The Aston Martin Rapide will instantly draw comparisons to the Porsche Panamera Turbo sedan, but these two are as different as asparagus and ice cream. Even though the automakers tell us that the Panamera is only 44 pounds heavier, the Aston feels so much lighter. The Aston delivers excellent steering and sharp turn-in for a sense of compact agility that can lead you to quickly forget that there are two doors behind you. The V-12 experience lives up to its 470-hp output, but Aston’s been a bit too conservative with the exhaust tuning. The six-speed automated manual in the Rapide also isn’t as refined as the seven-speed dual-clutch in the Panamera, particularly when it comes to low-speed driving.
The differences between the two are even more dramatic inside, though. The Aston’s rear chairs are seriously compromised, both getting into them and remaining comfortable once you’re seated. With such a low-slung roofline and limited legroom, you really have to plan your entry. Even relatively short adults will have trouble sitting comfortably for more than an hour with the cramped leg- and headroom. Comfort is also reduced by the armrests, which feel as if they have a brick of concrete directly underneath the leather. Porsche, by comparison, has outfitted the Panamera with reasonable rear-seat space and excellent surface treatments.
I disagree with Eric, who apparently prefers his sporty superluxury sedans to sound like NASCAR stock cars: I think the Rapide’s exhaust note sounds bloody awesome, especially past 4000 rpm, when the V-12 just screams for more. The Rapide might sound slightly more restrained than other Aston products, I’ll admit, but it still sounds meaner than 99 percent of cars on the road, and I loved pushing the engine through its broad sweet spot.
I do agree that the transmission isn’t the greatest on earth, but it’s nonetheless a LOT smoother than that of the paddle-shifted V8 Vantage that we tested last summer. Steering and handling are fantastic, yet the ride is commendably nice. I’d love to drive this car back-to-back-to-back with a Porsche Panamera and a Maserati Quattroporte to see which is the most sports-car-like.
Like other Aston Martins, the Rapide has some incredibly well wrought interior touches, such as the slim sun visor, the lid on the center console, and the metal paddle shifters mounted to the steering column. The paint is a lovely pearlescent white. Even the trunk latch is shockingly nice, and the cabin’s carpet is beautiful (although no better than what’s in Acura’s newest products like the ZDX).
Speaking of the ZDX, the Rapide offers rear-seat headroom that’s much better than the Acura’s and even acceptable by normal-car standards. Getting into those rear seats is tricky, though, and you definitely have to watch your head on the way in and out. The secret to getting in and out of the Aston is to treat it like it’s the exotic car that it is, placing butt in seat first and then carefully swinging legs into the car, one foot at a time, no matter if you’re entering a front or back seat. That’s a big change of tune from most sedans, but that’s what it takes. Once you’re in the back, legroom and elbow room are tolerable but cramped, even for this skinny five-foot-six reviewer. On a couple of occasions, unfortunately, it was impossible to get into the back, as a door wouldn’t open, from inside or outside the car; re-cycling the locks fixed the malfunction.
But the Rapide’s extreme beauty might make such issues tolerable, if I owned this car. Indeed, my daughter’s day-care lady had never heard of the brand Aston Martin, but she was shocked at the car’s beauty when I showed her a low-quality snapshot on my cell phone. Clearly, this is a striking automobile.
There is no argument that this is the most fetching four-door on the planet. That said, it suffers in both practicality and driving joy. Doors that swing upward for no good reason are the height of British folly. Entering the rear seats is like returning to the womb and exiting is only slightly less traumatic than the trip out the birth canal. The rough, sloppily painted castings displayed in the rear door openings and the manual steering wheel adjustments are not in keeping with a $200,000+ price. But what bothers me most is that a good running Mustang GT will blow this Aston in the weeds. A blatty exhaust promises performance that isn’t delivered. The unforgivable sin is that the mighty V-12 lacks the gumption and gearing to burn rubber in first gear.
Base price (with destination and guzzler tax): $199,950
Price as tested: $211,335
5.9-liter V-12 engine
6-speed touchtronic automatic transmission
Electronic brakeforce distribution
Dynamic stability control
Tire pressure monitoring system
6-CD changer with MP3 connection
Bang and Olufsen Beosound audio system
Heated front and rear seats
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Hard disk drive satellite navigation system
Front and rear parking sensors
Options on this vehicle:
Paint- AML special — $3785
Rear seat entertainment — $3395
Cooled front and rear seats — $1595
Leather colour-contemporary — $750
Nexus alloy — $750
Rapide logo silver — $450
High spec alarm — $295
Smokers kit — $220
First aid kit — $145
Key options not on vehicle:
Aston Martin tracking system
13 / 19 / 15 mpg
Size: 5.9L V-12
Horsepower: 470 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 443 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
6-speed touchtronic automatic
Curb weight: 4299 lb
20 x 8.5-inch front; 20 x 9.5-inch rear aluminum wheels
245/40ZR20 front; 295/35ZR20 rear Bridgestone Potenza performance tires