The 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S is one of the most beautiful cars I've ever driven. I mean, seriously, give it a good, long look. Drink in the Volcano Red paint, those swept-back headlights, the gaping yet tasteful grille. There's not a bad angle on this car, and when you open the doors, there's more of the same: arrow-straight stitching on the leather, majestic curves in the center console and on the doors, a snug-fitting but comfortable seat. I was probably the only person in a hundred mile radius driving a Rapide S, and when you add in that exclusivity, its visual impact intensifies. 

For nearly $218,000, it had better.

No ordinary ride

You don't buy an Aston Martin because it's a rational purchase. In fact, from an equipment standpoint, it's missing stuff that's available on some cars costing a tenth as much:  no adaptive cruise control, no blind-spot warning, no lane-watch...nothing of the sort. This Aston Martin assumes that you can monitor your own speed, check your own blind spots, and stay in your own lane using nothing more than your eyes and brain. It does have an amazing sounding Bang & Olufsen audio system that's as stunning to the ears as the exterior styling is to your eyes. But your feet are funneled into a narrow well, the control interface on the dash looks simultaneously expensive yet dated, and the navigation system is a pop-up unit familiar to anybody with a windshield-mounted system. It's fast and sounds wonderful at wide open throttle -- there are few automotive sounds like this big 550-horsepower V12 engine at full song - although it's not quite as quick as you'd think. 

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But who cares? The car starts with a bark, and quickly settles into a silky smooth idle. The 6-speed automatic transmission doesn't respond quite quickly enough to the carbon-fiber paddle shifters on the steering wheel, but they still let you drop down a few gears just to unleash that power, and hear the engine rev. You will find yourself in triple digits faster than you realize, with the clear message that the Rapide is capable of fulfilling the promise of its name. The brakes are just as dramatically powerful as the engine, albeit a bit noisy. Press the sport and suspension buttons on the dash, and you'll get quicker shifts, sharper throttle response, and a slightly stiffer ride. The steering is heavy, but communicates well.

The look? Priceless

Yes there are a lot of cars offering more performance for less money. In some cases, a lot less; a BMW M5 seats five, is quicker, handles better, offers more features, and costs half as much. But that misses the point. The Aston Martin Rapide S doesn't exist because it has more stuff or it's a better value. People buy it for that very air of exclusivity that driving an exotic brings. And make no mistake, this car is as exotic as any Italian coupe. You won't see yourself coming and going, ever. You know the name of the individual who built the engine, Richard Neal in this case. And the look from others when you step out of it is priceless. Are there less expensive cars that are faster or offer more technology? Sure...and their owners openly covet the Aston Martin Rapide S.

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