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
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
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

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Advisor - Automotive Parts

    £16400 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading online E-commerce ...

    Recruitment Genius: Automotive Parts Manager

    £27300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a leading...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Customer Service Advisor

    £22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading boiler ...

    Recruitment Genius: International Customer Service Administrators

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea