Back in 2005, Mercedes rolled out the chopped-roof CLS sedan and unintentionally begat a new genre of car. Now even mainstream four-doors like the Ford Fusion are guillotining headroom in the name of style, with plunging rooflines and pillbox rear windows the new design norm. But among this ever-burgeoning crowd, one car continues to stand out as the ultimate expression of the so-called four-door coupe. The roads might be clogged with sexy sedans, but none are sexier than the Aston Martin Rapide S.
The Rapide S truly looks for all the world like a Vanquish with more rear legroom. From some angles, it’s hard to tell that it even has rear doors. But grab the handle and the short rear portals swing up and out, supported by a lower strut that enables the theatrics. Inside are a pair of what look like leather-covered race shells, the only rear seats I’ve ever seen that include a standard harness hole in the seatback. Will anyone actually mount five-point harnesses in the back of a Rapide S? Probably not, but I enjoy the suggestion that they might.
Under the Rapide’s long hood is a 550-hp, 5.9-liter V12 shared with the Vanquish. Armed with significantly more horsepower than the original, 470-horse Rapide, the S will hang with many a fleet two-door, turning in mid-four-second 0-60 mph times. And while that’s definitely quick, it’s not as quick as the manic turbocharged competition from Germany and Britain. In a competitive set that includes up-optioned S-Classes and the Bentley Flying Spur, the stretched, leather-bedecked Aston is really the Lotus of the group — light, lithe and high-revving. In fact, the Rapide S weighs a full Elise less than the Flying Spur, which is more than a ton heavier. You appreciate the difference in the corners.
Besides, the Aston does its best to convince you that it’s a Porsche Panamera-slayer even if the numbers don’t bear that out. The V-12 emits a wonderful ripping yowl, unmuffled by turbochargers and amplified by an exhaust bypass valve. The aural drama is actually sort of useful, since the horsepower peak hits at 6,750 rpm, yet the tachometer is not so gauche as to include a redline. You can shift by ear using the steering wheel paddles, but if you want max acceleration it’s probably best to let the transmission shift for itself rather than guessing at the redline and banging ignominiously off the rev limiter.
But really, whether the Rapide is a second quicker or slower than some other car misses the larger point, which is: just look at it. Somehow, I think the Rapide S turned out better-looking than any other Aston, which is saying something. It’s got the element of surprise — you don’t expect a four-door to look like a Vanquish, and the long wheelbase seems to exaggerate the curves even more. Also, the cupholders are upholstered in leather.
For $222,835 — the price of the test car — you’ve got some pretty nice choices. But this is the one that embodies the four-door coupe aesthetic pushed as far as it will go. The Rapide S is not a sedan with a low roofline. It’s a sports car with two extra doors.