From £149,995
A triumph, despite a large price and minimal space in the back

Our Verdict

Aston Martin Rapide
The fundamental proportions are breathtakingly elegant

The Aston Martin Rapide is beautifully styled and brilliantly accomplished

  • First Drive

    Aston Martin Rapide

    A triumph, despite a large price and minimal space in the back
10 February 2010

What is it?

It’s the first four-door Aston Martin since the Lagonda of the mid-1970s.

Although when we say four-door, bear in mind that the new Aston Martin Rapide comes with a recommended technique for getting in and out of it. Aston advises that on both entry and exit you employ a foot-bum-foot routine that threatens serious inelegance for skirt-wearers. If you never see a Rapide decanting guests onto the end of a red carpet, this is why.

So don’t confuse it with a Mercedes S-class. I'm sure you can tell by the way it looks that the Rapide is based on other Astons, using the same VH architecture that underpins them, comprising aluminium components bonded to form a monocoque.

Even though its engine is Aston’s 6.0-litre V12 in its torquiest 470bhp and 443lb ft output, and the gearbox is a six-speed automatic gearbox, think of it more as a sports car with rear doors and a hatch, rather than a limousine. And a £140,000 one at that.

What’s it like?

The Rapide is built in Austria by Magna rather than at Aston’s Gaydon factory and, if a static walk-around is anything to go by, is none the worse for it. Much of the Rapide’s interior is newly designed and it feels beautifully crafted.

Things still happen gradually and on a budget, though; the dashboard is carried over from existing Astons and it wouldn’t hurt to be updated, particularly the dreadful Volvo-sourced sat-nav. But progress is slowly being made; where there are new switches or trimmings they’re neatly designed and feel solidly built.

Aluminium is extremely stiff, but building a car out of it isn’t without compromise. For a given stiffness it’s lighter than steel but it also occupies more volume, so the holes in the Aston’s body have to be quite small to retain torsional stiffness. Opening the Rapide's doors or boot is like opening a safe door; you're greeted not by a gaping aperture but by structural aluminium, framing a far smaller hole than you'd been expecting.

Nevertheless, the Rapide is far and away a more spacious car than the DB9 on which it is ostensibly based. It's a foot longer than a DB9, measuring a full five metres front to rear, and, truth be told, at 5ft 10in I could fit in the rear seats behind my own driving position with about an inch and a half of head room but precious little knee room.

The seats, four individual chairs, are new to the Rapide and to be truly comfortable in the back you need to keep a knee either side of the front seat's back. Toes, though not enough of your foot, can slide underneath the front seat. Aston says it's pleased with the Rapide's spaciousness, given that its aim was to provide short-distance comfort for airport or restaurant hops. I'd say it's just about acceptable.

Even a short drive is enough to discern that the Rapide rides genuinely well. It's supple yet tightly damped, with a comfort level that no current Aston can match. That comes as no suprise, but what might be is that there are also hints of a poise that you won't find in too many other Astons either.

It also steers very pleasingly. Hydraulically assisted, the rack has been quickened to offset the Rapide’s longer wheelbase and, like other Astons, it's middling weighted, consistent and smooth. Better, though, is that it has a new-found freedom from kickback. Aston has found a way to isolate what is a feelsome, accurate system from the unwanted knocks that an unyielding aluminium structure usually transmits through a rack like this.

It's a smoothness that seems to be matched by other elements of the Aston's demeanour. When an automatic is as good as this ZF-sourced six-speeder, you wonder if it's worth the bother of robotising a manual or fitting a dual-clutcher. In Drive it makes bright decisions, but far more often than not I found myself making the choices myself via the sweet column-mounted paddles.

Foibles? I wouldn't mind if an extended pull on the right-hand lever reselected drive, rather than having to reach for the dash-mounted buttons, but other than that it's spot on.

The Rapide has magnetically controlled dampers (best left out of Sport mode on the road), while springs are steel all round. Go for a strop and you’ll find the Rapide is a communicative, engaging car to drive. The stiffness of its shell and lack of complication in the drivetrain – the V12 is as big-hearted as it is big-cylindered – mean you genuinely understand what is going on mechanically. It flows along A and B-roads with a poise you'll not find in many five-metre-long cars.

