David Booth, Contributor
The 2010 Aston Martin Rapide is Aston's first-ever four-door sedan, and its purpose is to combine four-door practicality and exotic sports-car style. Notably, a successful combination has previously proven elusive for many automakers. Has the new Rapide finally cracked the code?
Of course, there are super sporting sedans like the BMW M5 and sporting 2+2s like the Porsche 911. Inevitably, neither style delivers true sports-car exotica with the practicality of four doors. No matter how elegantly sculpted, sedans are still, well, sedans; and the rear seats in 2+2s are little more than parcel shelves suitable only for the literally (rather than figuratively) legless.
Interestingly, model-year 2010 has brought us both the all-new Rapide and Porsche's all-new Panamera. Though occupying different price brackets and coming from wildly different backgrounds, they are ostensibly of the same ilk. Both are supremely powerful four-doors that deliver true sports-car pedigree. The difference is in the details, with the Porsche providing more practicality and the Aston being better at offering true sports-car looks and feel.
The 2010 Aston Martin Rapide's performance starts with its engine. Liberated from the related DB9, the big 6.0-liter V12 sounds like God's own banshee, its baritone midrange culminating in a full 12-cylinder crescendo just before the rev limiter cuts in (too abruptly, mind you) at 6,750 rpm.
Aston says the V12's 470 horsepower scoots the 4,299 pound Rapide to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds (half a tick behind the lighter two-door DB9) and will punch the Rapide up to 188 mph given enough room. In comparison, the Panamera Turbo is certainly quicker (zero to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds), but its 5.0-liter V8 is not nearly as mellifluous sounding as the Aston's V12.
Sending power to the rear wheels is a traditional six-speed automatic transmission. With automated dual-clutch manual transmissions like the Panamera's PDK gaining both acceptance and sophistication, it might be time for Aston to start thinking about moving beyond the once state-of-the-art six-speed automatic. Oh, it's got a manual-shifting option and is reasonably quick-shifting for an automatic, but the world is quickly passing torque converters by, especially in the luxury performance segment. The faster Aston gets with the program, the better.
It is perhaps Aston's most incredible feat, however, that one never really senses the Rapide's extra girth — only 418 pounds heavier and 12.1 inches longer than the DB9. The Rapide rides on a stretched version of Aston's VH platform and has the DBS's adjustable suspension, but the major difference between it and the DB9 two-door is a slightly quicker steering ratio with a little extra boost.
From behind said steering wheel, it's hard to tell the difference between the two- and four-doors. Turn-in is as sharp, body roll as contained and there's very little indication that the 2010 Aston Martin Rapide has gained those 418 pounds. The only time you might notice a difference is on low-speed switchbacks; the Rapide's longer wheelbase makes flicking to and fro a little more lethargic. But overall, the Rapide simply handles like a sports car.
Aston Martin's mandate for building a four-door was completely different from Porsche's. Porsche determined that its first sedan would compete with the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class, and had to make some notable compromises in the Panamera's roof line; enough so that the bulbous rear end is in dramatic contrast to the sporting silhouette of the 911-esque front end. Indeed, Porsche's design brief for the Panamera seems to have been to build the sportiest car it could without compromising comfort.
Aston Martin, on the other hand, decided early on that it would build the most comfortable sports car it could without compromising performance. Of course, up front, you're treated to ample driver space and a marvelously comfortable driver seat. But the differences are tangible in back. Where the Porsche's rear seats are roomy, the Rapide's are most politely described as cozy. Leg- and headroom for the rear two passengers are ample but that dramatically sloping roof line did require that the rear seats be located significantly lower than the norm.
That means your butt is low, your knees are high and, if your lower back is less than limber, you're looking at a seating position best left for short jaunts to the cottage rather than cross-country marathons. The Rapide's full-length and high-mounted center console also intrudes a bit and the rear door openings are a little tight, making ingress/egress more awkward than in a typical luxury sedan.
But guess what? It's probably good enough for most people. After all, drivers who can afford the 2010 Aston Martin Rapide's $199,950 MSRP probably have a few more cars and can resort to business class any time they need to travel more than 500 miles. Nope, the Aston Martin's rear seats will be for those occasional trips to the opera with friends when driving a lumbering luxury sedan would seem ill-bred.
Much of the Rapide's cabin will be familiar to anyone who has driven a recent Aston; acres of Connolly leather, exquisite wood and a tachometer needle that rotates counterclockwise so that the speedo and tach indicators swing toward each other. New touches include a 15-speaker, 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system, additional rear-seat air-conditioning controls, a rear-seat entertainment system with dual LCD screens and little leather grab handles on the B-pillar that incorporate magnets to keep them out of the way when you're not hoisting yourself out of the rear perches.
The 11.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats doesn't sound like much, but the trunk floor is flat and, with the push of a button, the rear seats fold down for a golf-club-bag-swallowing 31.3 cubic feet. There's also a movable rear bulkhead to make sure baggage doesn't turn missilelike when you're seriously honing about.
Design/Fit and Finish
The 2010 Aston Martin Rapide is not just elegant for something with four doors; it is every bit as beautiful as anything in the Aston Martin lineup, incredible praise considering that Gaydon's stable includes the hyper-sexy DBS and Vantage. Indeed, the argument might be whether the Rapide is actually more comely than the DB9, an incredible prospect considering the addition of its two extra doors.
Of course, as one would expect, the Aston's interior is extremely luxurious, with a wide range of colors to make it look and feel warm and inviting.
Who should consider this vehicle
Anyone wanting the style, performance and, more importantly, the feel of a true two-door sports car with serviceable accommodations for an extra couple passengers in the rear seat, who has the means to do so, should consider the 2010 Aston Martin Rapide. Those looking to ferry four large adults over long distances might be better served elsewhere.
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