Road test: Aston Martin Rapide

The Rapide is probably closest to Aston Martin's idea of a practical, sensible car with four-doors and four-seats.

But don't worry, despite the extra doors and seats it still produces 470bhp from its 5.9-litre V12, flys to 60mph in 5.2 seconds and can carry a driver and three passengers to its 183mph top speed.

Porsche proved with the cheaper Panamera, that putting 911 styling cues on a four-door hatchback does not a good-looking car make. Thankfully, this is not true of the Rapide, which almost looks like a stretched DB9.

Sadly, the Rapide's curvy shape is also its downfall, as legroom is only just good enough for rear passengers on short journeys. On the plus side, my son's baby seat fitted just fine and they look and feel like bucket seats.

Our test car was fitted with an optional £2,495 rear seat entertainment package, which while pricey, could help rear passengers take their minds off the lack of rear legroom by watching a DVD.

The rear seats also fold via a push-button solonoid to increase the bootspace; the extra space is useful, as despite the Rapide's boot is only adequate. Still, I can't see anyone wanting to damage the leather and stitching in a Rapide by carrying big items.

In the front, the Rapide feels like a normal DB9, with an excellent driving position and plenty of space. The car on which the Rapide is based might be seven years old, but the dashboard still has to be one of the most attractive around. The mix of wood, leather and metal trim feels both expensive and luxurious.

Sadly, there are problems though. Whilst I love the instruments and the way they arc against each other, the markings are really hard to read and I spent all of my time looking at the digital display instead.

Then there's the controls for the stereo and sat-nav, which are difficult to understand and are situated too far down the dashboard, out of the driver's line of sight.

Finally, when you've fathomed the controls for the sat-nav and the screen pops out the top of the dashboard, you wish it hadn't. It's the same old system that was rubbish in any Volvo and that the Swedish manufacturer is thankfully phasing out.

So whilst these details are irritating and disappointing, I wouldn't let them put me off, as an Aston Martin is all about the driving experience and thankfully the Rapide excels here.

The 5.9-litre V12 sounds fantastic from the moment you slot the emotion control unit (or key) into its slot and the engine fires. Yes, the Panamera is probably more refined, but I thought that the Rapide's extra noise made me feel more connected with the car and urged me to drive it harder. Which could be both a good and bad thing.

The Rapide is also double-glazed and despite plenty of V12 cackle, the interior remains a refined place where you can make the most out of the 1000W Bang and Olufsen sound system, that's iPod friendly.

The engine is well-mated to the six-speed automatic gearbox, which is smooth and works well with the more refined character of the Rapide. The paddles are a joy to hold in 'Touchtronic' mode, even though it's a bit slow to make changes.

Despite the 20-inch alloy wheels, overall the ride remains composed and grippy. The Rapide is surprisingly agile too, despite the extra length. However, step on the throttle too hard and it's very easy to get the Rapide's tail to wag, which can be a little disconcerting when pulling out of junctions. Thankfully, the brakes are strong too.

Select Sport mode and the Rapide's character changes, everything stiffens up and there's a complete lack of bodyroll.

The Rapide's been going through some tough times recently, with sales down and production moving back from Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria to the UK. The 18mpg and Co2 emissions of 370g/km are largely irrelevant for people who can afford to buy this car. However, if I was in the market for a luxury car, capable of carrying kids or adults for short trips or weekends away, then the £150,000 Aston Martin Rapide is a hell of a way to arrive.

Check out more pictures of the Rapide below:

Aston Martin Rapide
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Road test: Aston Martin Rapide

From the front.

The attractive dashboard.

The attractive, but hard to read instruments.

The less-than impressive sat-nav.

The stylish, but overcomplicated centre console.

One of the speakers for the 1000w Bang and Olufsen sound system.

The rear compartment

Rapide headphones, part of the £2,400 Rear Entertainment Package.

Rear seats folded.

The average bootspace.

From the side.

Side vents.

The 20-inch alloy wheels.

The charismatic 5.0-litre V12 engine.

The attractive headlights, with LED indicators.

Front design.

The Rapide's rear styling

Clear rear light clusters

From the back.

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