Set to make its world premiere at the North American International Auto Show, the four-door Rapide lays the foundation for the rejuvenated British carmaker to take on upmarket sedans like the Maserati Quattroporte and the coming Porsche Panamera.

Rapide is closely related to the DB9 in looks and mechanical makeup, with its real value lying in its full-size rear doors, four-seat layout and generous trunk. These features give the car a versatility and practicality above any of Aston’s existing models, while imparting visual excitement, interior craftsmanship and the core sporting values of its coupe siblings.

Aston’s recent financial strength during Bez’s reign affords the company a chance to renew its once-proud heritage of building a sporting four-door. It will do so with an elegant 6.0-liter, 480-hp V12-powered sedan that hearkens back to some of Aston Martin’s most significant models, including the 1961 DB4-based Lagonda Rapide from which the concept is clearly inspired and named.

The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive Rapide is crucial in increas- ing Aston’s future worldwide sales without the costly investment that comes with development of new models. Flexible manufacturing techniques allow Aston to build its three current models—the V8 Vantage, DB9 and Vanquish—from the same basic structure.

“The Rapide is adding value to the DB9,” says Bez. “It’s a performance car for every occasion.”

At 196.8 inches in overall length, the Rapide is 11.8 inches longer than the DB9, but at 4277 pounds, it is only 308 pounds heavier than the car upon which it is based. (This puts it just two inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter than the Quattroporte.) Under the new car is a versatile aluminum platform named VH (vertical/horizontal).

Crucial among the priorities laid out by Bez during development was styling. “The proportions must be perfect,” he says. “If we couldn’t achieve this, then we wouldn’t have made the car.”

Power for the Rapide hails from a revised DB9 V12 engine that pushes out 36 hp more than its two-door sibling. Drive is channeled to the rear wheels via a six-speed ZF automatic gearbox. To offset the four-door’s added weight, Aston gives the Rapide unique gear ratios and a lower final drive that results in performance on par with DB9. That means 0 to 60 mph in about 4.6 seconds, a standing quarter-mile in less than 13 seconds and top speed around 186 mph.

It’s a practical Aston with the heart of a LeMans runner, and it’s apparently coming to showrooms with a price around $250,000.

Mike Husleag
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