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Taking the back seat - First drive: Aston Martin Rapide

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Aston Martin has finally launched the Rapide, but with an extra pair of doors and some extra weight, has it lost any of its driver appeal? Robert Coucher finds out...

The new Aston Martin Rapide is gorgeous to look at, clever in execution and tremendous to drive. It is a pure Aston, but has the added benefit of two rear doors and rear seats, rendering it one of the most accomplished GT cars on the road.

The rear doors have been subtly blended into the beautiful Aston shape and, although not large, they open out of the way effectively. The rear seats are low-set sports car buckets, which are firm, but once ensconced you will find them comfortable. The rear central console is large, but it does offer face level air conditioning, and there is sufficient room in the rear of the Rapide for all but the most claustrophobic. The boot is actually a hatchback but deftly disguised, so the Rapide is surprisingly practical with ample boot space for golf clubs and luggage.

The front of the cabin is even better, with a highly tailored cockpit of leather, aluminium, wood and gleaming instruments. The crystal ‘key’ is a bit contrived, but slide it into the Engine Start loading dock and it wakes the sleeping 6-litre V12 with a mighty roar. With your foot firmly planted on the brake pedal, depress the Reverse, Neutral or Drive buttons on the centre console and flex down on the reactive throttle pedal. The Rapide glides away in automatic mode, the gears changing gently in the rear mounted gearbox. Soon you are cruising along in supreme comfort, the ride firm but compliant, although forward visibility stops at the base of the wide windscreen and the A-pillars are sizeable.

The steering is full of feel and the car is taut, obedient and placed on the road with total assurance. Find an exciting B-road, press the Sport and Dynamic buttons on the lower dash, tug the left-hand paddle shift towards you putting the auto ‘box into manual mode, with six gears to play with... Then hold on.

Draw breath and keep that right hand in action grabbing fast stabs at up shifts as the six litre V12 delves into its arsenal of 470bhp and sends the rev needle around to the 6000rpm limit with alacrity. Amid the roar of the open exhausts, the delicious rush of the seamless power, snap gearbox changes, the security of the taught chassis and unbelievable levels of grip between machine and tarmac, the Rapide feels almost indistinguishable from a full-on DB9. A sensational experience at the highest possible level of motor car development. A Grand Tourer, certainly, but the Rapide remains very much a focussed sport car. 

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