Road Test: Aston Martin Rapide | SACarFan

7 Nov 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Road Test: Aston Martin Rapide | SACarFan
Aston Martin Rapide

Road Test: Aston Martin Rapide

The Aston Martin Rapide is the first vehicle from the Warkwickshire-based manufacturer that I#8217;ve had the privilege to pilot. I say #8216;privilege#8217;, because despite there being faster and more expensive cars on the road, the Aston Martin Rapide is imbued with a cocktail of character, ultimately experienced as sheer class.

Aston Martin is known best for its two-door sports and supercars, but history has seen the marque venture into the super-saloon fray before. In 1947, David Brown purchased both Aston Martin and Lagonda. Not badged as an Aston Martin, but in an effort to revive the Lagonda name some years later, the Aston Martin DB4 was used as the platform upon which to build the Lagonda Rapide #8211; a four-door GT car produced from 1961 until 1964.

Built to order and rather expensive in its day, the Lagonda Rapide sold in limited numbers, just 55 in fact. Then in 1974, in a reversal of names, Aston Martin launched the Lagonda #8211; a luxury four-door that was rivaled in price only by the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit and Bentley Mulsanne. 645 Aston Martin Lagondas were produced despite it being heralded as one of the 50 ugliest cars of the last 50 years, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Thankfully, however, with the introduction of the Aston Martin Rapide, the name and the car are now decidedly complimentary .

The Rapide borrows many of the two-door Aston Martin DB9 coupe#8217;s mechanical attributes, specifically, the extended chassis that makes way for the Rapide#8217;s entire reason for being, the two rear seats. Despite the Rapide being 290 mm longer than DB9, aluminium bonding of the chassis ensures the Rapide weighs just 190 kg more than the DB9 at 1 950 kg.

The Rapide#8217;s lines are also borrowed from those of the DB9, which have been masterfully sculpted to include and disguise the two rear doors. Beneath the long bonnet beats the same 6.0-litre V12 engine and inside the cabin everything forward of the B-pillar is also very DB9. Wonderful pedigree indeed.

Instantly recognisable as an Aston Martin, the Rapide#8217;s styling remains faithful to the athletic stance of its coupe sister models. Front on, the new polished alloy upper and lower grill give the super saloon presence on the road, while the new single lens bi-xenon headlight units incorporate bright white LEDs to set the car apart from all others.

Helping to retain the coupe-like proportions is a low roofline, pillarless side windows that give the impression of a single window frame, Aston#8217;s iconic side strake that stretches into the rear doors, as well as a set of 20-inch alloy wheels that visually shrink the wheelbase. Strong rear haunches hint at the power that lies beneath and frame the rear hatch that opens to provide 301-litres of cargo area. ‘C’ shaped tail lamps, each housing 360 LEDs . complete the signature Aston Martin styling.

The four ‘swan wing’ doors open up and out at an angle of 12 degrees to avoid the chance of kissing the curb when drawn along side, while also providing easier access to the cabin. Once inside, the four passengers share in Aston#8217;s hand crafted workmanship. In front, the dashboard and controls are elegant and minimalist in their appeal.

Small buttons positioned between solid aluminium rotational dials can be a little challenging to operate whilst driving and the satellite navigation screen that rises out of the dashboard requires some time to master. However, passengers will find themselves immediately au fait with the seats. Sporty and snug, they are comfortable over short and longer journeys and are optionally available with internal heating and cooling.

A swooping centre console runs from the front to the rear of the cabin. The console houses storage areas between both the front and rear seats, with ample space for CDs or personal items. For the rear passengers it also serves to provide a cosseting atmosphere . Two individually appointed sports seats form the rear environment of the Rapide, but having been designed first as a sports car, and then as a saloon, adult rear passengers will find space limited.

The two rear seat-backs fold flat at the touch of a button to increased luggage capacity to 750-litres. Luxury and convenience are a given, with independent climate control in the rear as well as an optional rear entertainment system; two LCD screens are integrated into the back of the front seat headrests, linked to a 6-disc DVD changer, with sound being delivered via wireless headphones or through the standard 1000 W Bang Olufsen BeoSound Rapide #8211; a bespoke sound system tailored to the Rapide.

