Two extra doors make Aston Martin’s Rapide odd indeed
summit daily auto writer
The summer of supercars continues with a tale about a brief time I spent getting my head around one of this year’s most talked-about and, frankly, most confoundingly wonderful and inexplicable autos.
While 2009’s winner for “build a car for a niche that we didn’t think existed” was the Porsche Panamera, a blindlingly fast four-door version of the 911, the classy coachmakers at England’s Aston Martin apparently decided they needed to up the ante.
The result is the Rapide, Aston’s first four-door automobile in more than two decades, an extremely beautiful, considerably expensive and utterly curious vehicle for Aston fans who just have to have two extra doors.
Built as a sort-of extended wheelbase version of the two-door DB9 (or the James Bond-issue DBS supercar), the Rapide adds a small amount of additional passenger and/or cargo space to the already significantly spiffy and speedy base vehicle, a 470-horsepower, 5.9-liter V12-driven road monster.
And small is the unfortunate truth. Panamera features two real back seats accessed through normal-sized doors, and large enough to somewhat comfortably house a couple of normal-sized passengers for more than 15 minutes.
Rapide’s iteration, not so much, though the Aston is about a thousand times better looking. It’s fantastically beautiful, lithe, long and lean, and still handles like a dream.
But in order to even rear put doors on the body, they had to be installed to open at a severe, “swan wing” angle (behind Aston’s first-ever B-pillars) that the glass would instantly behead anyone trying to get in.
So the glass automatically rolls down each time you open the door to avoid such damage. Rain and snow, bedamned, though Aston thoughtfully includes an umbrella as standard issue material.
As my friendly and not-especially gigantic contact at Broomfield’s SilTerHar motors demonstrated, the contortionist routine required to then plant oneself into said rear seat and then pretzel one’s legs onto the floor seems best done by 5-year-olds, not full-grown people.
There’s also a gigantic channel between the two seats, with AV and climate controls (the masterfully crafted front seats hold small video screens as well as perforated leather pass-through panels), further reducing the useful space.
Practicality is not so much the name of the game. Like the Panamera, I guess you could just drop those small seatbacks out of the way and create some extra cargo room (30.6 cubic feet) for the world’s most attractive, 470-horsepower Costco triptaker; in the Panamera, you could also take your friends shopping.
The noble thing to do, then, is to totally ignore the whole back seat and concentrate on the more DB9/DBS-consistent attributes of the Rapide, which are plenty.
It’s not quite as purely race car-derived as its other Aston cousins (though you’ll still feel a tangible lack of American-friendly elbow room, or even elbow rests), but the Rapide still does everything it’s supposed to.
Lay into the throttle on a start and that body-warming V12 gurgle suddenly goes all Ferrari scream at about 4,500 RPM, which itself is worth the price of admission. It’s not the most powerful machine ever but it does indeed go, and go, and go.
The 20-inch wheels and a two-piece, dual-cast braking system add the stability and stopping power to contain all of that high-horsepower fury, allowing the Rapide to be rather gloriously chucked about, at great lengths. The magnesium, column-mounted shift paddles will get you into F1 mode; top speed is 188 miles per hour.
Up front, you enjoy a cockpit designed for battle, replete with the glass push-in starting key (sorry, “Emotional Control Unit”) and a pushbutton transmission which no longer requires the combined use of the handbrake to operate – the parking brake is now electronic, just like a Subaru.
Twin-laminated glass makes the Rapide quiet enough they had to re-jigger the exhaust to still sound all Aston-y; alternately, you can induce deafness with a pitch-perfect Bang and Olufsen sound system.
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