While Bentley has been purring along smoothly gathering up honors as the most popular status symbol on wheels, a number of other carmakers have been trying to loosen Bentley’s stranglehold on the upper end of the market by introducing their own pricey sedans. So far, nobody has made a serious dent in their fenders, but the arrival of Aston Martin’s much-buzzed-about Rapide is likely to become one of Bentley’s biggest headaches. It’s the carmaker’s first four-door since William Towns’ historic wedge-shaped Aston Martin Lagonda hit the road, and possibly the best-looking sedan in the automotive world. Director of design Marek Reichman, who led the team that came up with the beauty, says, “Like a racehorse standing still, you can see its power and elegance. The car’s purity makes it look right from every angle.” What blows us away is that this low-slung, sleekly curvaceous two-ton hunk of metal riding on big 20-inch wheels can carry your whole family but still looks like a racy sports car.

The exquisitely appointed interior, wrapped in buttery leather and rich wood, is entered through easy-access swan-wing doors and actually seats four fully grown adults in sinful comfort. The high, flirty rear end incorporates a one-piece hatchback and the cabin is an open line of sight from the dashboard to the rear hatch door. The luggage space is large enough for a few valises and a couple pairs of golf clubs, but fold-down rear seats make the compartment spacious enough to carry a piece of furniture (a fine antique family heirloom, of course), which also makes the Rapide the classiest moving van on the road—as well as the fastest.

The Rapide’s hand-built 6.0-liter V-12 engine roars out 470 horsepower and a top estimated speed of 188 miles per hour, which should give the kiddies a giggle, as should the zero to 60 mph sprint in 5.1 seconds. In a bow to the ever-expanding American client list, the six-speed Touchtronic automatic transmission is finally standard, but there are lots of lovely options to choose among if you wish to personalize your car. Just say bye-bye to the base $200K price tag because nothing about Aston Martin is cheap. If, like us, you are less than enchanted by standard exterior color ranges, for a mere $3,785 you may color-match any sample you choose, and for an additional $4,545 have the leather dyed to match. Want mahogany, bamboo, tamo ash or piano-black-lacquer fascia trim? Add $750. Heated front seats are standard, but air-cooling them will set you back $1,595, and a rear-seat entertainment system runs to $3,395. At the very least, opt for the $295 personalized sill plates. If you can afford to drive this lust-inducing machine, you deserve to have your name on it. Drooling sessions can be arranged at The Collection, Ken Gorin’s tony Coral Gables car-dealership-as-automotive- oasis.

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