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Review: 2011 Aston Martin Rapide

The Pink Floyd Sound came to be in the mid 1960s. A mish-mosh of folks from Sigma 6, The Spectrum Five, and the Tea Set (as well as a bunch more band names in between) came together over a love of blues and rock and roll, to revolutionize the world. They didn’t know they were doing so at the time, but Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright formed the basis for one of the most amazing bands in history.

Syd Barrett had his issues, and the band had their issues with Syd. That opened the door for David Gilmour, and the Pink Floyd Sound was honed into the shining prism of space rock that transformed multiple generations of music fans.

Music fans grow up.

That doesn’t mean, however, that their tastes need to change… they can instead evolve. Listen to a few tracks from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and then listen to The Wall. You’re hearing albums that are vastly different, yet you’re also hearing the heart and soul of Pink Floyd blasting forth from your speakers.

The band is a product of the United Kingdom, just like a certain automaker from Gaydon. Aston Martin formed a lot earlier than Pink Floyd, but it’s product lineup has remained true to a singular ideal over the years. It’s also evolved.

Case in point is the 2011 Aston Martin Rapide, a four-door exotic sedan that boasts seductive curves, an exclusive price tag, and the sort of sounds that assault the senses.

Caution… a lunatic is on the path.

This particular lunatic is a big fan of the color green. No… it’s not efficient. In fact, it’s 6.0-liter V12 engine pumps out 470 horsepower, 443 pound-feet of torque, and is rated to return 13 miles per gallon in the city. No, this car is green because it takes a shit load of cash to buy one. $220,040 in fact, to buy the one you see here. The base price is $207,895, but my test car features such options as a rear seat entertainment system, cooled front and rear seats, and $750 red brake calipers.

That shouldn’t be alarming though, because that’s the standard price of admission in the next-level playground. Everything else is but meddling echoes in a larger pond.

Your money won’t be spent in vain however. Scratch that, it will most certainly be a vain purchase, but the best kind of vanity, so long as you’re eager to enjoy the heart and soul buried under the aluminum and composite body.

A V12 is a beautiful thing, regardless of the engine bay in which it’s called into action. When placed between the sculpted fenders of the Rapide it represents Alpha Male aspirations, and presents them immediately. All I have to do is push the sapphire and stainless-steel key emotional control unit into it’s central-dashboard home, where it plays double-duty as the start button. A light turns red, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and all twelve cylinders are called to order.

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.

Once the engine is firing, it’s merely a matter of a simple tug on the left paddle, located just behind the smooth steering wheel. Breathe. Then mash the thin throttle pedal to the plush carpet, and the Rapide responds with sonorous noises and swift forward movement. The tachometer needles begin to sweep North, one moving clockwise while the other swings counter-clockwise. If I push that tach needle too far towards the top of its range, the six-speed Touchtronic automatic transmission stumbles before grabbing the next gear. It doesn’t like to work at the limit of the rev range, but anything under that and the unit clicks off gear changes rather rapidly.

The gearbox is mounted in the back, and the engine is, of course, up front under the long hood. That means the 4,299 curb weight is spread out 49 percent towards the nose and 51 percent out back. Essentially, the car is more than up to the task of twisty canyon roads, emergency highway maneuvers, and empty parking-lot shenanigans. Steering is responsive and feedback is direct. Point the noise, press the gas, and hold on for interstellar overdrive.

At over 4,000 pounds, the Rapide needs to be able to stop as well as it goes and turns. Thankfully, Aston Martin has fitted its four door with rather massive brakes both front and rear. Six-piston calipers clamp on to 15-inch front rotors, while four-piston units grab on to 14-inch rear rotors. Massive speed is easy, yet so is massive braking force, which makes for a confident and comfortable driver.

It’s not just the driving experience that makes one comfortable in the Rapide though, as this is an Aston Martin product. The Rapide seats four, and each occupant gets their own wonderfully sculpted throne. These units would look at home in a track car, but they’re built to serve the dual purpose of comfort and support instead. Comfort, that is, for the driver and front passenger at least. Rear legroom is an abysmal 30.1-inches, which is more than three inches less than the legroom found in a Porsche Panamera. Anyone interested in sitting in the back better be small, flexible, and unafraid of the imposing roofline that seems to come all the way down to eye level.

