What's New for 2011
The 2011 Aston Martin Rapide sees no significant changes, but there is a new Luxe edition that includes major options, normally extra-charge colors and a custom luggage set.
Despite the piddling amount of miles their owners tend to accumulate on them, Aston Martins have always been intended for long-distance grand touring rather than the sort of high-adrenaline pavement-pounding that other exotic sports cars get. With rare exception, an Aston puts a priority on getting its passengers rapidly to their destination in comfort and grand style. Well, for two people at least. If you wanted to bring along anyone else, their age could not exceed their hat size, or in the case of two-seat models, it would probably be best if they were simply imaginary.
Times have changed, thanks to the 2011 Aston Martin Rapide. If it looks like a DB9 stretched to accommodate an extra pair of doors and seats, that's because it's pretty much exactly that. Under the skin is Aston Martin's customary bonded-aluminum unit body and rear-mounted transaxle, while the 6.0-liter V12 is shared with the DB9. The Rapide is much larger, however. Beyond the 9.8 inches of additional wheelbase, the Rapide is 12 inches longer overall and 10 inches wider. This sedan actually takes up more real estate than the Porsche Panamera, even though it looks smaller and sleeker.
So it's based on the DB9 and looks like the DB9, but does the Aston Martin Rapide drive like one as well? Well, to put it one way, the term "four-door sports car" has rarely been so apt. 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 Aston Martins such brilliant touring cars. Then there's the V12, which offers effortless thrust and the sort of grandiose noises that beautifully blur the line between muscular and sophisticated -- like Metallica performing with the London Philharmonic. Unfortunately, such sounds might not make up for the fact that cheaper ultra-luxury sedans like the Panamera, Jaguar XJ Supercharged and Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG are notably quicker.
The Rapide has other disadvantages relative to its rivals as well. While its hatchback-style trunk and rear bucket seats provide a level of practicality that a GT coupe never could, the Rapide still doesn't deliver the sensible four-door function of a sedan. The backseat suffers from a lack of hip room, while leg- and headroom are only sufficient until you realize its competitors are limousines by comparison.
As such, the 2011 Aston Martin Rapide isn't quite a sedan in the traditional sense. Nevertheless, the addition of a respectable amount of convenience to the DB9's mix of performance, handling and stunning good looks creates the kind of package that might encourage even Aston owners to accumulate more miles.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Aston Martin Rapide is a four-passenger, four-door sedan with a hatchback-style trunk. Standard equipment includes 20-inch cast-aluminum wheels, adaptive dampers, a limited-slip differential, bi-xenon headlamps, front and rear parking sensors, power outside mirrors, front and rear automatic climate control, power front seats with memory functions, heated front and rear seats, a full leather interior, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, a hard-drive navigation system and a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system with a CD player, an iPod/USB audio interface, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio.
The Rapide Luxe gets special wheels, standard ventilated front and rear seats, a secondary glass-trimmed key fob, glass switchgear, a rear-seat entertainment system, a six-piece bespoke luggage set that matches the interior leather, and custom paint and leather colors. Other than the switchgear, all of the Luxe equipment is available on the regular Rapide.
Powertrains and Performance
The Aston Martin Rapide is rear-wheel drive and is powered by a 6.0-liter V12 good for 470 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with shift paddles is the only transmission available.
According to Aston Martin, the Rapide will go from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds, which is certainly quick, but notably slower than luxury sport sedans like the supercharged Jaguar XJ and Porsche Panamera Turbo. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined.
The Rapide comes standard with antilock disc brakes, brake assist, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Front and rear parking sensors are also included.
Interior Design and Special Features
It's difficult to find a surface inside the 2011 Aston Martin 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 navigation system is one of the worst on the market and we still lament Aston's choice to have the dial indicators for the speedometer and tachometer rotating in opposite directions (the tach spins counterclockwise). 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 legroom and headroom for taller drivers. However, the low-slung seating position and compact 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 caused by the transaxle's wide tunnel. In short, the Rapide can take a pair of couples out to dinner, but you wouldn't want to drive everyone to the Hamptons for the weekend.
Climb into the 2011 Aston Martin Rapide's snug driver seat and you might think you're actually in a DB9. Not only are the controls around you practically identical, but the way the car 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 incredible. Best of all, it still manages to offer a compliant ride in true Aston tradition.
Because of the Rapide's long, low-slung body, there is an elevated risk of high centering on curbs and driveways. Owners simply must be mindful of their pretty Aston Martin's underbody and chin spoiler.