The chassis is as good as ever and revisions from the original Rapide have been relatively small as there wasn’t much wrong with it to start with. Although Aston has introduced a new Track setting to the adjustable dampers I elect to stay in the mid-point Sport as the stiffest setting feels skittish and fidgety over the constant imperfection in the road. I suspect the Track mode will work well on our much smoother Middle Eastern tarmac.
Despite the weight of the V12 the car never feels front-heavy, with a neutral chassis balance and a surprising willingness to change direction that contradicts its not insignificant 1990kg kerb weight. The optional carbon-ceramic brakes cope well with the punishing and offer pretty good pedal feel as well. While it copes admirably with B-roads, the Rapide feels most at home on fast, flowing roads which is just as well as I am now on a brand new stretch of mountain motorway that blends constant high-speed bends with by numerous tunnels. I mention the tunnels because with them comes that time-honoured tradition of slowing down with open windows and accelerating through the gears to hear the V12’s music amplified. Childish, I know, yet so much fun.
Speaking of the V12, it’s only on these open roads where I am finally able to unleash all of its performance. It initially feels a bit lacking compared to similarly powerful rivals – we’ve got used to the combination of forced induction and ultra-quick gearboxes that bigger, richer manufacturers have switched to. As the Aston has neither, the gearbox feels relatively leisurely and the engine needs to be revved to deliver. The V12 pulls cleanly and smoothly at low revs, but its past 4000rpm that it really starts to come on song, with a growing induction noise fading into the fruitier harmonics made by the exhaust. By 5000rpm it’s well into its stride and making the sort of noises that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and once the needle gets past 6000rpm it feels properly quick.
The fact that Aston has felt the need to replace the original Rapide with the S just three years after it arrived on the scene is unusual. The fact that they are selling it for the same price as the original car ($236,200) is even more curious. A lot of people don’t get the concept of the Rapide, but it’s one that I find quite appealing. It’s a four door that has compromised ultimate practicality in the name of design and driving pleasure, and in my books that’s not a bad thing.
If you really think about it, the Aston Martin Rapide S doesn’t have anyone else in its segment. Its perceived direct competitors are all proper four-door saloons with all the compromises in styling and performance that come with that layout. It’s that nicheness that makes the Rapide S such a cool car, but it’s also why it’s unlikely to ever be a big seller.
|Aston Martin Rapide S|
|Engine:||V12 / 5935cc|
|Power:||550bhp @ 6750rpm|
|Torque:||457lb ft @ 5500rpm|
|Transmission:||Rear mid-mounted ‘Touchtronic 2’ six-speed transmission / electronic shift-by-wire control system / alloy torque tube with carbon fibre prop shaft / limited-slip differential|
|Front suspension:||Independent double wishbone / anti-dive geometry / coil springs / anti-roll bar / monotube adaptive dampers|
|Rear suspension:||Independent double wishbones / anti-squat / anti-lift geometry / dual-rate coil springs / anti-roll bar / monotube adaptive dampers|
|Brakes:||Dual cast discs 398 mm (front) / six-piston monobloc calipers / dual cast discs 360 mm (rear) / four-piston monobloc calipers / EBD / ABS / EBA|
|Wheels:||20in front and rear|
|Tyres:||245/40 ZR20 (front) / 295/35Z R20 (rear) / Bridgestone S0001|