 60 minutes is up.
ASTON MARTIN RAPIDE S
|Engine||6.0-liter all-alloy V12 gasoline|
|Power||552hp @ 6,750rpm|
|Torque||630Nm @ 5,500rpm|
|Dimensions||5,020mm x 2,140mm x 1,360mm|
|Upside||Society will look at you in a different light when you buy this.|
|Downside||Criminals will look at you in a different light when you buy this.|