AM Four-Play

Power, Beauty, Soul.

Aston Martin devotees — 007 included — know that these defining characteristics drive them to their chosen vehicle, and you’ll know quickly that the marque’s new four-seater satisfies these conditions admirably. The company’s first four-door sports car in its august 87-year history, the aptly named Rapide accommodates four adults while embodying the thoroughbred legacy of its stable mates and forebears.

Built on the DB9 platform — for long-time owner David Brown and the generation of his signature cars — but elongated slightly to 197.6 inches for the rear doors, the new Rapide will inspire new Aston Martin drivers and provoke memories, perhaps, for long-time fans. The rare DB 2/4, 1953–57, was a 2+2 model with two doors, and the even rarer Lagonda Rapide was produced in very limited numbers from 1961–66. Brown had also acquired the fine Lagonda car company at the same time as his AM buy.

Gaydon, Warwickshire-based Aston Martin revealed a prototype of the Rapide at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show and debuted the production vehicle September 2009 at the 63rd Frankfurt Motor Show. Today, this afternoon perhaps, a short ride to Penske Automotive’s Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Bugatti & Aston Martin of Scottsdale, 7171 E. Chauncey Lane in north Phoenix, can bring you to within four–six months of owning this breakthrough grand tourer. Test it in Phoenix/Scottsdale; it’s passed all tests at Nürburgring.

But get there as quick as an Odd Job karate chop: “Only 2,000 units have been allocated worldwide — probably just 6–700 for the U.S. market,” notes Dave Johnson, sales consultant for the dealership. Led by General Manager Bob Gabardy and Sales Managers Brad Roosma and Beli Merdovic, the team of AM specialists also includes Jeff Decious, Burkhard Klosener and Anthony Petruso. The MSRP is $201,300, although this is a highly bespoke vehicle, so the list of supra-luxe options is short, Dave explains.

“Rapide is the culmination of the Aston Martin range of sports cars, a car that seals the revival of a truly admired marque,” says Chief Executive Dr. Ulrich Bez. “With Rapide, the entire family can enjoy their Aston Martin together in unison, in an invigorating yet comfortable environment, sitting low, with plenty of visibility from every seat and with new levels of comfort, refinement and entertainment.”

First, that legendary Aston Martin Power — the hold-your-breath variety that helps extract good secret agents from roadway dangers, human and otherwise. For sure, as Dr. Bez notes, this is a family-friendly car, including eight airbags and child seats —but it’s unmistakably Aston Martin, bursting with testosterone and throatiness. After all, this is the same engine platform that has performed superbly against Porsche and Ferrari at LeMans — a reaffirmation on the highway of the marque’s eight-decade track heritage.

Hand-built in Aston Martin’s Cologne, Germany power plant factory, the 6.0-litre 10.9:1- compression V12 engine produces 470 bhp at 6000 rpm and 443 lb. ft. peak torque at 5000 rpm. The all-alloy quad overhead-cam 48-valve front mid-mounted engine will deliver you to 60 miles an hour from a stop in just 5.0 seconds — and won’t stop, if you dare, until about 188 mph. The stainless steel exhaust system, catalyzed to meet all emissions, speaks in a devilish Jekyll/Hyde voice: At normal operating speeds, it’s civilized and politely British, but call for performance, and it answers with Churchillian “bring-it-on” eloquence.

A tuned six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic transmission connects this power to the rear wheels through a carbon-fiber shaft to a limited-slip differential with a final drive ratio of 3.46:1 — balancing performance, top speed, economy and practicality as the car at highway speeds can continue 300 miles between stops. Because of this placement, the weight balance is 49:51, so the car is effortlessly agile, despite sinuous roads or emergency situations.

Aston Martin true, it lives exciting multiple lives: The car will change gears automatically, maximizing shift points, or, in Touchtronic mode, you may shift using the steering column-mounted magnesium paddles.

Select Sport mode with a console button for more fun: Shifts are sharper, aggressively matching the engine speed on downshifts and, in full automatic mode, mandating higher speed upshifts. This setting also automatically firms the Bilstein shocks, inspiring you to experience the capabilities of the aptly named Rapide. The three-stage Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system also allows you to select tire slippage according to conditions and driving expectations.

To keep the Rapide on your selected course, however challenging, the independent double wishbone suspension incorporates anti-dive geometry, coil springs, anti-roll bar and monotube adaptive shocks. Similarly, rear independent double wishbones include anti-squat and anti-lift geometry, coil springs, anti-roll bar and monotube adaptive dampers. The Adaptive Damping System adjusts the shocks to road and driving conditions.

The Servotronic speed-sensitive power-assisted steering directs 20-inch alloy wheels, shod with Bridgestone Potenzas front and rear. Front dual-cast brake discs have six piston calipers, the rear dual-cast brake discs four piston calipers. These are 15–20 percent lighter than previous AM systems.

The complex system for the Rapide includes Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Traction Control, Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA), Positive Torque Control (PTC), and Electronic Park Brake (EPB). Even 007, not a jealous man, would stop and look.

Beauty? Consider the Rapide’s sinuous contours, distinctive engineering, craftsmanship.

“As with all Aston Martins, this is a completely hand-built work of art, with 220 man hours per car,” Dave explains. Each vehicle is assembled in the dedicated facility at Graz, Austria, which Aston Martin invites you to visit during your purchasing experience.

The Rapide’s four swan-wing doors open up at 12 degrees, avoiding encounters with raised walkways and curbs — as in some of Arizona’s older towns — while facilitating access to the front and rear seats. So, too, the opening angle of the doors is a wide 70 degrees for easier entry and exits.

Rapide’s rear environment provides clear views to the front and sides by means of pillarless side glass, involving the passengers in the overall driving experience. “I was able sit in the back seat for a test drive recently, and it was outstanding — even when I wasn’t behind the wheel,” Dave says.

The two rear hand-trimmed leather seats feature individually controlled face-level heating and air conditioning. The tailgate accesses the luggage compartment, and the rear seats fold to create generous loading space, large enough for skis and luggage. You may also order, as an option, a custom luggage set.

Based on the DB series Vertical/Horizontal paradigm from aerospace design, the body is extruded bonded aluminum, with an aluminum/magnesium alloy and composite body. The result: torsional rigidity, minimizing shake and vibration.

On the doors are extruded aluminum impact beams. The roof, wings, or fenders, are composite; the doors pressed aluminum; and the hood, tailgate and rear panels steel. From the front, the Rapide curvaceously tapers from an arching roofline across the hood to the bi-xenon headlights and tube sidelights down to a double grill which distinctly announces your arrival. Signature strakes, embedding LED indicators, accentuate the sides along each upper door panel from the front fenders to the rear doors.

Dashboard and controls are easily accessible by means of push buttons and rotational dials. You select your wood trim — Mahogany, Piano Black, Double Apex Alloy —and thousands of interior and exterior colors. As with the rear seats, the fronts featured double-edge stitched full-grain leather craftsmanship. All four are heated and you can order cooled seats — recommended for the desert.

If you’re not listening to Aston Martin music, standard is a bespoke 1000-watt bespoke sound system by Danish audio leader, Bang & Olufsen, with 15 speakers that deliver a moving theater experience.

One of those few options Dave Johnson suggests: a rear entertainment system embedded in the seat backs. With it, those safely and comfortably seated in the back can enjoy the real-world thrill of Rapide or play virtual-reality games or, perhaps, watch a movie starring Aston Martin (with Sean Connery and others): Goldfinger, perhaps, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace?