By on March 15, 2010

I know someone who’s been in the fashion biz most of her life. Her affinity with handsome male models is not surprising, yet her insistence–a “shush” sound accompanied by a finger on their lips–that the Eye Candy refrain from voicing their opinions definitely got me thinking. Perhaps beauty and critical thinking are two circles that rarely intersect in the Venn Diagram of life?

True dat, since I can’t remember a day when Aston Martin’s historically gorgeous automobiles weren’t trampled by the performance of neighboring Jaguars or the German and Italian marques. And with the Rapide sedan, we have another stunning Aston Martin to admire. Shush!!!

The Rapide is certainly a looker. The roofline moves at illegal speeds, thanks to greenhouse’s acres of tumblehome and the muscular haunches of the rear fenders’ leading edge. Sure, the Rapide is a hunkering, swaggering affair. But unlike the earth-hugging wedge of William Town’s 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda, the Rapide isn’t a serious re-think of the traditional luxury sedan: it’s a Dachshund-ized DB9 with a significantly wider rear track. No surprise then, that the Rapide so closely resembles the coupe there’s almost no difference from the front or rear. For all the grief this website gives Detroit for its bankruptcy-worthy platform sharing, Aston Martin’s badge engineering for the D&G crowd is a slippery slope (see: Aston’s planned Cygnet).

And it’s the same inside: think Mazda RX8 with a Vantage extreme makeover. Aside from the smaller front portal, occupants receive the same decadent ambiance of the Aston coupes. Maybe that’s a good thing, as a recent redesign of the center stack has easier to use controls, a better navigation interface and a chronometer that isn’t lifted from a Ford Fusion. And the fifteen speaker Bang and Olufsen stereo has interstellar imaging, after the diva-like tweeters get over themselves and fully extend out of the dashboard. While the Panamera doesn’t share much of anything with the 911, the badge engineered Rapide is still an entertaining piece of kit: the rear seats do a folding trick to extend the hatchback’s somewhat useless space into something IKEA-worthy. Like, awesome.

Our tester came with black leather, red stitching, metal trim with polished accents: a decidedly sporty, top dollar affair that smells even better than it looks. All four seats are contoured for beautifully slender people who appreciate thin padding, albeit with the heating and cooling features deemed mandatory at this price point. The Alcantara headliner is stitched stem to stern, with no provision for a glass-paneled roof. But the miniscule vanity mirrors turn your face into a Fun House distortion: perhaps the Rapide hates being a real luxury sedan so much it wants you to hate yourself?

Self-loathing aside, the Rapide is a decent sports car from the driver’s seat. The high-strung 6.0L mill makes all the right Italian V12 noises from the rear and inside the cabin, though bystanders posted yards ahead hear the same sucking sound of a Duratec-equipped Ford. Get on the cams fast, because peak power comes far later than any top-drawer Merc or BMW sedan. Like that German competition, the Rapide’s six speed is a true automatic, but with quick up shifts and paddle controllers that work well enough to make you swear there’s a F1-style gearbox underneath. If the competition didn’t fall in love with turbocharging, the Rapide would be one sweet rocket ship.

But corners are here for a reason, and the Rapide excels in its purity of powertrain and that coupe-like chassis. The low seating position, tight steering, adjustable dampers and 20-inch rolling stock deliver a command performance of flat cornering with immense grip. I never felt the extra wheelbase or pounds of bulk, and the hindquarters rotated the chassis with zero drama and no complaints: coupe performance Über Alles.

But I was a second-class citizen when the same dynamic tests occurred in the rear seat. The intelligent dampers’ smoother-than-DB9 ride is much appreciated, because it’s loud and claustrophobic back there: the full-length console and assertive exhaust note lose their elegant demeanor after a few minutes of actual usage. The rear buckets encourage G-forces from the driver, though the terrible visibility makes rearward occupants wonder what the hell is going on. And escaping via the trap door portal (utilizing Kia-worthy gas assist struts) without scratching any leather or paint is a difficult task.

Perhaps it was operator error: the dull venue and my uninspiring clothing weren’t worthy of a typical Aston Martin owner. Expectations of haute couture aside, everyone understands how the Rapide perfectly blurs the line between coupe and sedan, but a select few feel that blend of bragging rights and disappointing compromise. That’s provided they meet the business end of a Panamera or an AMG V12, ‘natch. So the Rapide is what an Aston has always been: beautifully constructed, elegantly sculpted and behind the competition.

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28 Comments on “Review: Aston Martin Rapide...”


  • avatar
    zerofoo

    I’d still have this over a Panamera. Besides, who buys a big sedan to drive at 9/10ths?

    -ted

  • avatar
    cole carrera

    I think it’s wrong to think this Rapide is ever compared by any buyer to the Panemera, much less a freakin CLS. Would you say it’s behind a Continental?

    I like how the doors go up. I wish you had taken some pictures.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s behind most of its class in terms of straight line performance, luxury accommodations, NVH control and sheet metal uniqueness over its stablemates.

      The Rapide is AM’s best sales tool for the DB9, however.

  • avatar

    Looks much better than the concept, which was simply a stretched DB9. It’s hard to see many potential sales, though, given the mix of price, performance, and functionality.

  • avatar

    I don’t care how fast a Panamera is or how it handles, if I were in the market for these kinds of cars I’d rather have one of these or a Quattroporte any day of the week. I saw a Panamera in the flesh this past weekend, and my first reaction was “fugly.” After considering it for a while, my second reaction was “awkward.” This car and the Quattroporte are neither.

  • avatar
    late_apex

    The Panamera turbo is FAST. Can’t speak on the Rapide’s performance, but I dig the looks-

  • avatar
    bmoredlj

    Count me amongst the few people who like the Panamera’s looks. It was Sir Francis Bacon said “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” The four-door Porsche certainly has some of that. In the flesh, it has substantial presence (photos slim it, IMO) and a powerful stance. Like the Citroen C6, it strikes me not just as a car for people who need a sedan but won’t buy anything other than a Porsche…it’s a car for people who want some thing unconventional and niche-y…in many ways it reminds me of a Tatra…if only it had a RR layout…

  • avatar
    Johann

    Why do people keep mentioning the Panamera whaleblob and the Rapide in the same sentence?! They are MILES apart in price. Someone buying a Rapide simply won’t even consider looking at a cheapskate Panamera. A Bentley maybe but not a Panamera. The hideous Porker is a rival to the much cheaper Maserati Quatroporte or an S-class and such like.

  • avatar

    History will judge the Rapide in a far better way than the Panamera. The Porsche will forever be the ugly duckling embarrassment in the lineage, much like the 2+2 E-type Jaguar. Taking a basic design, stretching it out, and increasing the interior volume is a very hard thing to do well. Usually it fails, and it never really succeeds, as the compromises are just too great.

    In this instance though Aston got it mostly right, despite the car comparing badly to the rest of the A-M lineup.

    • 0 avatar

      I doubt the Rapide will fare much better in history, better styling or not. They are certain to follow in the footsteps of the 928 and Lagonda: the laughing stock of their brands for that period.

      Both are weird brand extensions, the only difference is that the Aston is more exclusive and far more badge engineered. (And will probably get away with the latter.)

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    @Chuck,

    Had Porsche taken the 911 and stretched it out, then I would slot the Pana with the E-type 2=2. But they didn’t. Besides, most of the 911s are already 2=2 (save for the GT3 and such)…

    I don’t know how many Panas you’ve seen in the flesh, but most find it’s far different car than when photographed. If you’ve seen one and still hate it, fair enough.

    I understand that some see 911 language in the Pana, and, as style is highly subjective, some will never like it, any more than they like the Cayenne.

    The AM 4 door? I’ll reserve judgment till I at least see one on the local dealer lot. Probably a ‘meh’ compared to the coupe, but I’ll give it a shot.

    Certainly won’t have the gravity of the ’76+ Lagonda – few 4-doors ever have.

    • 0 avatar

      If the Panamera’s beltine was 2″ lower and had more front overhang (so it didn’t look like a Range Rover nosejob), the whole affair would look quite elegant. Not Aston worthy, but good enough for most people.

  • avatar

    So Astons aren’t quite as fast as the competition. Who cares? With 477 HP, the V12 equipped Rapide has perfectly adequate power for any real world driving situation, and their cars are simply gorgeous. At every car show that I’ve been to when A-M has a display, when asked if I could have one car from the show which would it be, my answer would invariably be one of the Aston Martins.

    I doubt that many owners of the new crop of four door high end sports cars like the Panamera, Rapide and Quattroporte (which I suppose started the segment) will be taking long drives with 4 adults in the car. More likely there will be kids in the back, or adults on short trips, like when going out to eat with friends. In those circumstances, the shortcomings (lack of rear seat visibility) are outweighed by the practicality.

    Also, I suspect that many women are more inclined to tolerate the purchase of a four door than a two seater.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Count me among those who has seen the Panamera in the flesh and liked it. I disagree with Chuck Goolsbee – history will be kinder to the Panamera, which I think will have a profound influence on the next generation of the 7er and the S-class. Porsche’s laid a stake in the ground and declared that it’s possible to make a big sedan that doesn’t sacrifice sport for luxury and comfort. The Aston on the other hand is a sedan that, from what Sajeev describes, is cramped on the inside and doesn’t do much of anything better than the DB9. Will anybody remember this car twenty years from now?

    I suppose if you’re ultra-wealthy, it might carry more prestige than the Porsche or the new XJ. Since I’m not that rich and more importantly I wasn’t born into wealth, I don’t see it. Exclusivity for exclusivity’s sake may be appealing to some, but it’s not for me.

  • avatar
    AndyR

    Hi Sajeev,

    Thanks for the review – I’ve really been looking forward to hearing some feedback about this design, since it looks so good from the outside. I am curious, though – throughout the review, you seemed to be comparing the Rapide unfavorably, but to what, exactly?

    An example: You mentioned the back seat had poor visibility and was noisy, but given the near 2+2 configuration, I would expect such accommodations. Does someone else do this better?

    I’m curious about what you wanted this Aston to be that it wasn’t. A limousine ala the Quattroporte? A screamer like an AMG CLS? What does Aston need for this car to measure up? Thanks for the honest input!

    • 0 avatar

      Hi Andy,

      >I am curious, though – throughout the review, you seemed to be >comparing the Rapide unfavorably, but to what, exactly?
      >
      Just about any sedan or super-lux coupe in the snob category: CLS, DB9, S65, CL 65, Panamera, Conti, etc. The Rapide is such a perfect blend of coupe and sedan you end up ruining the core beauty in both: it’s a rich man’s Mazda RX-8.

      >An example: You mentioned the back seat had poor visibility and was >noisy, but given the near 2+2 configuration, I would expect such >accommodations. Does someone else do this better?
      >
      Forget about Merc sedans, the CL has a far superior rear seat that’s not much harder to get in/out of. The Panamera looks like a cut above, but the engineering hardpoints say it’s a real sedan. The Rapide has a lot of exhaust rumble, even when the sport setting (with vario-chambered mufflers like a Z06 vette) turned off. There’s nothing especially luxurious about the Rapide’s rear seating. Sort of like you’re supposed to shut up and just be excited to be there.

      >I’m curious about what you wanted this Aston to be that it wasn’t. A >limousine ala the Quattroporte? A screamer like an AMG CLS? What >does Aston need for this car to measure up?
      >
      I guess I was expecting more of a sedan and less of a long wheelbase DB9. Because what we have here is a Mazda RX-8 that won the lotto. Then the power isn’t impressive compared to the Germans.

      The Aston needs WAAAAY more torque, a real back seat (not a fashion statement), better rear NVH control, and more uniqueness from the DB9. You know, more of a modern day Lagonda in terms of engineering.

      Seriously people, this thing is so badge engineered it coulda come from Detroit. Doesn’t that bother you?

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    “I doubt the Rapide will fare much better in history, better styling or not. They are certain to follow in the footsteps of the 928 and Lagonda: the laughing stock of their brands for that period.”

    Uhh, yeah, right. The Lagonda is well respected in many circles as a styling tour de force. True, Lucas should not have been any nearer to bleeding edge electronics than Marion Barry should have been to a crack pipe. But the styling? Definite gravitas.

    The 944/951/928/etcs are the only reason that Porsche was able to keep building 911s. The only people who laugh at 928/944/951/Box/Cayennes/Caymans are the few people who somehow think the 911 is still relevant.

    The 951 and 928 will look good 50 years from now. And neither feature the worst power-train layout ever foisted upon the motoring public. Like what you want, it’s a free country.

    But the rest of us don’t have to drink the UberBeetleEvo koolaid, and we don’t.

    The only thing keeping any 911 on the road at speed is herr HAL, it ain’t the marginally skilled broker at the wheel.

    The 911 must die.

    • 0 avatar

      The 911 must die, huh? As a 928 fan, that sounds interesting but it ain’t gonna happen. Ford will kill the Mustang before Porsche decides that continuous improvement on the 911 (since the 70s) were better off on a different platform.

      I think the Cayman must die, as the 911 belongs on that platform instead. That’s how the 911 returns to its roots while staying firmly planted in the future of the brand.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        Then it will be the 911 that dies, and the Cayman that assumes its name. (Fine with me, BTW.) The essence of the car is more in the chassis than in the chrome squiggles on the rear end.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    I realize the Rapide isn’t meant to a full on practical sedan (miniscule rear doors, so so rear seat space) but if people in this price range want a practical sedan there’s a Bentley/Rolls Royce dealer a few miles away.

    This is a beautiful car for which practicality is sacrificed in the name of style and visual beauty. I love it.

    The Panamera on the other hand…well, I’ve seen a few around my office and I went from disliking them entirely to finding them just plain quirky in that “Porsche” sense.

    I’d still take the Rapide were the funds plentiful.

  • avatar
    Accazdatch

    Im not seeing a point to this car…

    Except as competition against any other sedan costing 80-120g.

    The pic is positively generic. That same boring white bread group of rich yachting yahoos couldnt give less of a shit shit about what they are driving, if it were a Land Rover, a Maserati Quattroporte, Panamera, CLS600 or S Class, Expedition, Or a Kia. These wouldnt know any better, and wouldnt use the vehicle accordingly or as designed.

    There is nothing this vehicle has in its category that cant be substituted for any another, badge be damned..

    Shit.
    Im still bothered by the concept of having tv’s in the vehicle.

  • avatar
    HollowScar

    Personally speaking, I just love Aston Martins. They are so classy, and yet menacing. They may not be the mos powerful cars out there, but they are fairly impressive to look at, and have enough power to actually show off, when the situation calls for it.

    Practically speaking, a sedan is a sedan. I live in Canada, where it snows, and occasional rocks lead to windshield cracking. A car like this would have to be hidden in a garage most of the time, so that it is not in the risk of getting into accidents. It has remarkably high price tag, and should be driven with caution. If you want a sedan, go get a Jaguar XF, or even a Mercedes E63 AMG.

    Statistically speaking, this car will be a rarity, which will probably have more chances of being in the next high budget, recession free, James Bond movie, than any of our local streets. This is a car I can see the British, Arab, etc., royalty to drive. It is a very futuristic car, and indeed looks more gorgeous, than the hideous Porsche Panamera. No longer will aging Bond fans will have to worry about leaving the children behind to take a drive.

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