The Aston Martin Rapide is beautifully styled and brilliantly accomplished

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The Aston Martin Rapide’s only genuine ancestor is the Lagonda that Aston Martin made over a quarter of a century ago. The idea of a new four-door, four-seat Aston based on the company’s existing VH platform first saw the light of day at the Detroit show in 2006, shortly after Aston had been sold by Ford to its new band of shareholders, who green-lighted the car pretty much the moment they set eyes on it.

Aston Martin describes the Rapide as “the most elegant four-door sports car in the world”. It’s a bold claim from an increasingly confident car company, but not one that can be dismissed as hyperbole. Because from the moment this car was announced there has been an inherent correctness about the idea of a four-seat, four-door Aston Martin based on the already excellent VH platform.

The biggest test the Rapide faces is whether it has sufficient luxury and presence to justify its startlingly high price

And in the metal the Rapide does not disappoint. It’s an unusually long car – more than a foot longer than the DB9 – but the fundamental proportions are certainly breathtakingly elegant. When people see this car they tend to smile and point.

Question is, does the Rapide work as a four-seater in practice and just how much of the Aston experience has been preserved in the transformation?

And the biggest test it faces is whether the Rapide has sufficient luxury and presence to justify its startlingly high price next to the likes of the Mercedes Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series and other rivals.

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Aston Martin Rapide rear doors

The Aston Martin Rapide uses the same basic cabin and chassis architecture as all other Astons, known internally as the VH platform, and features the same bonded aluminium components to form a monocoque. 

The big difference, of course, is that the Rapide is more than a foot longer than any other current Aston in order to accommodate its new, individually tailored rear seats. Which means an awful lot of extra strengthening has had to be engineered into the car to maintain stiffness. Hence the rear door apertures aren’t anywhere near as big as you’d expect, while the hatchback-style boot opening is also a fair bit narrower and shallower than it appears from the outside. 

The elongated Aston logo suits the stretched design theme displayed throughout the car

The upside is that the Rapide’s rear-wheel drive platform is unusually stiff for that of a big saloon and provides an excellent basis from which the all-round double wishbone suspension system can operate. The chassis also benefits from an electronic adaptive damper system with anti-lift and anti-squat geometry as standard, plus dramatic 20in wheels wearing bespoke Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres.

Flush door handles are now an Aston Martin staple and appear on all four doors. They feel exceptionally well made, much like the rest of the car.

The elongated Aston logo on the bonnet suits the stretched design theme displayed throughout the car and have to be the longest wings seen on any Aston so far. The chromed mesh grille is rumoured to be the design template for all Astons in the future. It looks good, although how long it’ll stay that shiny is debatable.

At the back, rear lamp infills can be had in Magnum Silver if you want — albeit for more money. Rapide badging on the tail is relatively discreet and can be deleted at no extra cost.


Aston Martin Rapide interior

Let’s cut to the chase and talk about the Aston Martin Rapide’s single biggest bone of contention: the relatively tight proportions of the rear seats. The fact is that if you are over six feet tall and the person driving is of a similar height, you will struggle to get comfortable in the back of the Rapide – despite the seats themselves being beautifully sculpted and trimmed in ultra-high-quality leather. 

Not even the ability to individually control the air conditioning system from side to side will make up for the lack of knee room if you are over six feet tall – and that could well be a defining issue for some owners.

Tall transmission tunnel means two kids can’t both get into the rear cabin from the kerbside

If you are shorter you will find the rear seats comfortably snug but still far from luxurious, which is a pity because the rest of the interior is absolutely outstanding. Build quality is, if anything, better than ever – while the combination of a very high standard specification and genuinely beautiful design touches mean the Rapide’s cabin is a hugely appealing place in which to find yourself.

In the end, the space compromise is one that will affect some buyers more than it will others – and it extends to the boot, which is an awkward shape and has a capacity of just 317 litres with the rear seats up (although this can be extended to 886 litres if you are prepared to fold the seats down). 

If there’s one other criticism it is that Aston’s standard dash layout, which features in the Rapide, puts form ahead of function. The jewel-like dials are beautiful to look at, but difficult to read.

But from a quality perspective the Rapide’s cabin has an awful lot going for it, especially beside the likes of the bigger but nowhere near as appealing Porsche Panamera.  


Aston Martin Rapide 6.0-litre V12 engine

Although outright performance is far from the Aston Martin Rapide’s raison d’etre, it’s still an extremely quick car. Not as bombastic or obviously fast as a Porsche Panamera Turbo, perhaps, but still rapid enough to silence anyone lucky enough to climb aboard and experience its performance first hand.

Any car that can reach 60mph from rest in less than five seconds and 100mph in just 11.2sec is always going to feel impressive in a straight line, especially when enjoyed from one of the rear seats. 

