Testdrive It may not be the perfect set of wheels. But finding something that comes close to this supercar experience is a tough proposition. Shapur Kotwal drives the Aston Martin Rapide on Mumbai roads

T he flurry of activity in the morning could be attributed to the fact that the early morning walkers in Mumbai were distracted by the startling beauty of the Rapide; Aston Martin's new lovechild that seats four. The Aston Martin Rapide is a front-engined supercar that has been redesigned so as to incorporate an additional pair of doors at the rear.

An interesting point to note is the fact that the rear seats are positioned a tad bit higher than the driver's seat, giving the rear passengers a commanding view of the driver's binnacles, which is a rarity in supercars. The seats, however, do look to be severely short on space, making this less than ideal family car. The snug-fitting roof and high central console make things slightly tighter around you. The first thing that strikes you is an overriding sense of being in an exotic milieu, built to the highest of standards and supplemented by one of the most sumptuous interiors. Things like even the slender, felt-lined sun visors are put together with the attention to detail only seen on a hand-stitched English suit and the fit, finish and material quality are so good that the first few minutes in the cabin are spent marvelling at the kind of ambience Aston has created. The electronic handbrake lever is crafted from heavy cast iron and the auto-box buttons found on the central console work flawlessly. Aston Martin has decided to tune this engine keeping in mind the soothing personality that the Rapide was intended to don. The numbers stand at 470bhp at 6000rpm. The engine response is just fabulous and the manner in which it pulls away right from a paltry 3000rpm is stunning. The Rapide never seems to run out of steam.

Squeeze the accelerator pedal and the Rapide envelops you in a burst of speed that seems surreal, all the while pinning your head to the seat. The engine note takes an aural nirvana past 3500rpm, and the four-door pulls with the kind of agility that only a smooth V12 can manage. As expected, Aston Martin has kitted this car with more than adequate performance, refinement and even pulling power.

The steering is refreshingly direct and it scores big on feel. It's not heavy at low speeds but corner the car and the steering weights up really well. And with adjustable dampers and a ‘Sport' setting, you can either choose to cruise or run the car in a harder and more responsive setting, where the suspension, gearbox and engine are primed for performance.

Ride quality is perfect for Indian conditions, and this allows you to utilise a lot more of the potential of this car. Yes, some sharp edges result in a loud thump but the suspension does not crash through potholes, which is great. Part of this is down to the bonded aluminium architecture, which has been massively stiffened to compensate for the additional length. And from behind the wheel, this car feels like a proper sports GT. Turn-in is tack-sharp, body control is exceptional and the Rapide feels perfectly balanced in corners, with tons of grip available. One of the dampeners on a terrific product is Aston Martin's pricing for the Rapide. Discouragingly expensive at Rs. 2.3crore and not a traditional four-seater, the Rapide is actually the Aston Martin for non-conformists. It may not be the ideal supercar or the perfect set of wheels, but if you want to share your exclusive supercar experience with three more people, then finding something that comes close will be a tough proposition.

Squeeze the accelerator pedal and the Rapide envelops you in a burst of speed that seems surreal, all the while pinning your head to the seat