2011 Aston Martin Rapide quick drive: Brit luxury sports car for four

The Aston Martin Rapide has what its maker calls “swan wing” door front and rear. It sound so much more elegant than “gull wing” and it means that doors don’t swing horizontally like conventional doors. Rather they’re hinged at about 30 degrees. The front door, opened wide, is a lean-out-the-doorway reach from the driver’s seat but at least the door will hold itself open at almost every angle rather  than just about closed.

The rear passengers sit more closely together than do the front, which the Rapide’s designer claims is an advantage to conversation. At least it helps with claustrophobia, although we saw someone 6′ 8″ tall sit in the rear seat, but (a) he was slender, (b) the front seat was moved forward, and (c) his knees were still up in the air. Still, NBA pro’s should be able to ride in the front. It is, as Aston claims, a family sports car, at least if the boys haven’t hit that growth spurt yet.

2011 Aston Martin Rapide interior

Driver’s seat and controls for the 2011 Aston Martin Rapide

From the driver’s seat of the Aston Martin Rapide, there’s little sensation of being in a four-door car. The smallish rear window looks, combined with the wide C-pillars, like rear and rear quarter views would be with a convertible’s top raised.

But the engine is running… The Aston Martin Rapide is remarkably quiet on backstreets, but pulling out on the main road, there’s a burst of melodious exhaust as the revs rise. It’s an exhaust baffle opening, the quieter closed position needed to pass stringent EU noise laws. That’s well enough, but when the transmission shifts up, the exhaust note gets quiet again. And it repeats in the next gear. Soft, loud, soft, loud, soft… It’s annoying.

There are three ways to prevent it: A, drive so gingerly the baffles never open; B,  keep the revs up so the baffles never close. Or C, there’s a fuse if pulled will deactivate the system with the baffles open.  The cynic would suspect Aston Martin had done it on purpose.

The Aston Martin Rapide’s ride is supple and soft, not flaccid but well controlled. We didn’t get to truly toss it about but on our cloverleaf skidpad, the Rapide smoothed the broken pavement like latex and was just as sticky. Without even thinking about a sweat, the Aston Martin developed lateral g’s that few owners will attempt.

2011 Aston Martin Rapide

2011 Aston Martin Rapide

Accelerate? Jeeves, some velocity please. Thank you, Jeeves. He’s really good, that Jeeves. He brings 90 mph while most butlers are fumbling with 60 mph. Or less. And then of course there’s the sound of that V-12 at work.

We had no passengers in the back seat when we drove the Aston Martin Rapide. We’re certain that if there had been two extra Bond girls in our test Rapide–and our front seat passenger had been a Bond girl also–we’d have noticed. As it was, the Rapide acted like a coupe: two tickets to paradise, two seats, no waiting, and just under two hundred thou–$199,950. Except there are four doors, four seats.

So, Fortress of Solitude? Not with four aboard. But Superman? Well, you can wear the cape, but we think it’s a little over the top, even when driving an Aston Martin Rapide.

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