A decade is a long time for Aston Martin. Nowadays progress is almost non-stop, with plans afoot for hypercars, the Lagonda electric luxury program and considerable range expansion of the existing models. But when the Rapide arrived back in the spring of 2010, it was a huge moment for the brand.
It was the first four-door Aston since the original Lagonda (correct us if we're wrong), it was the first mainstream new model launch for the brand since the DBS of 2007 (again correct us if we're wrong) and it entered Aston into a previously unexplored sector. So yeah, a pretty big deal.
There was no escaping the Rapide's DB9 roots, in both its look and powertrain, which drew a bit of criticism at the time given the similarities that were already there with the Vantage, DBS and DB9. The sports car architecture also meant that the Rapide wasn't the most capacious of saloons, those more conventional four-doors from BMW and Mercedes offering more space for rear-seat passengers for less money.
Those verdicts all came in the harsh light of new group tests, though; assessment criteria arguably becomes a little less stringent once cars are a few years old. Or rather, we can all be a little softer on cars once they're secondhand and we covet one at the right money. So a car that was once a four-door with maybe not quite enough room can now be seen as a DB9 with a little more space, right? Furthermore, now the Aston design language has evolved, there's less of an issue with old models looking a bit too similar - and lots of cars looking similarly lovely isn't exactly the worst problem in the world. If secondhand use is a little more sparing than it would have been for the Rapide brand new, then the sub-par interior will be less of a concern, too.
Instead it means the focus can be on all the fantastic bits: that V12 that came to define a whole generation of Astons, responsive, energetic and so much more interesting than the turbocharged alternatives. The way the big Aston drives, too; don't forget, this was once a vehicle described by Autocar as having better refinement and steering than a Porsche Panamera, as well as handling "very close to a full-blown sporting GT". From a car five metres long. Again, its characteristics were similar to those found in other Astons, but who's complaining when it's this good?
And especially so when it's £35k. We've become used to cheap VH-era Astons, various DB9s and Vantages at temptingly low prices, but the Rapide - thanks to its later introduction, higher price and smaller numbers - has taken longer to drop down here. Look what you're getting for the £35k, too: a sensible (if predictable) black-on-black colour scheme, a mileage that averages out at 6k a year, an Aston service history and - while rather less tangible - the cool-factor that comes with driving around in a four-door Aston. That doesn't come with an M5 or E63.
While it would be nice to have the later Rapide S instead (chiefly because of the improved gearbox), those aren't available for less than £60k. Indeed, for those seduced by the Rapide's charms, it's hard to think of any suitable alternatives; there are plentiful M5s and E63s available for the money, newer and more capable but far more obvious. To a lesser extent that applies to the Jaguar XJR as well. A Porsche Panamera at £35k will actually be of the same age and not much less used than the Aston, as well as being nowhere near as nice to look at, and an equivalently priced Maserati Quattroporte will be newer - though arguably lacking the Rapide's desirability.
Of course, it almost goes without saying that maintaining this sort of six-figure list price desirability, super GT dynamism and prodigious performance isn't an affordable endeavour, but what an experience it promises to be. The next four-door Aston, as this was to the Lagonda, is going to be very, very different indeed; for those that like the concept - and it'd very easy to understand why - then there looks like no better time.
SPECIFICATION - ASTON MARTIN RAPIDE
Engine: 5,935cc, V12
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 470@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 443@5,000rpm
First registered: 2010
Recorded mileage: 62,000
Price new: £139,950
Yours for: £35,900