It’s been close but so far neither the Aston Martin Rapide nor the Porsche Panamera has delivered a knockout blow in our Clash of the Luxury Titans. Now we head into the deciding rounds: performance.
We’ll start with the Aston, which, we can say with relief, drives like it looks; more sports car than saloon. The front end has prodigious grip and a swing of that perfectly-sized steering wheel sees the nose darting to the desired angle with no protest. The back is happy to get loose, and once we figured out how to turn off the electronic nanny, it allowed big lairy slides with a prod of the throttle.
So far, things are looking up for the Aston; ducking and weaving, bobbing and jabbing surprisingly nimble shots at the lumbering Porsche. But then the Turbo S opens up. It’s a big, blunt and hugely powerful weapon, dolloping out massive gobs of power without effort. Put your foot down and the response is instant; 542bhp sweeps though the eight-speed PDK gearbox and pins everyone inside back into their seats. 100kph comes up in a faintly ridiculous 3.8 seconds, and the acceleration never lets up. The all-wheel drive system ensures incredible traction and barely a trace of slip. As such it’s a confident, assured machine on the move, always feeling nailed to the road.
The steering, while not delivering quite the 911 experience, is still superbly weighted, if not quite as textured as in the Rapide. The Panamera also grips very well at the front, although thanks to the torque distribution it’s more neutral in balance than the Rapide and doesn’t feel as lairy at the back; which, when we think about it, is probably the right choice for a car filled with passengers. It’s hard to argue that overall, the Porsche is the more accomplished car when considered objectively. It might rely on massive, clubbing shots in this particular boxing match, but they’re accurate and regular and the Aston withers under such relentless pressure.
The Rapide then, is pretty much out on its feet, and in desperation the Aston corner resorts to throwing the Panamera Turbo S price list into the ring. At $221,500 (before extras), the Porsche is very expensive. But then you look at the Aston, and realise that it’s more expensive still; prices start at $236,200 for the basic model. Hearing the Panamera price raises eyebrows, but the Rapide’s cost drops jaws.
Ultimately, which car you prefer is a subjective decision. The Porsche is incredibly fast, as solidly made as anything out there, and vastly more practical as a saloon. The Aston has a handmade charm, beautiful looks, a glorious soundtrack and makes for a more engaging drive, at the sacrifice of speed and general quality.
For a weekend, we’d take the Aston for its emotional appeal. It’s the people’s champion and will always have a place in our hearts. But as a saloon to live with? Sorry Rocky, you fought valiantly and put on a cracking show, but this fight goes to Drago >>>