Generation Gap: Aston Martin Lagonda vs. Rapide

Aston Martin Lagonda and Rapide

Lately it seems like the hippest new segment into which sportscar makers should be attmepting to break is that of the sedan. Porsche has done it with the Panamera, Lamborghini is considering doing so with a production version of the Estoque, and of course Aston Martin has the hyper-sexy new Rapide. But that seductively stretched DB9 derivative is hardly that iconic British marque’s first dance at the four-door ball. And the most memorable (for reasons of the good and bad varieties) of Aston’s prior saloons is the radical Lagonda of the 1970s and ‘80s. But just how many areas, if any, has the Rapide improved over its decidedly polarizing daddy? Read on and find out.

Performance: The Lagonda used Aston Martin’s 5.3L quad-cam V8 backed by a Chrysler-supplied 3-speed automatic transmission. The most powerful European iterations were rated at 300hp, while U.S. models made do with just 240hp. It reached 60 mph from a standstill in 8.8 seconds, and top speed was in the neighborhood of 140 mph. The Rapide features a 6.0L (technically 5.9L) V12 coupled teamed with a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters. It’s rated at 470hp, sprints to 60 in 5 seconds flat and maxes out at 184 mph.

Advantage: Rapide

Aston Martin Lagonda in the mountains

Styling: The Lagonda’s calling card was, without question, its looks. Penned by William Towns in the span of a single month, the Lagonda looked much like a partially-squashed Volvo, proudly flaunting its lack of curves save for the wheel openings. Later iterations also featured pop-up headlights, and the interior featured in-house developed digital instrumentation which, in classic British automotive electrical fashion, was functional considerably less often than it wasn’t, and early cars featured a monospoke steering wheel. By contrast, the Rapide utilizes the sleek, curvacious Ian Callum-developed styling language of other current Astons. And as mentioned before, it looks like a stretched DB9, though the two share not a single exterior panel. Inside is thoroughly modern and posh as well, though it’s a bit cozy thanks to the low roofline.

Advantage: Draw (The Rapide is easier on most people’s eyes, but the Lagonda lets you stretch out inside.)

Pedigree: The Lagonda debuted in 1976, just as Aston Martin was emerging from receivership (again). A mere 645 examples left the late, lamented Newport Pagnell, England factory over the model’s 12 year run. The Rapide began production in May of this year at Magna Steyr‘s facility in…Graz, Austria. (Commence fist shaking now.) Aston Martin is looking to build 2,000 Rapides per year.

Advantage: Lagonda

Aston Martin Rapide side view

Features: In addition to the aforementioned fussy electronic instrumentation, the Lagonda was also available with a vinyl roof, and the company’s then-in-house tuner Tickford offered upgraded models with color TVs front and rear, as well as a handful of stretched-wheelbase versions. (Coachbuilder Roos Engineering even built a few station wagons; tres bitchin’.) The Rapide includes a Bang & Olufsen audio system, folding rear seats to make the hatchback-accessible trunk even roomier, HID headlights with LED turn signals, and available dual 6.5” rear LCD monitors with a six DVD changer. Naturally, the Rapide also packs a host of modern safety features, including aluminum and iron brake rotors and ISOFIX child seat anchors in back.

Advantage: Rapide

The Aston Martin Lagonda was truly a car of its time, and its wild looks and low production numbers mean you could probably cruise Rodeo Drive in one every day for a whole year and not see another one, plus there would probably be quite a few people asking you questions about your car. However, unless you want to be on a first name basis with your local British car mechanic and buying gas twice a week, you’d probably be much happier with a Rapide. It’s faster, more comfortable and, unless you’re one of the world’s top-ranked origami artists, more handsome. That’s progress for you.