Sunday, June 27, 2010

Auto review: Aston Martin Rapide - Los Angeles Times

Aston Martin makes time stand still with the dazzling Rapide, its first sedan in more than 20 years.

By David Undercoffler Los Angeles Times June 09, 2010

Myung J. Chun, Los Angeles Times

Albert Einstein once described his theory of relativity by saying: "When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour."

Now comes automotive proof. There is arguably no car on the road today more an illustration of time being relative than the 2011 Aston Martin Rapide. Get anywhere near Aston Martin's first four-door offering in more than 20 years, and time — and your heart rate — speeds up.

Forget pretty, this car is achingly gorgeous. In designing the Rapide, the company wisely extrapolated on its DB9 coupe so the sedan carries the Aston Martin aesthetic to the nth degree. Its long, low, wide stance belies the fact that it's a sedan. The rear doors blend into the car's hindquarters, making the Rapide not so much a four-door coupe but a coupe with extra doors and style.

There isn't an angle at which the car doesn't look like the chariot of a deity.

The Rapide looks like Aston Martin's DB9 because that's largely what it's based on. The cars share numerous components including a 6.0-liter V-12 engine, good for 470 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque; a rear-mounted "Touchtronic 2" six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters; and various body panels and suspension components.

Aston Martin's philosophy in releasing the Rapide is similar to that of other companies trying to straddle the four-door coupe/sedan line, including Mercedes-Benz and its CLS63 AMG, Maserati's Quattroporte and, most notably, Porsche's Panamera. That is: Build a car that looks and handles like a sports car, yet has the added practicality of a larger trunk and rear seats that you don't have to be a Cirque du Soleil alumnus to access.

As Porsche demonstrated with its Panamera, it's difficult to translate design language from a coupe to a sedan. Aston Martin has made it look easy.

It has also made driving the Rapide easy.

Throw the Rapide, with its near 50-50 weight balance for neutral handling and massively stiff chassis, around some curves and it's easy to forget it has four doors. The car's dynamics are balanced throughout all maneuvers and the more-than-400-pound weight gain over the DB9 is but a footnote to the Rapide's performance. Around town, the V-12 engine and Touchtronic transmission are remarkably composed, and only hint at the car's true capabilities.

Auto review: Aston Martin Rapide - Los Angeles Times

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