Aston Martin may conjure up a number of images but it's rarely a marque associated with four-door cars. Coupes and open-topped roadsters maybe, but practicality? Owners, it was assumed, didn't need it. After all, the golden era of Aston Martin coincided with an age when children should be seen, not heard and folded into contorted shapes if they wanted to ride in Daddy's DB. That changed a little in 2010 with the launch of the Rapide model we look at here, a car that has always been cut from slightly different cloth and one that has often floundered a little in communicating exactly what it is. At first it was billed as a proper four-seat limousine to face down big German rivals able to seat four generously-tailored Kapitans of industry at 155mph on an autobahn, but it soon became clear that this was a bit of a reach for the more tightly-packaged Aston. The later Rapide S reverted to a more clearly sporting bias and seems more comfortable in that role. Sales may have been slow but there's something delightfully left-field about the Rapide that's ineffably cool, in a way that some of Aston Martin's more overt vehicles manage to miss out on. A used model is a good deal more affordable than you might imagine.
It's fair to say that Aston Martin was a little late to the supersaloon party. By the time the Rapide made it into dealers, the market was already stuffed with redoubtable rivals. The Porsche Panamera, the Bentley Continental Flying Spur, the Maserati Quattroporte, the Mercedes CLS63 AMG and now models like the Ferrari FF all ask some pretty serious questions of the Rapide. Park these cars in a row, ask most to choose one and I'd lay money on the fact that the Aston's keys would be the most popular pick. It's based on the aluminium VH chassis that underpins the redoubtable DB9 but the chassis has been stretched such that it's over a foot longer, allowing space for a pair of seats in the back. Launched at the start of 2010, Rapide sales were encouragingly brisk at first but tailed off somewhat as newer rivals were launched. It soon became clear that the Rapide couldn't really compete in terms of space and practicality with some of the larger cars and the range was rebranded in 2013 when the Rapide S was launched. This was a car with a far more sporting bias. Power went up from 477 to 558PS, the damping was improved significantly, the car was treated to a facelift and the infotainment system got a root and branch rethink.
What You Get
The elephant in the room where the Rapide is concerned is that it just doesn't offer a huge amount of space. A six footer sitting behind another will have trouble slotting in without sitting splay-kneed. Likewise, the 317-litre boot offers just 80-litres of luggage room per occupant. Rear seat room is perfectly adequate for adults on shorter journeys and the kids will be fine back there, which is capability enough for the majority of prospective buyers. Should you need more space, the rear seats can fold down. The Rapide was originally built at a shiny production facility in Graz, Austria managed by Magna Steyr and Aston Martin. Subsequently, it was taken back in-house at the company's UK Gaydon base. Either way, thanks to a blend of modern production line and hand finishing stations, the results are impressive. The cabin is beautifully finished, from the metallic contra-rotating dial pack to the soft mood lighting, the attention to detail on the leatherwork and the elegantly integrated marquetry. The exterior styling is also extremely cohesive, with the additional pair of doors very smoothly integrated into the now familiar Aston Martin coupe profile.
What You Pay
Prices are now dipping below £80,000 for the first of the 2010 model year cars. This nets you a Rapide, typically showing around 25,000 miles on the clock. All models feature the Touchtronic automatic transmission so you'll search in vain for a car with a stick and a clutch pedal. Given that a new BMW M5 with a few options retails for this amount of money, that doesn't look bad value at all.
What to Look For
Look out for stone chipping on the front of the car. Diligent owners usually specify paint protection. There have also been some reports of satellite navigation screens switching themselves spuriously into night mode so check that this works as specified. The engines are generally bulletproof but there are a few small things to look for when buying. Insurance will be extremely expensive, it's in the top band for road fund licence and there's a £250 Horizon Eurowatch Tracker annual fee to take on. Make sure you get at least one Tracker fob and ensure that the seller demonstrates how to pair your phone to the Tracker. A spare plastic key is essential in case you smash the £700 glass one. Finally, make sure you get an Aston Martin umbrella for the bespoke holder if shopping at a main dealer!
(approx based on a 2010 Rapide) You'll need £500 if you manage to interface one side of your front splitter on a speed hump. Air filters are around £82 and should a suicidal starling dive through your front grille, you'll need £650 to purchase a new one.