The rear seat passengers will be happy knowing it’s not just numbing comfort up front. Aston Martin employs its outdated infotainment system in the Rapide. I love technology, and I enjoy fiddling with buttons, menus, and various screens that are a part of the modern automotive interior. I hated every second of attempting to get the navigation, audio , and Bluetooth system to do what I wanted. It’s extremely counter-intuitive, and I found myself calling the first person in my phonebook (Hello again, Aaron Gold!) when I merely wanted to set a satellite radio station as a preset. It’s a very sour note, along with the cramped rear seat, in an otherwise wonderful cabin.

Step outside of that cabin, however, and all is nearly forgotten. The 2011 Aston Martin Rapide is downright gorgeous. It’s unmistakably Aston, which means sculpted lines flow back gracefully from the aggressive nose. When Aston Martin engineers and designers got together and brought this car to life, it was clear that they knew how to keep the family lines intact. In fact, I may go so far as to say that this is the best-looking four-door automobile on the planet.

The Aston Martin Rapide is a stay-at-home supermodel that makes grocery store runs in 20-inch heels, er, wheels.

I love the Rapide, but I have to ask if it even make sense for Aston Martin to build a four-door? Of course it does. This car isn’t a logical choice, especially considering it costs over $200,000 just to call those swan doors your own. Still, it’s not supposed to be a logical choice. The Rapide represents a great day for freedom from such thoughts. You could spend less and get the much more competent Pamanera, or the much more stately Bentley Flying Spur. You could also spend about the same and get the more better-at-everything Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG. The Porsche is the most fun to drive of the bunch, the Bentley is an automotive bespoke suit, and the S65 is a luxury German assault weapon.

Still… none of those are an Aston Martin.

There’s more to the Rapide than its 6.0-liter V12, shapely skin, and the auditory intercourse of its exhaust tones. Holding that heavy key (it’s a key, sorry Aston Martin) in the palm of your hand makes you feel like you’re doing something very right with your life. Not because you have the money to buy the Rapide, but because you’ve chosen to do so. You’re an international spy, a British rock star, a celebrity, or you’re just a person with high hopes who wants to run like hell. You’re all of that in the Rapide, and with a press of the throttle you can leave all of that behind as well.

Hit the gas, and have a cigar.

  • Ben

    We were walking around SEMA and lamenting the looks of the Panamera while lauding its interior accommodations. Basically it came down to "It's a great car but it's too ugly to buy." Immediately the subject of the Rapide came up and its laughably compact rear seats and questionable reliability. It was unanimously decided the Rapide could be on fire rolling backwards down a hill through a boulder field and at the bottom it would still be worth purchasing over the Porsche, it just looks that good.

    • I actually don't mind the looks of the Porsche… and it's a blast to drive. Still, the Rapide is a stunner.

      • jeepjeff

        Stunner is an understatement. I normally hate 4 doors. I find most 4 doors ugly. The best a 4 door can usually get out of me is a 'meh'. I just find all cars look better with two doors. Across the board. (My wife hates this, because it makes me 'meh' on vehicles with rear seat space and other utilitarian features, which she likes.)

        Porsche Panamera? I'd just get a 911.

        The Aston Martin Rapide though, it… It's beautiful. Even with four doors. They could put a VW aircooled engine in there and I'd still want to dragon it. The two door Astons are still better, but the Rapide isn't merely good, it's excellent. It's the only four door I've ever said that about. It is a wee bit more than stunning (IMO).

      • The Porsche is definitely growing on me. I still wouldn't call it "beautiful", but the performance has dulled my opinion that it's ugly. After seeing a few in person, it's definitely not as ugly as it looks in pictures.

  • $kaycog

    That an absolutely beautiful car! It kinda makes my heart beat rapidely.

    • I shot video with my GoPro, but the clip wasn't good enough for the review in my opinion.

      Regardless, here it is:

      [youtube PgDQQ4npbu8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgDQQ4npbu8 youtube]

      • $kaycog

        I think it's a great video, and, yes, the sound of that engine is lovely! Thanks for pronouncing Rapide. I always thought of it as Rapiddy. Thanks for sharing!

