Aston Martin Rapide 2011 review
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The ultra-luxury Aston Martin Rapide is about to face the toughest torture test in motoring. Even though it is pitched as a four-door four-seater, and has a pricetag beyond $350,000, it is a confirmed starter in this year's Nurburgring 24-Hour race in May.
The Rapide will be fielded in stock-standard specification, apart from safety equipment, and the man who runs Aston Martin is confident it will achieve a top-30 placing. "What we will demonstrate, publicly, is that the car is easy to drive and it is reliable. We will run the Rapide with the automatic transmission — no-one races at the Nurburgring with an automatic," says Dr Ulrich Bez.
He has raced many times at the track and is a past class champion with V8 Vantage in the 24-hour race. "First of all, as a team, we want to have fun. Nurburgring is not a racetrack, it is a country road that is closed. "We want to show that the Rapide is fast, is reliable, and is easy to drive."
He will head a team including engineers from Aston Martin, who have just completed the final sign-off for the start of full-scale production of the Rapide. Aston is pitching the Rapide as a four-door sports car and Bez admits the rear-seat space is not comparable to a Bentley or even a Benz.
"We don't talk about the rear-seat passengers. If you drive yourself it is rare to have four people in the car to drive for four hours," Bez says. "We believe other companies over-stress the importance of the passengers."
The Rapide joins the Aston Martin lineup with a similar mechanical package to the DB9 two-door, including its 350 kiloWatt V12 engine, but with an extra 309mm in length, back doors, and two individual bucket seats.
It still leaps to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds and has a top speed of 296km/h, as well as traditional English craftsmanship — even though the car is built in Graz in Austria — but is intended for people who want more space and the ability to take extra friends on trips.
It is a clear rival to the new Porsche Panamera, and a lineup of other fast four-door luxury cars including Benzes and Bentleys, but Bez says the difference is in the original approach. "It's a four-door sports car. A sports car is not defined by the number of doors," Bez says.
The package for the Rapide runs to Aston's familiar extruded aluminium VH body structure, a front-mounted V12 and automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive and everything from eight airbags to a 1000-watt Bang&Olufsson sound system. The first Australian cars will be delivered later this year with a starting price of $366,280, although most will have extra-cost equipment and customisation.
It is raining as we head out on the first drive in the Rapide. The car instantly feels taut and responsive, just like the two-door Aston models, with a sharp metallic bark from the exhaust and gorgeous leather trimming in the cabin.
Then, as we head for the hills and some brilliant driving roads, it begins to snow. So there is little chance to crack on at any pace, even if the Rapide is able to shrink straights and fire out of tight turns with a surge of V12torque before the engine hits its stride at 4500 revs for a thundering run to the redline.
The car is extremely comfortable and quiet — helped by double-glazed side glass — and the interior finish is even better than the brilliance of Audi. The back seat space is not brilliant, with less room than a Porsche Panamera, but it's not intended for long trips. And the design work ensures it looks very, very special.
It is impossible to say much about the ultimate handling, but the car sits flat at all speeds and responds — if anything — a little more enthusiastically to the wheel than the shorter DB9.
Aston Martin Rapide
Price: from $366,280
Features: eight airbags, anti-skid brakes, ESP stability control
Engine: 6-litre V12, 350kW/600Nm
Transmission: Six-speed Touchtronic automatic, rear-wheel drive
Economy, CO2: 6.0litres/100km, 142g/km
Fuel economy: 14.8 litres/100km (Combined)
CO2: 355 grams/kilometre
Bentley Continental: from $370,516
Maserati Quattroporte: from $296,000
Porsche Panamera: from $270,200
Range and Specs
|(base)||5.9L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$122,320 – 140,580||2011 Aston Martin Rapide 2011 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|Luxe||5.9L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$133,210 – 153,120||2011 Aston Martin Rapide 2011 Luxe Pricing and Specs|
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data