In extremes it does the obvious: understeers unless you trail its brakes to keep the nose settled, and it'll push its tail on the power. Possibly it could feel quicker. It's funny to think that a car with the same power as a Lamborghini Diablo doesn’t feel brutally rapid, but because it weighs virtually two tonnes, the Aston could use a bit more shove.

Should I buy one?

The real mark of a car like this is how happy you are to climb into it at 7pm on a Friday evening in the centre of town, and how you feel climbing out again 150 miles away three hours later.

The Rapide is absolutely first class at that sort of thing. What's most impressive is that there's an absence of niggles. It’s positively engaging on any journey and, on a long haul, there are few better cars to be in.

Yes, it’s small in the back and expensive to buy, but the Rapide is a triumph.

Join the debate

Comments
38

4 February 2010

[quote Autocar]Although when we say four-door, bear in mind that the new Aston Martin Rapide comes with a recommended technique for getting in and out of it. Aston advises that on both entry and exit you employ a foot-bum-foot routine that threatens serious inelegance for skirt-wearers. If you never see a Rapide decanting guests onto the end of a red carpet, this is why.[/quote] Yes it looks great, just like any other Aston does, and it looks to be beautifully finished inside with some really stylish touches (like the grab handles), but I have this niggling feeling that it could have been so much better if only they had made it look a little bit different to the rest of the range and had made the rear access more convenient. Surely the whole point of a four door car is to be able to get in and out of the back seats easily and without having to wonder about your lady accidently flashing her knickers. The rear door opening looks compromised even just with a casual glance, but when you then notice that the back of the rear seats are hidden way behind the rear inside shut-line (?) and that you'd need that lovely grab-handle just to fight your way out, its gets even worse. Sorry, Aston, but sadly you've got this one wrong, in my opinion.


Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

4 February 2010

Unfortunately, these don't look that great in the metal, the stretched central section just doesn't work and the overall effect is ungainly when viewed from the rear 3 quarter aspect.

I'm not that taken with the interior either, it's a tad featureless and just doesn't look like £140ks worth - ex PAG cast off switchgear doesn't help.

I'm sure it's very nice to drive and they do sound incredible, but I think the new XJ wipes the floor with this, particularly the interior. It will be faster too if you go for the supercharged variant and has properly bespoke switchgear and some rather tasty tech if your into that sort of thing.

However, If I had the money for a big, fast, beautiful saloon, it'd be hoovering up an 18 month old Audi S8, these things are beautiful inside and out and the V10 engine makes a nicer noise than the Aston does (IMO).

4 February 2010

Very nice , but why doesn't it wear a Lagonda badge , and how can an aluminium car be so heavy ?

4 February 2010

Lovely, but in essence it's merely a 4-door, long-wheelbase DB9, with the same old dash & centre consul. Zzzzzz. OK, understand that Aston needs to keep re-using/adapting the DB9's platform, but can't it give it some new 'clothes'?

4 February 2010

[quote 6th.replicant]but can't it give it some new 'clothes'[/quote]

They learnt from the BMW school of automotive design apparently.. There is never any need for more than one design.........

4 February 2010

Surely when you own an Aston Martin, you will ALWAYS be happy after being in it for 3 hours because you know feel smug being in a very comfortable, accessorised car compared to the people in their mediocre compared cars doing the same journey?

4 February 2010

It will make the happiest chidren of the world ;-)

4 February 2010

It will make the happiest children of the world ;-)

4 February 2010

The design brief was a 4 door aston with good seating for 4. The driveable concept achieved this with wafer thin seats and virtually no fuel tank. This does not achieve the design brief therefore it is a failure and to me makes no sense. Buy a DB9 and a discovery

4 February 2010

[quote Autocar]Although when we say four-door, bear in mind that the new Aston Martin Rapide comes with a recommended technique for getting in and out of it. Aston advises that on both entry and exit you employ a foot-bum-foot routine that threatens serious inelegance for skirt-wearers. If you never see a Rapide decanting guests onto the end of a red carpet, this is why.[/quote]

Why didn't they work on a suicide rear door with a scissor action, it could be a rather elegant movement and be perfect for *decanting* guests onto their red carpets

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