The Rapide stops extremely well for such a big, relatively heavy car

Considering that the Rapide weighs two tonnes, the way it performs comes as a genuine surprise. And because it’s as refined as it is, you simply don’t expect it to accelerate with so much vigour in the mid-range. Yet that’s precisely where the Rapide is at its most effective. The way in which it gathers momentum so smoothly from 3000-4000rpm in the higher gears is testimony to the strong, even flow of torque that’s available; rarely does it seem necessary to venture much beyond this point in the rev range.

But when you do, another side of the Rapide’s personality is revealed. Between 5000rpm and the red line it becomes an altogether more aggressive, more responsive machine, emitting a fairly magnificent V12 sound from its previously subdued engine bay.

Better still is the way the paddle-shift gearbox works in conjunction with the engine to deliver either smooth, lazy shifts when left in D, or more urgent, sharper changes when in Sport mode and shifted manually via the paddles. 

It even stops extremely well for such a big, relatively heavy car. In the dry we recorded a 60-0mph time of just 2.44sec and there is plenty of decent pedal feel to go with the strong sense of retardation.


Aston Martin Rapide cornering

Aston Martin has been canny with the way it has designed the Rapide’s suspension system to seemingly be all things to all men, depending on what sort of mood you’re in or what sort of journey you’re on. 

For on the one hand the Rapide plays the role of supremely refined, smooth-riding luxury car as well as anything in the class if left in its standard set-up. Press the Sport button, however, alongside another button that stiffens the suspension dramatically, and the Rapide suddenly becomes a quite different kind of car – one that feels very close to a full-blown sporting GT.

Press the Sport button, alongside another button that stiffens the suspension dramatically, and the Rapide becomes a quite different kind of car

Inevitably the ride quality suffers if you use these two buttons and there’s more road noise and less comfort generally, but the point is the choice is entirely up to you. And the transformation between calm, fine-riding, impressively quiet luxury cruiser and sharper, more alert sporting car is as successful as we’ve experienced in any car of this ilk. A Panamera neither rides nor wafts along a motorway with anywhere near as much refinement, and although it feels more controlled ultimately than the Aston when going quickly, the Aston is far from disgraced.

And it has better steering than the Porsche to boot, with lots of proper feel through the rim yet no unwanted kickback over rough surfaces. Aston Martin really does know how to do great steering nowadays, and the Rapide’s could well be the best of a very good bunch.

The only aspect that stands between the Rapide and top marks in this category is its occasional tyre roar, but even this only appears on certain surfaces and is the inevitable result of using such wide, 295-section rear tyres.  


Aston Martin Rapide

There’s no question that the Aston Martin Rapide is vastly more expensive than its most obvious rival from Porsche. In this case the test car had just two optional extras fitted: cooled rear seats and twin TV screens mounted in the backs of the front seats. 

Other than those options, the only other boxes you can tick when specifying your Rapide surround trim and colour. As you’d expect, there’s a wide choice of wood, wheels, luggage and even child seats. Or you could opt for the Rapide Luxe, which gets you the ventilated seats and entertainment system plus a six-piece cream truffle luggage set and a car cover.

You don’t buy an Aston Martin to count the pennies, and the Rapide is no worse than the equivalent Maserati, Bentley or Mercedes

Depreciation figures suggest that proportionally it will hold its value better than the Porsche, you are still looking at a drop of more than £60k in two years. 

And at 355g/km with average fuel consumption well below 20mpg, the daily running costs aren’t likely to be low, either. Then again, you don’t buy an Aston Martin to count the pennies, and the Rapide is no worse than the equivalent Maserati, Bentley or Mercedes, even if it isn’t able to match the ecological credentials of the Panamera.


4.5 star Aston Martin Rapide

There are just two issues we have with the Aston Martin Rapide, one of which is more serious than the other. The first is its price, which looks worryingly high beside that of the Porsche Panamera. The second is the relative lack of space provided by its rear seats and to a lesser extent its boot. Although those rear quarters are sumptuously trimmed, spacious they are not – especially if anyone approaching six foot tall is attempting to sit behind someone of similar build. At least Aston offers a range of child seats for the Rapide, which is more in keeping with the passenger space in the back.

In the end, the space issue is something that will either put people off simply because they are too tall to fit into the car, or it won’t bother them one iota because they do fit the car.

A beautifully styled and brilliantly accomplished four door GT

Delightful details abound around the cabin and build quality is top-notch. However, those delightful dials may impress at first sight, but they’re not as easy to read on the move as they should be.

The rest of the Rapide, though, is breathtakingly good. It may not be as fast as a Panamera Turbo in a straight line but, aforementioned space issues aside, it’s the better car overall. One that Aston Martin should be rightly proud of

The most elegant four-door sports car in the world? You bet it is, and then some.