Aston Martin Rapide

It might not look like it, or sound like it, but the new Aston Martin Rapide could be a classy five-door family hatchback

Will I fit in the back? There is no bigger question than this for Aston Martin's new Rapide. It can have the greatest performance delivered with the most spine-tingling sounds, it can meld svelte looks with stupendous dynamic abilities – but if the rear seats are uninhabitable then the whole enterprise will have been pointless. You might as well have a DB9 instead.

Back in 2006, I drove, and sat in the back of, the concept car that led to today's Rapide. Sat? Cowered, more like, with my knees under my chin and my shoulders crushed. The rear seats' backrests were vertical, the roofline ran where my head needed to be, and the rear passenger doors were at least a foot thick thanks to the divergence of the concept Rapide's lower body and its glazed section. If the designers can make this a usable four-seater, I thought, they will next be creating wine from water.

The wine in our Valencia tapas bar the night before my drive in the "real" Rapide may or may not have been the product of such a miracle, but my ride to the bar in the back of a new Rapide was enough. Were I female and wrapped in clothes terminating above the knee, my exit would have been indecorous. My feet had trouble finding a relaxing resting place, too. Otherwise, it works. Aston Martin design chief Marek Reichmann, over 6ft tall, says he fits in easily here, but then he would hardly say otherwise.

What, then, is the secret of the extra space? First, the roofline has been raised by two inches. Second, the "glasshouse" is a little wider at the rear, so the doors are less thick and rear occupants have room to move. You might expect claustrophobia in here, but the way the front seats' backrests taper makes it easy for those in the back to see what is happening ahead.

A hefty central armrest and storage box separates the rear seats. Leather T-shaped straps on the centre pillars help ingress and egress; concealed magnets in the pillars to stop the straps swinging when not in use. The top sections of the rear backrests fold forward and flat to extend the high floor of the boot, beneath which the fuel tank straddles the central chassis like a saddle. The bulkhead between boot and passenger space, held in place by more magnets, folds down out of the way if needed. There is a rear tailgate rather than a bootlid so, prosaic as it sounds, the Rapide is a five-door family hatchback.

All the more remarkable, then, that it still looks like an Aston Martin grand tourer. For, in essence, the Rapide is an extended DB9 with a restyled nose (an extra grille below the main one) and tail (number plate now set in the bumper) plus further modifications to suit. These include bigger brakes, stronger suspension joints, and a higher-geared steering rack to bring back the speed of response that the lengthened wheelbase took away.

Time to move from the back seat to the front. As I open the driver's door I observe what Aston describes as the "window choreography". All four doors are frameless, and front and rear window glasses meet in the middle. This means they drop a little when you pull the handle, to release them from the seals, and also jink sideways to release them from each other.

Now I'm in a cabin which, here in the front, is much like a DB9's apart from a new electric parking brake and windscreen pillars thickened to the extent that they badly impede vision. US roof-crush tests are to blame. Press the D (for Drive) button – all Rapides are six-speed automatics – and we're off. The 5.9-litre, 477bhp, V12 engine sounds as magnificent as ever, cultured when ambling and aurally fiery when roused. It needs to be revved to give its best, but that is a pleasure in itself. A Sport button sharpens the accelerator response and the gearshift's actions, including manual control via a pair of paddles with automatic throttle-blips to smooth the downshifts, and it suits the Rapide so well there's little reason to drive it any other way.

Not so the Sport setting for the adaptive dampers. In the Aston Martin DBS, this practically locks the suspension solid. That doesn't happen in the Rapide, but short of a smooth racetrack there's no terrain where Sport makes things better. Left to normality, the suspension's as taut as it needs to be and as supple as it should be.

Thus set, in fact, the Rapide turns out to have the most fluent ride, the most natural handling, and the most progressive-feeling steering of all current Aston Martins. Thick pillars apart, it's a joy to drive. And now the whole family can share the pleasure, for a mere £139,950.

The Rivals

Jaguar XFR: £62,055

Under half the price, more power and lower CO2 from supercharged V8, wonderful cabin and a great driving experience. Just not as exotic as a Rapide.

Maserati Quattroporte GTS: £91,810.

Rear passengers have proper space here, and this fastest QP does looks and luxury in a very Italian way. Needs to be driven hard to give its best.

Porsche Panamera Turbo: £95,298.

V8 uses twin turbos; rear space is cosy but greater than Rapide's. Has 4WD, is a technological showcase, but slightly soulless and no beauty.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam