Sunday, February 14, 2010
It's been nearly 20 years since Aston Martin has had a four-sedan in the stable. Now the firm best known for fleet-footed sports cars and a James Bond coupe takes on Rolls Royce, Bentley and Porsche with a handsome sedan. Meet the Rapide.
The Rapide is an offshoot of the DB9 and shares many parts with the coupe. It's been stretched 11.4 inches to accommodate the additional doors and larger, rear bucket seats. Its fluid exterior—probably the best-looking four-door in the market—incorporates pressed aluminum, steel and composite materials. If the front end looks like a DB9, that's because the Rapide's hood and front doors and much of the front structure came straight off the DB. Under the skin, aluminum extrusions are bonded together to form the chassis, just like the rest of the Aston lineup. Notably, the new four-door gains only about 330 pounds over the coupé, for a total curb weight of 4300 pounds.
Under the Rapide's bulging and subtly vented hood resides a DB9-sourced, 6.0-liter V12 powerplant that produces 470 hp at 6000 rpm and 443 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm. The mill meets a Touchtronic 2 six-speed automatic gearbox with shift-by-wire controls. A carbon-fiber driveshaft and aluminum torque tube send the power rearward. The engine and gearbox are mounted close to the firewall, which is one reason why the Rapide has a 51/49 front/rear weight distribution. The suspension's adaptive damping system uses two valves to adjust stiffness to one of five settings, based on road conditions and driver input.
Though not the first street car to incorporate brake discs with aluminum hubs (known as “hats" in the racing community) and steel rotors (the Audi R8 earns that distinction), the Rapide is the first Aston Martin to incorporate the feature. The main benefit, other than lighter overall vehicle weight, is reduced unsprung mass—about 20 percent less than steel-only rotors. The six and four-piston Brembo calipers use hydraulic brake assist, and the Rapide's 20-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in meaty Bridgestone Potenza S001s, 245-millimeter-wide tires in front, 275 out back.