On the Road
About the biggest compliment that can be paid to the Aston Martin Rapide is that it's so easy to forget there's another a pair of chairs back there. It has an amazing chameleon-like ability to morph from a silky smooth GT car to a gutsy sports coupe by dint of its adaptive damping and versatile Touchtronic sequential transmission. The steering is beyond reproach and the Rapide brakes astonishingly well for a two-tonne car. The 6.0-litre V12 catapults the Rapide to 62mph in 5.2 seconds and offers such vast reserves of midrange torque that you'll rarely feel the need to extend the engine further. It's worth the effort though, as above 5,000rpm you'll hear the real aural fireworks. The longer wheelbase improves ride quality, although you will hear some tyre roar on poor surfaces. Switch the transmission into Sport mode and the throttle pedal becomes noticeably spikier, the gearbox software now allowing you to nudge close to the redline without automatically changing up. The magnesium shift paddles are beautifully finished and you'll find yourself pinging up and down the box just to hear those sharp barks of revs. For something with a serious agenda, the Rapide certainly serves up a whole lot of fun. The increased power and torque of the Rapide S lead to even swifter performance and the Rapide S shaves 0.3 seconds off the Rapide's 0-62 mph time, which drops from 5.2 seconds to just 4.9 seconds while top speed climbs, meanwhile, to 190mph.
The Aston Martin Rapide is a car that under the closest scrutiny would appear to fall between a number of stools, yet it emerges as something rather wonderful and distinctly British. While it initially set out to be a model that would go toe-to-toe with the best German supsersaloons, it then morphed into the kind of supercar that would be an easy sell to the family. The later Rapide S reflects this shift. It became fiercer and more focused, while still retaining the rear doors and slightly practical bent. It'll never be one of the highly-prized Aston classics but the Rapide has come through a rocky patch and has now emerged as one of the most appealing used buys in the Aston portfolio. With genuinely low mileage cars selling for little more than what you'd pay for a new BMW M5, it's hard to resist the appeal of an exotic V12 yowl to start the school run and guess what? Your kids will love you forever.
Rear seat backs that fold flat at the touch of a button, ISOFIX child seat mountings, a 750-litre boot capacity - we're talking about an ordinary family car right? Wrong. Or at least, it's wrong unless your idea of an ordinary family car has a 6.0-litre V12 engine and a £140,000 price tag. The Aston Martin Rapide is a long, long way from ordinary but will the iconic British brand's take on the four-door sports car prove a hit or a miss with the demanding clientele who have the cash to buy it?
Rather than a rival for stuffy luxury saloons, Aston Martin has built a four-seater supercar. Now you can let the whole family experience 470bhp of thrust and 0-60mph in 5.1s at the same time. Hand built, luxuriously appointed and very pretty, only the £140,000 asking price will preserve the Rapide's exclusivity.
The trend for differentiation has spread through the upper echelons of the global car market like wildfire over recent years. We've seen BMW, Audi and Mercedes branch out into 4x4s, MPVs and various small car markets but top end prestige brands have been at it too. Porsche brought us a 4x4 then the Panamera with a quartet of doors, Bentley has enjoyed success with sportscars and Aston Martin has developed the Rapide, its first production four-door. It seems that one or two model lines in a manufacturer's traditional market sectors is no longer enough. These leading marques are looking to exploit the powerful brand identities they've worked for decades to build by branching out with more products targeted at different customer groups. Platform-sharing technologies have been crucial in allowing the expansion of these luxury brands. We're used to mainstream manufacturers using the same chassis as a basis for numerous different models but the Rapide uses a similar formula to control costs. It's based on the same V/H Architecture platform that brought us the DB9, DBS and the Vantage.
