When a luxury sports car builder decides to create a sedan while keeping its pure sports performance identity intact, the task is compelling. To start with, the automotive landscape is well populated with fast, luxurious sports sedans, festooned with legendary suffixes like AMG, M, and R to signify their prowess. And while they’re fast and agile, few mistake them for pure grand touring sports cars with two added doors.
Aston Martin has clearly broken that mold with its stunning new Rapide, a four-door that’s so coupe-like you have to look twice to realize that it’s a sedan. The entire shape of this car perfectly embraces Aston Martin’s design ethic from the iconic grille through the steeply-raked windshield and the wide shoulders to the fastback rear.
The doors all open up and out in what Aston Martin calls a “swan wing” style. Access into the front sport seating is relatively easy and the high detail of hand-sewn splendor is a treat to the eye and touch. Even the wood veneer that’s used in the upper center stack is fittingly satin-finished to differentiate it from the over-polished appearance of other luxury makes.
Rear-seat passengers also ride in a luxurious, cocooned space, available with rear seat entertainment ($3,995) for amusement. If the driver and front seat passenger are not too tall, there’s even adequate legroom, but the rear seating may be a bit slender for people of a grander scale. The real sacrifice to authentic coupe styling is entering or exiting the rear passenger compartment. If you’re an average adult male in height, you’d best be flexible for the entrance duck-and-squeeze maneuver — yoga training helps.
So while the Rapide may not fit the definition of grand luxury as defined by taller rivals, it’s every bit an Aston Martin on the road. The big, six-liter, 12-cylinder engine awakes with a deep growl that turns to a snarl under acceleration. If you keep your foot planted, it will sprint to 60 mph in five seconds flat on its way to a 188-mph top speed. A six-speed Touchtronic2 gearbox is mid/rear mounted for balance and quick rack-and-pinion steering keeps the 20-inch Bridgestone Potenza tires pointed wherever you desire.
Massive brakes with every contemporary electronic aid keep the 4,340-pound Rapide in check, and the dynamic stability control system is relatively unobtrusive until pushed too hard. It can be disabled for really spirited driving, but, after all, this is a grand touring car that is perfectly suited for transporting discerning occupants in rapid style. With that in mind, I cranked up the Bang & Olufsen sound system, set the climate control, and cruised — basking in the aura of a most elegant sedan. BRIAN DOUGLAS