      • pj134

        You know, I could send you a level for your next video if you send me the keys to something in the northeast…

        • Our next video will be a bit more professional thanks to some help from friends in LA (well, our next Aston Martin video that is)…

          • pj134

            It's got like three bubbles. I could UPS it. I'm not picky, just the keys to a veloster turbo or an aventador. Either would be suitable payment.

            • dukeisduke

              Keep trying!

      • The quality is perfect. I really want a vantage though v12. Sick care though.

  • That… was awesome.

    Also, I've always enjoyed this clip, especially when Mason leaves at the end:

    [youtube f7jsauspMmU#7m28s http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7jsauspMmU#7m28s youtube]

    • Nick Mason is probably my favourite motoring personality. His books are terrific, too. Into The Red had an accompanying CD of engine sounds. Well worth hunting down.

      I forgot to add; excellent review, Jeff. You lucky bastard.

      • Thanks…

        *cough* Virage next week *cough*

        • pj134

          Rust and I will patiently await plane tickets to that he can bring his English wit and criticism of one of his nation's products.

          I will bring my level for your camera.

          • I want to jump from a GoPro to a 7D with a suction mount…

            • pj134

              I was going to reply to that in a certain way but it made me feel dirty typing it…

  • Fittingly, one of the first occasions that Top Gear used licensed music in one of its features was in 1993:

    [youtube C11sS5gk8EY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C11sS5gk8EY youtube]

    Vantage.

    Welcome to the Machine. Indeed.

  • I want to have sex with that car. I would leave my wife and find a state that allowed human-machine weddings. Or at least domestic partnerships.

    • pj134

      This is exactly how I feel about it.

  • navelboxaren

    How much do the doors weigh if they need a gas strut to keep them open? 🙂 Nice car, but i would still rather have the Quattroporte even though it's probably the worse car 😉

    Also i need a turntable. Anyone have a rega P3 for sale? Prefarably cheap 😉 Don't have The Wall on CD, just two vinyls. One black, one green. Or eight vinyls to be precise, each LP consists of four records IIRC…

    • Ah crap, I forgot to include the Quattroporte! Maybe that says more about the Maserati though…

      • navelboxaren

        That's probably understandable as it is getting a bit long in the tooth compared the the competing sedans.. IMO still the best looking of the bunch though. I was going to say pretty much all of Gandinis designs have aged well, but then i realized he didn't design the latest one. Oh well. Anyway, now i have an excuse to post this. [youtube GutBppcwev0 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GutBppcwev0 youtube]

    • craigsu

      I believe the gas struts are to assist in opening the doors slightly up (swan doors, as Jeff referred to them) rather than straight out. The reason? Simple, really. If you're going to spend that much money on a car you don't want your valet driver scraping your doors on a curb.

      • topdeadcentre

        Plus such displays are necessary for the display of conspicuous consumption, and increase the Veblen value of the car.

  • mnm4ever

    Someday when I hit the lotto, or win some huge lawsuit payout, I will have the money to buy myself a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, along with several other classic cars I have always wanted. Then I will be buying this car for my wife to drive, and I will tell her this is the only car I could find that is a sexy as she is. Thats how I will get away with buying all those other cars for myself… 🙂

  • dukeisduke

    Excellent, Jeff. I also enjoyed the Top Gear UK Panamera/Rapide/Quattoporte comparo from a couple of seasons back, with the boys racing through a business park, then trying to act as chauffeurs for parties to a country wedding, all trying to get their passengers to the wedding on time. Classic.

  • Van_Sarockin

    I think it needs to be compared to a Lagonda to be properly appreciated. It's better looking than the Panamera (which looks better in person and on the road), but it's easily the worst version of this design language. Some day a designer will figure out how to properly incorporate those ped impact standards.

  • SSurfer321

    I…..errr….. Christmas came early. Thank you Jeff.

    Hopefully you found some mountain roads to test it on as the freeway looks to be a bit of a bore, when you aren't opening it up to listen to it. Not that I am in the market for an Aston at the moment but how does it feel as a drivers car?

  • Eggwich James Dio

    Sure, she's purty, but wow what a price. Not saying it isn't worth it, cuz I really have no idea. But if I was in the market for a sedan I had to look flossy in and transport passengers, I'd get an M5. And then I'd use the other 120 grand to buy thirty other cars.