Four-Door European Saloons: Aston Martin Rapide vs. Porsche Panamera
It seems there has been a wave of sickness that has swept over Europe. It’s not the disease-ridden kind of sickness, but it’s still rather interesting. Where as the United States has been working on making their supercars faster, the Europeans have been hard at work making their high performance cars more practical.
There is nothing wrong with practicality, but it’s certainly not the new speed. Power, beauty, and performance are three things that matter more to us than practicality. Sure the Lamborghini Gallardo Balboni doesn’t have rear seats or all-wheel drive, but it’s still bloody fun to drive and that makes us happier than any backseat could.
Yet, for some that isn’t enough. Porsche was the first to catch the disease and it has really affected them quite badly. Worse than others in fact. Their first go at a practical vehicle was a bit too tall, long, and very out of place. Imagine Land Rover creating a sports car and you’ll get the idea here. It was called the Cayenne and it must have been a ’real’ illness that made them think it looked remotely good.
Now we have the Panamera and, sadly, the same thing has occurred, just in a smaller and easier to swallow dose. It doesn’t look great, but it does offer insane performance with room in the back for two full sized people.
Aston Martin decided to follow the German lead with the Rapide. This is their first practicality attempt in quite some time and initial impressions are very good indeed. This car looks the part, but does it drive as well as the Panamera. We’re about to find out.
Hit the jump to keep reading.
Let’s start with the new kid on the block, the Aston Martin Rapide. We all know how disease can affect people differently. The swine flu was worse for some than it was others and the same can be said of our made up practicality disease. While Porsche got their vision blurred, Aston’s got better. This car is just amazing.
More importantly though in this test, the Rapide is just about the same size as the Porsche, which is funny when you think about it. The man responsible for this machine, Dr. Ulrich Bez, used to work for Porsche and left the German company on a sour note. Perhaps this is his revenge.
The Rapide has an extra 250 millimeters of length compared to the DB9 and another 50mm in the rear overhang. At first, this was simply a long Aston with two doors, but with some input from the good doctor, it grew two new doors in the rear.
So, the Rapide you see here is a four-door sedan with Aston’s traditional ‘swan doors’, the fronts chopped down from the DB9 tree, where as the rear doors are all-new, but still offer the same elegant up and away from the curb swing.
It also has a hatchback, like the V8 Vantage, which has a massive cargo area for your road trip to Palm Beach or the French Riviera. This is the ultimate weekend car and it will never look bad parked outside of your modern penthouse or a high end restaurant.
The swinging doors and the overall length are only minuscule parts of the car’s overall beauty and, of course, the Rapide is undeniably beautiful. With four doors instead of two, the Rapide was more sensitive to the right heights and angles. Somehow though, it manages to be both butch and more elegant than the DB9. A bold statement we know, but this car is a sight to behold. If it were a painting, it would be in that huge art museum in Paris.
But don’t go thinking that this four-door car is just a big cruiser, a softy, meant for motorway travel rather than a thrash around a track. Don’t go thinking that at all because you would be very wrong.
In lieu of the car’s extra girth, the DB9’s 6.0-liter V12 is kicked up a notch from 450 horsepower to 480, so this is still one quick car. It can easily hit 60 miles per hour in the sub-five-seconds range and on to 180mph.
To help bring this piece of old England to a stop, there are now new carbon ceramic brakes that can thrust your organs forward with a massive, albeit a bit painful, stopping force.
Like most cars, the Aston has an image that it must live up to. It’s hard to think about an Aston owner without thinking of vodka martinis, beautiful women, and an undeniable charm.
Thankfully, the man we just described would look brilliant behind the wheel of the new Rapide. It has a certain something about it that makes it better than the Maserati, better than the Bentley, and better than any Ferrari. We aren’t even bothered that the six-speed automatic has an annoying hole between second and third gears.
Sitting inside the Aston you feel like a super spy. It’s basically the same as the DB9, with the same quirky ergonomics, such as the terribly placed fuel filler cap release. The backseats are there, but they are a little cramped. Yet, is this going to stop us from wanting one? Of course it won’t.
The Porsche Panamera on the other hand needs to be looked at in a different way. If we were to take the same approach as we did with Aston we would think like an orthodontist because, after all, those are the sorts of people who buy Porsches.
So, that’s clearly not going to work. We need to look at the Panamera as an engineering wonder because it sure isn’t an aesthetically pleasing machine. It’s a 911 that was given steroids and made a bit longer.
But, ignore that and look at the performance for a minute. This car is very fast and very good. It’s easy to drive fast in this car and even at super dangerous speeds, it’s stable and planted. It was about the most stable car we have driven in some time. This is thanks to the lowness, length, active aerodynamics, adaptive suspension, and the four-wheel drive system.
The Panamera is amazingly good, but not as lovable as we would have hoped. Blindingly fast and composed, but dull at ordinary speed. It’s as though the Porsche finds the normal every day commute a bit boring and, though we love track driving, the normal commute is something that you will be doing a lot of in this car, so you can see how this is a problem.
Dullness is the driver’s perspective, of course. The Panamera Turbo really is extraordinary in the way it combines comfort with 911-like performance. Not just in a straight line, but in the corners as well. It will chew up and spit out any backroad that you throw at it.
The 4.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 puts out 493 horsepower and you can feel it. The massive 516 pound-feet of torque helps this car zoom up to speed faster than the Aston. You can even load this car full of junk, like dentist equipment, and it will still beat the Rapide.
Run the car as hard as you wish and it will communicate with you. But in the real world, it’s heavy, long, wide, and not as good as the Rapide. It feels like a big car, rather than a light GT car.
If it were our money we would go for the Panamera S. Without the nose weight of front-wheel drive hardware, it’s more willing to change direction and feels more natural. It’s not a big improvement, but it does help. It has less torque than the Turbo, but you can get a manual gearbox instead of the seven-speed PDK and an excellent ESP system.
The cabin is pretty neat, with everyone getting a 911 style-racing seat and the brilliantly designed dashboard. But if those four people want to carry luggage they will be in for a real shocker, as the Panamera’s trunk is pretty pathetic.
To truly fall in love with a car it needs to have a few ingredients. Take amazing looks, a brilliant engine, and something special that can’t be described in words. The Panamera does one of these well, but in a dull way. It will never be a neck hair raising driving experience on normal roads, but it does the job. It’s function over form with the Porsche.
The choice here is quite easy. The Aston is flawed and not as fast as the Porsche, but the Panamera doesn’t look that good and it can be a bit dull to drive. The German sedan is brilliant, there is no denying that, but it doesn’t live up to its potential like we had hoped it would.
The Rapide is gorgeous and so much fun to drive under normal situations. You will turn heads, get the girl of your dreams, and own a work of art that you get to look at and sit in every single day. What’s better than that?
- Aston Martin Rapide -
- Love it - Simply put, this car is very lovable. It looks sensational, drives brilliantly, and has that badge on the front. It’s hard not to love the new Aston.
- Leave it - We guess you would choose something else if you actually wanted to use the back seats on a daily basis and the layout of the dash can be confusing. Yet, any flaw is easily overshadowed.
- Porsche Panamera -
- Love it - Like most German cars, this one is an excellent piece of engineering. The motor is great, the handling is good, and the car will most likely be reliable.
- Leave it - Dull car to drive around town and the looks aren’t the best in the world. Plus people will think you either clean teeth or look at sick patients. It doesn’t exactly have the same cool factor like the Aston does.