The new four-seat frontier

 
Ryan Borroff
SHOULD a high performance sports car be practical and should practicality even be a consideration in terms of its design? What if the car is an Aston Martin? Good grief: has the world gone mad?

Well it seems not, because these days when 50 is the new 40, a four-seat supercar can well be all the rage. In fact, how to squeeze four adults and their luggage into a supercar without skimping on its performance is utterly on trend at the moment. Maserati and Porsche both now produce four-seaters, and there will be a future Lamborghini and even a Lotus too if all goes to plan, though none are – or will be – as seductive as the Aston Martin Rapide.

The Rapide is almost certainly the most beautiful Aston Martin of all time, which seems incongruous with the fact that it is also the the most practical. The Rapide has a long, low and graceful appearance which miraculously divulges nothing of the car’s weight or height. Even its sporting stance suggests a two-door coupe. Despite its bullet shape and desirable curves, it seats four people, the first Aston Martin to do so in a very long time and certainly in a package as tidy as this one.

From the driver’s seat it’s recognisably Aston Martin but with even more elegance thrown in. Inside, the cabin is all soft, luxurious leathers and cold-to-the-touch metal switches. So much so that it’s a bit of a conundrum as to whether it’s a sports car or a limousine (it’s both). Quite how chief designer Marek Reichman (see Q&A) managed to squeeze enough height out of such a low car is nothing short of a marvel. Sure, it requires some dexterity to get in, but once there the back seats of the Rapide are reward enough. Beautiful to look at, the rear clamshell seats fold in half at the touch of a button, which means that in theory you could transport large objects with both seats folded down (I suspect nobody has). More importantly, they are comfortable, afford a view of the road ahead – thanks to the svelte form of the race-like front seats – and really do seat the fully-grown.

LIKE NONE OTHER ON THE MARKET
Lovely is not a word I use too often in these pages, but the rear seats in the Rapide are a lovely place to be. Especially considering that thanks to that leather-wrapped central tunnel which runs through the car, rear seat passengers have access to climate controls and a multimedia system, the screens for which are beautifully sewn into the headrests of the front seats. It’s the first time I’ve been in an Aston Martin and found I was happy not to drive it.

On the road, progress is certainly quick, thanks to the Rapide’s six-litre 470bhp V12, which can do its 0-60mph sprint in just 5.1 seconds. On the motorway in particular, the Rapide is very comfortable and is remarkably quiet and refined – at speed, the glass in the side windows pushes further up into the window seal making things even quieter. I also found myself paying real attention to the car’s Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system in all of its 15-speaker glory.

Switching into the sport setting pumps adrenaline through the dampers, throttle and gear settings. Here the paddle shifters come into their own and the drive becomes much more epic, particularly if you are fortunate enough to fly past some mountain views. And for this car, and for the experience of driving it, a trip to Scotland or the Alps would really be worth making a detour from the commute home.

It really is like no other car on the market. The Aston Martin Rapide answers a question that has long weighed heavy on the hearts of men: how do you have your motoring cake and eat it, when you know you have to have four seats? The answer is here. Take your fill.

THE FACTS:
ASTON MARTIN RAPIDE

PRICE: £144,950
0-60MPH: 5.1 secs
TOP SPEED: 188 mph
CO2 G/KM: 355g/km
MPG COMBINED: 19.0 mpg

THE VERDICT:
DESIGN
PERFORMANCE
PRACTICALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY