Aston's Rapide wins rave reviews

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 June, 2010, 12:00am

The new Rapide is Aston Martin's first four-door saloon since the Lagonda, last made in 1989. However, whereas the Lagonda was a luxury saloon, with rather controversial styling and few sporting aspirations, the Rapide is first and foremost a sports car - a four-seat supercar which has claims to be the best looking saloon in the world.

Aston has done a fantastic job of integrating additional doors - the shut lines are so precise, they're barely visible and there's no exterior B pillar, resulting in a coupe-like profile.

The extra 30.5cms of length is balanced by a 5cm gain in height, making the Rapide seem longer and lower than it actually is. The result is a stunning shape that, at first glance, could easily be mistaken for other members of the family - the DB9, DBS or Vantage. However, even though Aston's rigid and lightweight VH chassis is common to all four, none of the body panels on the Rapide are shared.

Both front and rear doors have Aston's patented 'swan door' mechanism, a design that lifts the doors by 12 degrees as they open. This not only allows easier access, but also prevents the lower door area being damaged by high kerbs. The interior is a delicious combination of stitched leather, wood and aluminium which creates a genuine sense of luxury. The instruments are design masterpieces and new front seats have been sculpted for not only comfort and support, but also to maximise the view for the rear passengers. Separated by a wide centre console, which runs the length of the cabin, the snug rear bucket seats are low and, while there's enough leg room even for tall adults, there's little in the way of under-thigh support.

The 317-litre boot is beautifully trimmed and features a folding bulkhead. Slide this down and the Aston becomes a five-door hatchback, and with the rear seats folded forward, there's a generous 886 litres of space.

Underneath its long bonnet sits a 6.0 litre V12, taken from the DB9. With an output of 470 bhp at 6,000 rpm and 600 Nm of torque at 5,000 rpm, the unstressed power plant propels the two-tonne Rapide to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds and a top speed nudging 300km/h. The 'Touchtronic 2' six-speed automatic gearbox sits at the rear of the car to achieve near perfect weight distribution. There is no gear lever - D, N, R and P buttons on the dashboard are for drive, neutral, reverse and park, but manual changes can be made using the beautifully sculpted magnesium alloy steering wheel paddles. Another space saver is the electronic park brake switch on the centre console that includes a drive away release feature that automatically disengages the parking brake when pulling away.

The Rapide's suspension is all independent with aluminium double wishbones in the front and rear. Continuously adaptive dampers that are biased towards ride comfort when in normal mode put more emphasis on handling when in sport mode, and the limited slip differential and 20-inch alloy wheels promise masses of grip. New dual cast aluminium and iron brakes offer huge stopping power. A bespoke 15-speaker, 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system monitors the seat belt receptacles to register where passengers are sitting and tailors the sound balance accordingly.

The front seats incorporate DVD screens for the entertainment of rear passengers, who also have individual air-conditioning controls. Isofix child seat fittings are standard and dedicated Rapide child seats are also available as an option.

The HK$3,088,888 Rapide offers impressive refinement, performance and practicality in a to-die-for body. The rave reviews it has received from the media are justified.