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Apr 21, 2010, 05.34 PM IST
Maker Aston Martin calls the Rapid the most beautiful four-door car in the world
Maker Aston Martin calls the Rapid the most beautiful four-door car in the world.‘The Rapide is a sports car’, says Ulrich Bez, the chief executive of Aston Martin. Normally, he wouldn’t feel the need for such emphasis: expensive, hand-crafted British sports cars are Aston’s business. But the £140,000 Rapide is something new, the company’s first four-door, four-seater car since the Lagonda of the 1970s.
Bez doesn’t want this car to be misunderstood. It is not a rival for the Bentley Continental Flying Spur or the über-sedans from Mercedes, BMW and Audi and it differs fundamentally from its most obvious counterpart, the Porsche Panamera.
Bez describes the Rapide as “the most beautiful four-door car in the world” and adds: “The proportions had to be perfect. If we couldn’t have achieved this, we wouldn’t have made it.” So this is not a car for the part-time driver who likes to conduct business from the back seat. Neither is it suitable for making the grand entrance at a film premiere or society ball for a skirted lady (or a Scotsman) in context of modesty while emerging from the back.
I really appreciate the Rapide’s stowage space and easy access through the rear hatch. A hinged divider located by magnetic catches separates the trunk from a generous space behind the rear seats. The backs of those seats can also be folded to extend the load area.
Technically, the Rapide is rather more than a DB9 extended by 30cm. The space required in the Rapide dictated a new rear subframe to support the transmission and rear suspension. The re-designed assembly saves weight and allows a larger (90-litre) fuel tank. Surprisingly, the over 5m in length Rapide is only 200kg heavier than the DB9.
The Rapide has the same drive-line and suspension layout as the other Astons but it has been set up for slightly more gentle behaviour than the DB9 and DBS. It has variable dampers with two programmes, normal and sport, but unlike the DBS, both settings are usable. The steering is higher geared to aid the feeling of agility on a winding road. The brakes – which have a new kind of dual-cast steel and aluminium disc – are mighty effective but the pedal has a longer travel than in most sports cars. That makes for smoother progress in normal driving.
The 6-litre V12 engine is familiar and has the same power (474PS) and torque output as the latest DB9. The ubiquitous ZF six-speed automatic transmission is the only gearbox available. It works beautifully and allows
manual operation from paddles behind the steering wheel. A facia switch marked Sport speeds up the automatic hifts and sharpens the throttle response. The effect is not as marked as in some other models, as Aston seeks to make the Rapide a more comfortable Grand Tourer while maintaining its sporting character.
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