Speed and style for the rich and famous
By Nauman Farooq
Car companies are always looking for the “Next Big Thing.”
In the 1980’s it was the minivan. The 1990’s belonged to the SUV craze, and the last decade has been all about hybrids.
It looks like the next big thing is the automotive industry might just be four-door supercars.
Porsche has one, Audi is about to have one, Bugatti is working on one, and Lamborghini is thinking about one.
Aston Martin on the other hand has just come out with one. It’s called the Rapide and it’s their first four-door car since the Lagonda bowed out in 1989.
Don’t go around looking for any similarities between the Lagonda and the Rapide though, they might have the same company emblem on their noses, but where the Lagonda was ugly, the Rapide is simply gorgeous.
Never has anyone made a four-door car that looks as stunning as this one. Honestly, if you aren’t paying attention, you’d think it’s a two-door coupe. It looks like an elegantly stretched DB9, which ofcourse it is.
Yes, the Rapide sits on a lengthened DB9 aluminum platform, but the work was done properly, so there are no nasty shimmying or shakes, regardless of the type of road surface you’re driving on.
When I picked up the car from Grand Touring Automobiles in downtown Toronto (Ontario, Canada’s only Aston Martin dealer), I was faced with some of the worst roads in the city. These old, broken roads would point out flaws in any cars chassis and suspension set-up, but the Rapide, even in sport suspension setting, never once felt uncomfortable, it really is that well engineered.
Speaking of engineering, this is the first Aston Martin to be built out of their new production facility in Graz, Austria, rather than out of their traditional home of Gaydon, U.K. Also worth noting is that its engine is built by Aston Martin inGermany, so you might be wondering what is British about this very British marquee. Afterall, the only part of this car that is made in U.K. is its hood emblem (which is still made by jewelers in Birmingham). Anthony Poole, general sales manager of Aston Martin of Ontario pointed out, “It was designed and developed in the U.K.”
And develop they did. Aston Martin first showed this car in concept form about four years ago, and since then they have been working hard at getting it right. But at first glance, nothing seems to have changed at all between concept and production. Infact the only differences I could work out are the new headlights and the absence of the panoramic roof (which is not even available as an option).
So it seems most of the development was focused on getting its mechanical bits perfected, something that becomes blatantly obvious the very second you fire it up. Its 6.0-liter, V12 motor fires up with an angry growl, letting you know its 470 hp and 443 lb/ft of torque are ready for action. Engage drive by pressing the “D” button on the dashboard and you’re instantly off. There is so much torque available at the bottom end, that if you lean on the accelerator with even a slight hint of enthusiasm, it will spin its wheels. Its six-speed automatic gearbox is not only very smooth, but also changes gears extremely quickly. With paddle shifters located on the steering wheel, you can have a lot of fun with this car as you roll through city streets in a low gear and then just standing on the throttle to hear its glorious exhaust note. Put the transmission in “Sport” mode and not only are the shifts much quicker, it also blips the throttle on down shifts to add more drama. That is just excellent.
So it works brilliantly as a sports car, but this is a four-door car, so how does it work as a family car. For a kick-off, it’s not the most practical. It is a four-seater, rather than a five seater. Rear seat legroom is fine, while not abundant by any means, same with the headroom. The trunk (which is surprisingly a hatch, even though the looks suggests it’s a sedan) is not huge, but can easily carry a few soft bags. If the rear seats aren’t being used for transporting people, they can be folded down to give you much more cargo space. So while it might not be the most practical car on the planet, it’s not bad either.
On standard equipment it’s very well equipped. The Bang and Olufsen sound system is standard, so is the navigation system. Popular ticks on the options sheet will undoubtedly be the rear seat entertainment system and the heated and cooled seats.
Before I could learn more about this car, sadly my time was up (since this was the one and only press car on hand and their test drive book was rather full). So based on what I learned, I can say that the Rapide is a beautiful car that goes as well as it looks. It might not be as complete a car as the Porsche Panamera is (currently it’s only rival), but an Aston Martin was never about the final word in technological brilliance.
It is gorgeous to behold and it will be a rare sight (only 25 coming to Canada this year). At $215,000 for a base car, it certainly isn’t cheap. It’s just the price one (who can afford) will have to pay to own the latest offering from one of the worlds most admired brands.