The aging 5.9-liter V-12’s sound isn’t especially melodic from inside the car, but it’s loud enough outside to scare pedestrians half to death with a prod of the throttle. And you’ll need to do that fairly often: the Rapide can scoot to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, according to Aston, but thanks to a delicately calibrated accelerator pedal; long, widely spaced gear ratios; and a pronounced dearth of low-end torque, the Rapide feels almost lazy around town. For smooth driving, this is a boon. Inelegant, impatient maniacs like your author can hit the Sport button, which switches to more aggressive throttle and shift maps.
It also instructs the ZF-supplied six-speed automatic transaxle to allow the driver to touch the rev limiter should he have tugged on one of the fixed magnesium shift paddles to engage manual mode. Next to SPORT is another button, one with a pictogram of a shock absorber on it. Press it, and the Bilstein adaptive dampers firm up noticeably, transmitting every pavement ripple through the rock-solid chassis without ever being harsh. With an overall ratio of 15:1, the Rapide’s steering rack is Aston’s fastest. It transmits huge amounts of on-center information to the driver’s hands and remains perfectly precise as lateral loads increase. So communicative is the steering that you’ll clearly feel the aggressive limited-slip differential trying to tug the front of the car around. A true sports car, the Rapide pummels mountain roads with ferocious speed and a bellowing exhaust note that can be heard from—literally—a mile away.
If there was any doubt that Aston Martin put 5000 development miles on the Rapide at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, it’s gone the second you hit a back road. Should it at any time during a spirited romp through twisting mountain switchbacks occur to you that you’re driving a car the size of a Mercedes S-class, your mind will simply be blown. Does not compute. Syntax error. Please reboot. From behind the wheel, the Rapide is the incredible shrinking Aston.
From behind the cash register, it’s another story. The Rapide rings up at a not-insubstantial 200 grand, although only two significant options are available: the aforementioned rear-seat entertainment system is $3395, and $1595 will supplement the four seat heaters with coolers. It’s quite a bit more expensive than either the Panamera or the Quattroporte, landing in the same price league as the Bentley Continental Flying Spur. None of those is a direct competitor, however. There are other cars that are the same price, produce similar horsepower, or are (nearly) as gorgeous. But there is no other sports car in the world that marries this combination of exclusivity, performance, and elegance with the ability to carry four passengers.
There has been endless discussion surrounding the Panamera and its potential impact on the Porsche brand —but we’ve heard none about the newest Aston. The Rapide is a perfect example of how an automaker can grow in volume without compromising brand identity. In this regard, Aston Martin is clearly the winner. Dr. Bez, sending that Rapide to Porsche is completely unnecessary—please mail it to Ann Arbor instead, no bow needed.