The debate about what really defines a "sports car" will rage on forever. So instead of comparing features and attributes, I prefer to use my senses (and common sense) to determine how a car makes me feel before I come to a conclusion. Aston Martin bills its Rapide as a four-door sports car, so I had to take it for a run to find out for myself.
DB9 DNA oozes from the Rapide's sleek profile; its chassis platform is actually one and the same, albeit stretched 9.7 inches at the wheelbase, required to fit two additional passengers in back. With the overall width and height also increased, the Rapide puts on nearly 500 extra pounds. But specs can be deceiving.
Inside, the Rapide is finely detailed with rich leather surfaces nearly everywhere. The form-fitting driver seat puts you in close proximity to all the necessary vehicle controls. Slipping the unique key into place and pressing it in to engage "start" awakens the 470-hp V12. With the windows closed ignition is a non-event, settling into a distant ultra-low-frequency murmur at idle. But open the windows, blip the throttle, and you'll be pleased with the increased volume and the signature V12 growl.
Leaving the windows down, I opt for Auto mode on the six-speed Touchtronic automatic transmission. Easing into traffic, the Rapide soothes the senses with its utter smoothness and appealing engine-generated audio track. Shifts are easily accomplished at such slow speeds that, intrigued, I find myself driving out of the city to look for some space and seclusion to open it up and test out the Touchtronic's manual mode.
Once an appropriate area is found, I stop and select First gear using the column-fixed paddle shifters. Hard on the throttle, and the V12 snarls into action, launching the Rapide with zero wheelspin. I snap the right paddle just before redline, at 6700 rpm, and Second gear engages smoothly, yet quickly for a true torque converter automatic. The result is a very satisfying rate of acceleration, most certainly on schedule for a five-second 0-to-60 time. Bang off Third gear and thrust remains strong well into the triple-digits. The Rapide is absolutely refined and effortless under throttle, and its soundtrack never disappoints.
Fortunately, the brakes are up the task of hauling some 4,300 pounds down from any speed in a timely fashion. The brake pedal has a good, solid feel and allows for easy modulation either on the street or on the track.
When the road gets twisty, the Rapide is a very surprising and willing companion. I found that its greatest technical merits were superb road feel and precision through the flawless leather-wrapped steering wheel. This translates into a great deal of fun, as this relatively large vehicle could still be tossed around like a lightweight. The stiff chassis and taut and tuned active suspension certainly contribute to its cornering prowess; the Rapide remains flat and composed even as the g-forces build.
When it's time to head back, I roll up the windows and enjoy the tranquil and opulent interior after a thunderous afternoon of getting to know the car. And what an afternoon it was. With its looks, sound, power, brakes, true road feel, and handling, the Rapide is definitely a sports car; it just happens to be a very big sports car with a proportionately big price tag. Make mine Titanium Silver on Obsidian Black leather.
Aston Martin Rapide
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
6.0-liter V12, dohc, 48-valve
Six-speed Touchtronic automatic
Peak Power: 470 hp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 443 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.0 sec.
Top Speed: 188 mph
From The Hip
V12 power, excellent chassis feedback, leather surrounds
You could buy a Panamera and a Cayman for the price