What's New for 2010
The 2010 Rapide is an all-new four-door model from Aston Martin.
Aston Martins have always unapologetically been about grand touring. Some car magazine somewhere has always managed to dog Astons for not being as sharply tuned as Ferraris or Porsches for harrowing all-out attacks on mountain passes. Be it a 1963 DB5 or an '09 DBS, these iconic British cars have put a priority on getting their passengers to their destinations in comfort, quickly and in grand style.
Well, they did for two people, anyway. Passengers three and four (if there were seats at all for them) would have to be 4 years old, without legs and/or very flexible. Enter the 2010 Aston Martin Rapide, a car that adds a pair of doors to the brand's grand touring tradition and successful DB9 platform. Oh, there have been four-door Aston Martins before, but those Lagonda models were so bizarre, so atypical of the brand and ultimately so unpopular that you'd be just as likely to see Sasquatch cruising along on the freeway in a Smart Fortwo. The Rapide, on the other hand, won't be confused for anything but an Aston Martin.
The Rapide looks like a stretched DB9 with an extra set of doors and two adult-sized seats. That's essentially what it is. Under the skin is Aston's bonded aluminum chassis and rear-mounted transmission shared with every other car in the line. However, the Rapide has 9.7 additional inches of wheelbase, is a full foot longer and is 10 inches wider. It actually has a bigger footprint than the much bigger-looking Porsche Panamera, yet it weighs slightly less (4,299 pounds versus the Porsche's 4,343).
As such, the Rapide drives very much like a DB9. The 470-horsepower V12 offers effortless thrust and the sort of grandiose noises that can only be topped by Metallica performing with the London Philharmonic in Westminster Abbey. There is an agility that you just won't get in other super sedans, while at the same time there's the same sort of ride comfort that has made Astons such brilliant touring cars. Even the drop-dead gorgeous styling and beyond-reproach interior are practically identical to the DB9's.
So why get the Rapide, then? Well, the hatchback trunk and those backseats do provide a level of practicality a two-door GT coupe never could. Head- and legroom are surprisingly sufficient even for 6-footers. But hiproom in each individual rear bucket seat still suffers. You'll have to be fairly thin not to have your hips squeezed between the door and wide rear center console. If you want real space for four or five, you'll have to get a Panamera Turbo, BMW Alpina B7, Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG or Maserati Quattroporte. But then, you won't be driving an Aston Martin, will you?
In fact, that line of reasoning is pretty apt for the 2010 Aston Martin Rapide. All those competitors are not only more practical than the Rapide, they're also cheaper and in the case of the Porsche, more agile. A car like an Aston Martin isn't about rationality, though. If you're drawn to its beauty and personality, warbling V12 or even just the cachet of its name, there is quite simply no substitute for one of these magnificent grand tourers.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Aston Martin Rapide is a four-passenger, four-door sedan with a hatchback-style trunk. Standard equipment includes 20-inch alloy wheels, an adjustable suspension, a limited-slip differential, bi-xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, front and rear automatic climate control, power front seats with memory, heated front and rear seats, a full leather interior, Bluetooth, a hard-drive navigation system and a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen system with a CD player, iPod interface, USB audio jack, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio.
Aston Martins are highly customizable with a dizzying array of exterior paints, interior leather colors (available in whatever two-tone combo you desire) and trim types. Other options include different 20-inch wheel finishes, front and rear ventilated seats and a rear seat entertainment system with two screens, a six-DVD player, auxiliary audio jack, wireless headphones and remote control.
Powertrains and Performance
Every Rapide is rear-wheel drive and powered by a 6.0-liter V12 good for 470 hp and 443 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is the only transmission available. According to Aston Martin, the Rapide will go from zero to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds which, though certainly quick, is about a half-second behind the top guns of the class.
Safety equipment on the Rapide includes antilock brakes, brake assist, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and front and rear parking sensors.
Interior Design and Special Features
It's difficult to find a surface in the 2010 Rapide that's not covered in soft leather, while wood, alloy trim and even sapphire crystal fill in the blanks. Easily deciphered buttons combine with a central LCD screen to create a more user-friendly and better-looking interface than in past Astons. Still, the Volvo-sourced navigation system is one of the worst on the market and we still find Aston's choice to have the speed and tach gauges rotating in opposite directions (the tach goes the wrong way) to be distracting. The speedometer also has such tiny numbers and a huge range that it's rendered practically useless. Luckily, there's a digital speedometer in the trip computer.
The driver seat is marvelously comfortable, with ample leg- and headroom for taller drivers. However, the low-slung seating position and short greenhouse make you feel like you're confined in a sporty GT rather than a traditional sedan. The backseat certainly offers more space than a GT coupe like the DB9, but it makes a Porsche Panamera feel like a stretch limousine. Headroom and legroom are limited, though there's still just enough space for a 6-footer. The bigger concern is the lack of hiproom. In short, the Rapide can take a pair of couples out to dinner, but you wouldn't want to drive them to the Poconos for the weekend.
Climb into the 2010 Aston Martin Rapide's snug driver seat and you may think you're actually in a DB9. Not only are the controls around you practically identical, but the way it effortlessly cruises down the highway or confidently takes a corner makes it feel like a sports car, not a luxury sedan. The automatic transmission is remarkably smooth, the steering is light and precise and the V12 sounds amazing. The Rapide doesn't match the ridiculous thrust offered by an S65 AMG or Panamera Turbo, but nonetheless the Rapide is indeed exhilarating. Best of all, it still manages to offer a compliant ride in true Aston tradition.