Being an Aston Martin, the Rapide was going to have to go like stink, handle like no other four-door car and, perhaps most importantly, sound to its drivers like they're trapped in a mahogany wardrobe with a thunderstorm. Supplying the rather fabulous soundtrack is Aston's formidable V12, a six-litre unit that is mounted at the front but edged as far rearward as it would go in the interests of weight distribution - a near perfect 51:49 if you're interested. The figures confirm that this is a four-door of the sporting variety. There's 600Nm of torque at 5,000rpm and 470bhp at 6,000 which should be plenty. Give the throttle a prolonged stomping and the car will see 188mph before too long. With some nimble use of the magnesium alloy paddle shifters that control the six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic gearbox, 60mph arrives in just 5.1s. The Rapide is rear-wheel-drive in the best traditions of the brand and the basic suspension is also that of a sportscar with double wishbones all round. Providing some concession to the car's long range cruising abilities is the Adaptive Damping System which adjusts the suspension settings according to the way the car is being driven. Ease off and it relaxes to improve comfort but press on and everything gets taut and more responsive. The dual cast brake discs are fashioned from aluminium and cast iron, combining the former's light weight with the durability and heat resistant qualities of the latter. They're big ones too, 390mm at the front and 360mm at the rear.
The Rapide sticks very much to the established Aston Martin design themes as seen on the Vanquish, DB9 and DBS but you could probably count the people who looked at those models and felt underwhelmed on the fingers of one foot, so why change?. The key challenge (that of adapting the Aston design language to the proportions necessary for a four-door, four-seater) has been gracefully overcome. The detailing too catches the eye, from the light tube sidelights that line the edge of the headlight clusters to the dramatic vent behind the front wheelarch. All four doors open upwards as well as outwards to protect the nine coats of paint applied to the Rapide's metalwork from high kerbs or verges. They stop at 70-degree angles to the car's flank, providing a wide opening for dignified exits. The boot is accessed through the hatchbacked rear and measures 301-litres with the back seats in use. At the touch of a button, the seatbacks fold down electronically to give a 750-litre luggage bay. Inside, a high centre console runs through the cabin, splitting it into four separate cockpits. There's a figure-hugging sports seat for each occupant and although space will be tight in the rear for the very tall, most adults will fit comfortably. The detailing is exquisite with hand-stitched leather, walnut and Iridium Silver detailing. At high speeds, the windows automatically move further up into their frames to improve refinement and each rear-seat passenger has an individual air-conditioning system to enhance comfort further.
You'd expect quite a bit of standard equipment for £140K and the Rapide supplies it. Electric heated seats, a hard disc satellite navigation system and a stunning Bang & Olufsen BeoSound stereo are amongst the highlights. There's even an Aston Martin umbrella mounted in the boot. If you're spending all this money though, why not go the whole nine yards? On the options list is a rear seat entertainment system with a 6-disc DVD player and screens in the front seat backs. There are also a number of different wood finishes for the interior trim and some 20" wheels to replace the standard 19" items. Looking after the safety side of things, there are seatbelt pretensioners and eight airbags including individual head protection airbags for those in the rear seats. There's also the usual array of electronic aids you'd expect in a car of this complexity and price.
Running costs almost become an irrelevance at this aristocratic end of the car market. The V12 will have a thirst with few equals if asked to continually move 1,950kg of Rapide around at mach ten. Owners are likely to be more worried whether the next service station stocks Beluga caviar. If it doesn't, the 90.5-litre tank provides a theoretical 300-mile range so they'll have every chance of making it somewhere that does.
Aston Martin didn't try to be too clever when creating its first four-door car. The Rapide turns out to be basically how you imagine a four-door Aston might be. Thunderous V12, hand crafted cabin, elegant but sporting looks. It's a sports car with space for the family rather than an attempt to muscle in on the luxury saloon market and as such, it looks nailed on for success. If a growing family or the advancing years are starting to make your supercar look like more and more of an extravagance, The Aston Martin Rapide is the sensible alternative. It isn't much more sensible mind, and that's its charm.
The Aston Martin Rapide S is powered by a fantastic 6.0-litre V12 powerplant and now backs that up with the fitment of a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox, retuned suspension, bigger brakes and retuned electronics. Make no mistake, Aston has dialled up the sportiness quite markedly.
Aston Martin's top brass, if they were allowed a moment of unfiltered candour, would probably admit they got the Rapide wrong. Upon launch, the company claimed that it was a luxury limousine with sporting ability when required, but the truth of the matter was that there's just not enough space in the back seats for this car to measure up against luxury saloons. It was a sports car trying to be something it wasn't. And in this division, a sports car - whether it has two doors or four - needs proper power and presence. Aston delivered with the restyled Rapide S in 2013 but the company has gone much further now. With a whole host of engineering upgrades, the Rapide S really finds its stride. It's still small in the back, but now punches above its weight in other dynamic regards.
