Aston Martin Rapide Shadow edition: A smooth operator
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A sleek and refined four-door coupe
Four-door coupes are a contentious proposition, but Aston Martin has refined the Rapide Shadow edition into a sleek, almost mouthwatering, motoring vision to behold.
Of course it helps that under the bonnet sits a V12 engine generating 630Nm of torque that can propel this large luxury sports car from zero to 100km/h in just 4.2 seconds.
The claimed top speed is 327 km/h, but Driven was unable to verify this during several hours with the latest edition of the Rapide, in Melbourne recently.
We were in Melbourne for a sneak preview of another Aston Martin model, about which we can say nothing until later this month.
However a drive in the latest version of the Rapide was on offer, with a lengthy and winding drive roughly following the route of the Yarra River, into some of Melbourne’s outer and wealthier suburbs.
It is possible to get into the Rapide without losing your dignity, although some of us struggle to get out of it without embarassment. However this is a small price to pay for the joy of being seen driving the Rapide.It draws envious looks, even in parts of Melbourne where supercars are almost commonplace.
Aston Martin’s marketing describes the Rapide S somewhat imodestly as ‘the world’s most beautiful four-door sports car’ and it is difficult to argue with the claim. Perhaps its most obvious competitor, the Porsche Panamera, with a new model just launched now looks good. But Aston Martin has refined the Rapide since its introduction in 2010, and it is now a stunner.
At more than 5000mm in length, the Rapide it is long car. It is also low and sleek, and its current shape, it is finally a worthy sibbling to the more traditional Aston Martin sports cars.
The Rapide was named after the Lagonda Rapide, a luxury saloon produced by Lagonda, a company that was absorbed into Aston Martin. It is based on the DB9, and shares the same platform.
While it was initially built in Austria, production was moved to the United Kingdom in 2012, after sales did not meet production targets.
There was market resistance to the whole concept of a four-door sports car, but Aston Martin has persisted, and the Shadow edition is the latest version of the model.
Over the years, the model has been revised and improved, and a new eight-speed automatic transmission was introduced in 2015.
However the Rapide S is now powered by the AM29 V12 engine, which provides more than 18 per cent more power than the first-generation Rapide engine.
The eight-speed transmission, which occupies a huge tunnel through the centre of the cabin, provides almost imperceptible gear changes as the immense power is harnessed and the Rapide speeds off from standstill.
Certainly on board the Rapide, it feels like the car is delivering rapid and smooth acceleration. Aston Martin says the eight
gears can shift in just 130 milliseconds.
The gears are engaged by pressing buttons in the centre of the dashboard, something that takes time to get used to. However the gearbox works incredibly quickly and smoothly once you remember where the buttons are. Later Aston Martins are adopting more conventional gear shift arrangements.
The car delivers an exceptionally comfortable ride, although the ride is firm when sports mode is engaged.
Inside the Rapide, the look and feel is luxurious, with comfortable leather seating and high-quality materials throughout the cabin.
Because of the sharp shape of the Rapide, those seeking a conventional limousine should look elsewhere. It is low-slung and sleek.
Inside there are four virtual pods, with the generous seats taking up virtually every centimetre of space between the door and the transmission tunnel.
However, over almost three hours, our rear-seat passenger found the ride comfortable, even though the route involved tight corners tackled at speed.
The sensation of the V12 accelerating from the traffic lights is great, while the Rapide has such a low centre of gravity that it corners with ease.
The steering is direct with plenty of feel, and there are no problems transferring the immense power onto the ground.
Aston Martin says its latest version of the Rapide, the Shadow, combines sensatinal sports car performance and supreme refinement in one compelling form.
After spending almost three hours in the car, it is difficult to argue with that assessment.