First Drive: Aston Martin Rapide

7 Dec 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on First Drive: Aston Martin Rapide
Aston Martin Rapide

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First Drive | Valencia, Spain | 2010 Aston Martin Rapide |

Two extra doors mean nothing these days. We’re used to the idea of four-door ‘coupйs’, so why shouldn’t Aston Martin build a four-door sports car? More practicality is a good thing, but the Rapide justifies its existence in the Aston Martin range on so many more levels than just a bit more space in the back and a pair of extra seats.

In the Metal

The new car could only be an Aston Martin. The familiar lines of the company’s model range have been stretched to suit the longer wheelbase of the four-door Rapide. The result looks better than pictures can ever do it justice, the big Aston exuding a grace and muscularity that’s in keeping with its sports car status.

Certainly the translation of Aston’s design signatures to a four-door shape has been far more successful than Porsche’s efforts have been with the wince-inducing Panamera.

There’s no denying that to achieve the flowing shape Aston’s designers have had to compromise on the Rapide’s interior space. The back seats – and the doors that allow access to them – are small, making entry and exit a bit tricky. Short trips in the rear are possible for adults and it’s fine for children, but really the seats are best described as occasional.

The boot is reasonably useful though, and if you need extra carrying capacity the rear seatbacks fold forwards.

It’s far more comfortable and familiar up front; the cabin layout and style are much the same as the rest of the range. That does mean the occasional parts bin switch or stalk, and Volvo’s tired old satnav system, but otherwise the interior is beautifully finished and special enough to justify its Ј140,000 price tag.

What you get for your Money

Standard equipment is generous, every Rapide coming with premium Bang Olufson BeoSound audio with iPod, auxiliary and USB connections, full leather, heated front and rear seats, climate control, Bluetooth, HDD satnav, 20-inch alloy wheels and adaptive damping. Options include rear seat entertainment and differing wood finishes inside.

Driving it

The Rapide is big, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget its scale when you’re behind the wheel. The 470bhp V12 never feels startlingly quick, though the 5.2-second 0-62mph time it delivers underlines that the Rapide is no slouch. Fitted in the four-door in its most torque rich tune, the 6.0-litre unit delivers 443lb.ft of twisting force, though you don’t really feel its potency until there’s 4,000rpm on the rev counter.

Between 4,000- and 6,000rpm the engine delivers its best, the slick six-speed automatic gearbox working beautifully in unison with the Rapide’s big capacity V12.

Aston Martin Rapide

That engine’s understated yet impressive performance suits the Rapide’s chassis beautifully. The big four-door is at its best flowing down rolling, undulating and twisting roads, with its adaptively damped double wishbone suspension doing a remarkable job of controlling body movements while isolating less than perfect road surfaces from the cabin.

Grip levels are high too, the chassis exhibiting sweet balance and poise, while the traction and stability controls are very soft in their intervention – assisting rather than hindering progress. The brake pedal is long in its travel, but there’s real feel and nice weighting to it.

While the Rapide’s composure and fluid movement impresses it’s the steering that defines the driving experience. It’s very precise, the quick rack delivering immediate response at the nose to the slightest hint of movement at the steering wheel’s rim. That does mean you’re sometimes busy on the motorway, but that slight nervousness is worth it for the feel, weighting and crisp reaction to input that the Rapide exhibits.

Worth Noting

The Rapide is refreshingly lacking in the sort of automatic headlamps, wipers and proximity cruise control that you’ll find on the specification lists of luxury and performance rivals. You’ll not miss them though; indeed, the Aston is arguably better off due to their absence, allowing you to concentrate on the control of the car for yourself.

Summary

Aston’s new Rapide might not be perfectly packaged in the rear but the addition of the two back seats and a more useful boot do add to the car’s desirability. It’s not the added practicality that stands out though, it’s how accomplished a drive the Rapide is. A hugely polished all-rounder, it’s the Aston we’d have above all others in the range.

Whether we needed the space or not.

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