The 2013 update that turned Rapide into Rapide S wrung another 81PS out of the 5935cc V12, lifting peak power to 558PS at 5,750rpm. That endowed the big Aston the sort of pace to mix it with the real powerhouses of the division and the latest changes harness that power more effectively. In comes ZF's eight speed 8HP automatic gearbox, widely regarded as the best automatic transmission money can buy. Gearbox software changes make for a truly comprehensive selection of available driving features such as 'Drive' and 'Drive Sport' modes along with 'Paddle Shift' and 'Paddle Shift Sport' options for more engaging, sporting, shift control. The Rapide S also gets the latest Bosch Engine Management System, while a revised torque tube reduces transmission noise. The stability control has been retuned to suit the power deployment of the gearbox and the steering ECU has been tweaked to result in a more precise steering response. There are also uprated front brakes, a retuned brake booster and amended rear suspension bushes that are now 20 per cent stiffer than before. The Rapide S is still a serious performer, getting to 62mph in 4.4 seconds and it'll keep going to a breathtaking 203mph.
The Rapide S is an undeniably handsome thing and the latest car gets a few detail changes to keep it looking fresh. Outside there's the arrival of ten-spoke forged alloy wheel designs, available in a variety of finishes, that save almost seven kilos in weight. There are also new paint colour options including Diavalo Red, previously limited to the showstopping V12 Zagato. Inside, the cars get revised leather trim colour options including the blue-black Dark Knight, and bold Fandango Pink. There's also the option of a Duotone leather seat finish in Sahara Tan and Vibrant Red, as well as a range of headlining options that mix quilting with the finest leathers or Alcantara. One thing that hasn't significantly changed is the amount of space inside the car. A six footer sitting behind another will have trouble slotting in without sitting splay-kneed. Additional practicality is delivered by the two rear seats now folding flat at the touch of a button.
It's hard to know where to begin with the equipment included with the Rapide S. Clearly you'd be within your rights to expect a decent amount of gear when paying this much but there really is a lot to take in. As standard the car's finished with the usual leather chairs and walnut fascia trim, parking sensors, cruise control, memory seats and powerfold door mirrors. Then it gets interesting. The Bang and Olufsen 1000W stereo isn't going to leave you wanting. There's iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, USB and AUX-in, a tracking device, satellite navigation, a boot-mounted umbrella and a glass key to start the car. Options include diamond-turned 20-inch alloys, the carbon exterior and piano black interior packages, semi-aniline leather upholstery, a twin-screen rear seat entertainment pack, a colour-keyed steering wheel and alternative brake calliper paint finishes. With a few options added, it's likely that most cars will roll out of dealerships costing in the region of £160 - £170,000 which stacks up competitively against the likes of the Ferrari FF and the Bentley Continental GT Speed.
By any objective measure the Aston Martin Rapide is extremely expensive to run. It's hard to know just where to start when cataloguing the costs. Depreciation is the big ticket item and at the moment there aren't any big four-seater cars that hold onto their value particularly well so that's no particular slur on the Aston. Nevertheless, you can expect your new Aston Martin to drop around £65k in value over 24 months of ownership. Fuel economy has improved with the fitment of the ZF transmission. Fuel economy rises from a faintly embarrassing 19.9mpg on the combined cycle to a more respectable 21.9mpg. Emissions improve in turn, with carbon dioxide output dropping from 332g/km to a round 300g/km. Insurance is a top of the shop group 50.
Some might argue that Aston Martin has spent a lot of money improving the one part of the Rapide S that few had any real complaints about, namely the dynamics. That's as maybe, but so good is the ZF eight-speed transmission that it would be an asset to virtually any car and it has the allied benefit of improving fuel economy and therefore range, a handy commodity in any car with grand touring pretensions. Most of all this signals a tacit admission on Aston Martins part that the Rapide model needed to change its focus. It's not a natural rival for the big supersaloons. The basic architecture of the vehicle means it's too small in the back for that. Instead, it's now being positioned as a sports coupe with occasional rear seat versatility. It's taken a long time to wriggle into that niche, but in latest Rapide S guise, it looks a car that's a good deal more comfortable in its own skin.
This is an article about the model Aston Martin Rapide
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