Amidst its newly developing product line, Aston Martin’s Rapide S represents a slowly dying era of the motoring world. With that optimistic outlook in mind, crankandpiston takes Aston’s luxury sport saloon for one last spin
|Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Basic price|
|V12, 5935cc||552bhp @ 6650rpm||630Nm (465lb ft) @ 5500rpm||4.4secs||327kph||1990kg(277bhp/ton)||$224,600|
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|Is Aston's V12 the best-sounding engine in the world?|
|Cabin badly in need of a refresh|
I could wrap up my review of the 2017 Rapide S right here: if you have the money, get one. It’s perfect.
Actually, wait, no, it’s not perfect. If anything, it’s horribly outdated. The new DB11 after all, with its evolved design language and an exercise in technological prowess, represents the future for Aston Martin, and with that in mind, I can only view the Rapide as probably the end of an era of form vs. function.
Everyone is going turbo, and V12s are almost a thing of the past. The generation we’re testing here is an updated 2016 model, but has already been around for six years now, and a lot of the features we consider indispensable today are missing. You’d expect a $225K ‘luxury sports saloon’ for instance to have keyless entry / keyless start as standard, or the infotainment screen to be bigger than 8in. And touchscreen. I would even venture that were you to put screens for the rear passengers, these should be bigger than 6in LCDs. But no. Even the rotary dial for the ventilated seats – oh the humanity – is bizarrely naff to the touch.
Then there’s the rear. For some reason a ‘four-seater’ Aston has only three cup holders, sun visors the size of breadsticks, and a transmission tunnel that splits the rear seats like the Great Wall of China. Throw in next to no headroom and even less legroom for that fully claustrophobic seating.
…yeah, this doesn’t exactly READ like perfection…
Well, yes, compared with the newer, more technologically advanced DB11, and particularly its worthy – and newer – segment rivals, the Rapide S falls short in many regards. Take the Porsche Panamera Turbo S, with which you get a similarly spec-ed (yet somehow faster) twin-turbo V8 with four actual seats in a cabin more suited for Captain Kirk than Joe Driver. Or the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, supposedly the ‘Thrill of Driving’ with another twin-turbo V8, plus a computer that analyzes suspension conditions, throttle input, gear status and speed 4,000 times a second. Again, the six-year old Rapide is left behind.
In the end though, none of that matters. Yes, the BMW and Porsche are faster than the Aston. Lighter, more nimble through the corners, safer, and more modern. And duller. And uglier.
And that is where the Rapide S brings it’s A-game. Aston’s first gen luxury saloon is about feel, sound and smell. It’s about style, simplicity and THAT driving experience. It’s about a 6-litre V12 engine that produces 552bhp and 465lb ft of torque, and a soundtrack so utterly gorgeous it’s best served in a tunnel with the pretty woeful radio off and the windows down. It is about switching gears with a now outdated eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox to feel that lurch of V12 acceleration. It is about the essence of driving and the raw control of it through your shoulders.
Dynamically, the close to two-ton behemoth stands atop 20in rims with 295/35 rubber glued to them. At this juncture, I should mention fuel consumption but what would be the point? It is a naturally aspirated 6-litre V12 that revs all the way up to 7,500rpm moving a 1,990kg device. Do the math. It is such tonnage that requires 400mm cast-iron discs with six-piston calipers at the front, 360mm/four-piston at the rear, to handle detention. There’s a surprising amount of response too through the very short travel pedal, but expect wear though over time.
Okay, but what about the drive itself?
Oh, the Rapide S does drive.. Bigly. Soft and quick steering over firm and responsive suspension lets you know what’s going on with every point of contact with the road. A 49:51 weight distribution split with a very low centre of gravity keeps you firmly grounded at all times. There is one button to disconnect the traction control and one that selects ‘Sport’ mode, which admittedly stiffens the steering and tightens throttle response, but nothing more. And that’s it. It’s a bare-bones attitude that wins me over completely and totally. It’s less technically advanced than what Aston has proven itself capable with the DB11, and yet it just feels…perfect.
And as I say, it probably marks the end of an era. It’s the end of the time of ingenuity, a period before we would just pour teraflops of data analysis into the mix and solve every problem with massive amounts of computing power. Everything that is wrong with the Rapide is exactly what makes it right. And the only way to understand this is to drive it. If you have the $224,600, get it. Before it’s too late.
Enjoy our Aston Martin Rapide S test drive?
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- Technical specifications available on page 2