Attention to detail is evident throughout the interior, from the leather covered dashboard in front, to the Alcantara roof lining, through to the hand-trimmed boot, with its carpeted floor and four iridium anodised runners and tread plates, the Rapide exudes opulence and panache.

The Rapide#8217;s ride and handling are setup to cater for the car#8217;s athletic abilities together with providing driver control. The Rapide#8217;s Adaptive Damping System (ADS) uses two separate valves to automatically adjust the dampers between five different positions, allowing instant adjustment of the car’s ride and handling characteristics.

Under normal driving conditions the ADS softens suspension for a more compliant ride, but being a sports saloon, the Rapide does periodically transfer road imperfections. However, the interior remains a serene environment at highway speeds thanks to the double glazed windows that do well to eliminate wind and road noise, with nothing but a reassuring hum emanating from beneath the bonnet.

At the driver#8217;s #8216;beck and call#8217; is the 6.0-litre naturally-aspirated, hand-built, V12 engine, which produces 350 kW and 600 Nm of torque. Sending drive to the rear wheels via a 6-speed #8216;Touchtronic 2#8242; automatic transmission, the Rapide is one smooth operator around town.

With no shortage of power, response from the V12 is instant and acceleration is swift . Even when squeezing the right pedal in 6th gear at 60 km/h with the engine spinning just above the 1 000 r/min mark, the Rapide surges forward strongly. The exhaust note echoes the drivetrain#8217;s refined character with an eloquent, bassy, burble from pull away.

Press the #8216;Sport#8217; button however, and the Rapide momentarily shrugs off its eloquence in favour of a far more vivacious spirit, especially once passed 3 800 r/min, which leads to shrieks of delight from its passengers  #8211; both male and female I might add. The 6-speed automatic transmission can be manipulated by the driver via the steering column-mounted magnesium paddles and allows one to revel in the more aggressive gear shift pattern as shifts are made sharper and more forceful.

The electronic gadgetry also evokes more aggressive engine speed matching on downshifts and in full automatic mode, upshifts occur at higher speeds. Fewer sounds are more intoxicating than a naturally aspirated V12 in full song.

It#8217;s not just the drivetrain that responds well to the #8216;Sport#8217; button . Once activated, the suspension dampers are automatically set to their firmest positions, readying the lightweight chassis for eager driving inputs. A low centre of gravity, a near perfect weight balance of 51:49 #8211; thanks to the gearbox being mounted to the rear of the car on the transaxle #8211; together with wide Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres (245/40 R20 front and 295/35 R20 rear), endow the Aston with true sporting abilities.

The 5 metre long saloon flows rapidly (no pun intended) between corners, remaining taught and composed through changes of direction #8211; although carry a little too much corner speed and the tail-end will wander, prompting the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system to intervene. The brakes maintain their composure too, being made from a combination of cast iron and aluminium, that results in a 15 #8211; 20% reduction in weight over conventional cast iron units. Crucially, Aston#8217;s sports DNA has been retained, which makes for a real level of feedback from steering that one might not expect from a four-door saloon.

In short, the Rapide isn#8217;t as quick or as roomy in the back as its most obvious rival, the Porsche Panamera. plus it costs considerably more. But#8230;it#8217;s beautiful, charismatic, has a magnificent V12 engine and makes you feel special every time you drive it. Believe the hype, the Aston Martin Rapide is #8220;the world#8217;s most elegant four-door sports car#8221;.

What we like#8230;

Aston Martin Rapide

The prettiest saloon available today.

Fantastic naturally aspirated V12 is part of a dying breed.

It#8217;s an Aston Martin.

What we would like#8230;

A more intuitive sat-nav system.

Gear shift paddles to move with the steering wheel rather than fixed to the steering column.

Another go!

Aston Martin Rapide
Aston Martin Rapide

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