Next up in our series of road tests is this wonderful looking Aston Martin Rapide, a five-door luxury supercar that combines the scintillating V12 performance and soundtrack of the firm’s coupe models with an pair of extra seats and a sensible boot. Available for one single day in the German Eiffel region near the city of Nurburg, the Rapide was finally ready to showcase us its strengths and weaknesses.
Up to this moment, the Aston Martin Rapide’s only genuine ancestor is the Lagonda that Aston Martin made over a quarter of a century ago. Even though the Brits tried to return the brand a few years ago, the Rapide has been the only four-seater with four-doors from the UK-brand headquartered in Gaydon in Warwickshire, England.
Acclaimed as being the most elegant four-door sports car in the world, the Aston shares a lot with its brothers and sisters. The company’s existing VH platform is six-years old and has been the basis for many of the current Aston models. The Rapide is no different than any of those models. The bonded aluminum chassis is a stretched version of the platform including a different seating configuration and the biggest luggage room in an Aston ever. The total of 317 liters of space nearly triples to 886 liters with the folding down of the rear seatbacks and bulkhead for a load-flat surface area in the cargo hold.
Under the bonnet, a naturally-aspirated all-alloy 6.0 liter V12 engine producing 470hp and 600Nm of torque is linked to an automatic transmission. The rear-mounted Touchtronic 2 six-speed gearbox with electronic shift-by-wire control system accomplishes the desired 49-front/51-rear percent weight bias, and is controlled by alloy paddle shift levers, which are nicely finished with leather accents. The front, mid-mounted engine pushes its performance to the rear wheels. The total performance offers a sprint from naught to 100km/h in just above five seconds with the maximum velocity topping out at 295km/h.
The drive train is a wonderful setup fitting the character of the luxury car. It is not particular the last word in sophistication, and it’s neither as fast nor involving as the latest twin-clutch systems, but it suits the car and takes the stress out of town driving. The Rapide is over five meters long and nearly two meters wide. It weighs 1950kg, so it’s no lightweight, either. But as a whole it feels quite nimble to drive and is rewarding to say the least.
The ride and grip is handled nicely by the 20 inch twenty-spoke alloy silver painted wheels, which size 8.5Jx20 at the front and 11Jx20 inch at the rear, and the Adaptive Damping System (ADS) with Sport Mode. The suspension features a front and rear independent double wishbone setup with anti-dive geometry, coil springs, anti-roll bar and monotube adaptive dampers.
In Normal mode the car feels quite comfortable with a slight feel of firmness underneath your bottom. It is not as utterly smooth as a Bentley, nor as rewardingly agile and sharp as a Porsche Panamera. It feels a lot more sophisticated than expected. In Sport mode the dampers become stiffer, the exhaust opens up and the ride becomes more challenging. The steering is precise and friction-free in any circumstance. The paddle shifters ask the driver’s gentle touch of up- or downshifts while the V12 is intoxicating the passengers and outside public with its incredible soundtrack.
The wonderful looks of the Rapide continue inside the cabin. The interior is largely shared with the DB9 and it is simply beautiful with aluminum, chrome, silver, piano black trim and suede, Alcantara and single-stitched leather. The front seats offer firm bolstering to keep you in place while cornering rapidly. The refinement inside the cabin is sufficient, the controls are a complete ergonomical mess and the quality of the Bang & Olufsen Audio is rubbish. The navigation system is another subject of fail.
After a while you start to believe that this Rapide is a great traveler, surely the best in the lineup of Aston. The longer body shape and increased luggage space are absolute extras over a DB9, DBS or even the new AM310 Vanquish. Especially on longer journeys the Rapide will be able to stand out, but only as a two-person traveler. Four grown adults in all four seats is an impossible task. The lack of space is due to the sloping roof line and the step-in of the rear ‘swan-wing’ doors. Headroom and legroom are limited as well. It is either the choice of having your kids on the rear seats and the trunk space at a reasonable level (lacking space for all four people’s luggage) or having the seats folded and loads of storage for you and your partner.
This ‘space’ issue is the main downfall in the Rapide and the lack of success next to models like the Porsche Panamera. Even though its beauty is unmistakably a winner, its versatility and its lack of a wider engine line up are the main reasons for the low sales over the past few years. Add the failing interior ergonomics and multimedia features to the equation, compare it to its main rivals and get the full picture.
The Rapide is a rewarding car to drive and a wonderful traveler offering more than just comfort and sportiveness. So in the end it is maybe not the best in its class out there, but surely one of the most stunning looking and best sounding four-seater limousines in the world. Excellent for your Sunday trip with the kids through the countryside.
Photos by Dennis Noten Photography and Luuk van Kaathoven Photography.