Time for some sacrilege: the Rapide S is what an Aston Martin should be.
|552bhp @ 6750rpm
|465lb-ft @ 5500rpm
During my time with crankandpiston.com, I’ve been privileged to test several different models from the British marque, and while all got the hairs on the back of my neck going, none of them quite felt – to me at least – like a true Aston Martin. The V12 Vantage S offered Aston grunt and manoeuvrability in spades, and yet overly aggressive styling meant one couldn’t call it ‘elegant’. By comparison, my first ever Aston test drive was a DB9, the epitome of Aston Martin elegance. It could shift too with the sophistication befitting the badge, and yet a slightly out-dated and too constricted cabin meant even the DB9 didn’t nab its five stars (despite my over-excitement at the time).
But with the Rapide S, we have what I consider the perfect balance: an elegant design combined V12 grunt and manoeuvrability plus the practicalities of everyday usability. To me, the four-door Rapide S is what an Aston Martin should be. And before you start clammering for my resignation, let me explain.
Let’s start with the looks. crankandpiston.com photographer Abdulla falls a little in love when he sees our silver test model for the first time, and I can’t say I blame him. Unlike the oft-lambasted Porsche Panamera, the lines and angles of the DB9 have been stretched and transferred so seamlessly onto its four-door counterpart that the Rapide boasts an entirely different kind of elegance, particularly when considering those elongated headlights, subtle bonnet grooves and athletic front bumper. Couple this with some gorgeously understated rear lights and 20-inch wheels, and it’s difficult to find an angle from which the Rapide doesn’t look incredible (my favourite being front three-quarters). I will admit that the vents in the bonnet are perhaps an unnecessarily aggressive addition to the elegance, and the grooves down the flanks can trick your eyes into thinking there’s a dent in both rear doors, but these are mere quibbles. The Rapide S is gorgeous. Full stop.
It’s an elegance that’s continued in the cabin. Like both the Vantage and DB9, the Rapide boasts a swooping roofline for that all-important sporty character, leaving occupants with just enough room. What makes the big difference though is the 2+2 seating (unless you’re willing to part with your legs below the kneecaps, you can’t really call the Rapide a four-seater). From the driver’s seat, the greater sense of space – as opposed to the Vantage’s ‘cocooning’ sensation adds a much needed element of style: yes, you can hit 100kph in 4.4 seconds in the S, but that doesn’t mean you have to crease your jacket as you do so.
Again though, there are some niggles. The air conditioning blows cold air as powerfully as an asthmatic, and the cheap feel of the indicator and windscreen stalks are almost absurd given the $250K asking price. The infotainment system though is the key offender, feeling a little out-dated given the age of touchscreen technology we find ourselves in. Then there’s the radio: try all you want, but final choice of station through Bang & Olufsen speakers that rise from the dashboard belongs to the car.
Like I say though, niggles one and all, particularly when the magnificent glass key fob is slotted into the dashboard and the 6.0-litre V12 is fired into life. After a couple of surprisingly high pitch turnovers, the unit fires into life with such a basey roar that pedestrians and fellow motorists turn to look what the commotion is. It’s a truly phenomenal sound, teasing the 552bhp and 465lb ft or torque about to be put to work
Under acceleration – I’ll get to the launch in a minute – this basey note continues to rise until you hit the 4500rpm mark, whereupon a whole new roar, much deeper and louder than its predecessor, ricochets through the cabin. You will, I can assure you, leave your gear changes through the six-speed ‘Touchtronic 2’ gearbox as late as you can just for that sound, and to hell with the fuel economy. There’s no notable lag in acceleration either, the V12 unit pulling right to the redline with hardly any intrusion or hint of the 1990kg kerb weight being carted around, even under braking. The stoppers in particular are mightily effective, dropping you from the triple digits to standstill with a surprising amount of feel and progressive braking through the pedal.
Eventually you’ll want to let your hair down a bit – this is an Aston V12 we’re talking about – and light up the tyres. Off the line, the pull from all 5935cc is quite extraordinary, and would border on aggressive had the company – once again – not found a perfect balance between elegance and oomph. Rest assured, this is no muscle car in elegant jewellery. This is an Aston Martin, and despite the inclusion of two extra doors, can still handle the corners. Thanks to a low centre of gravity (intercut with a low driving position), there’s a magnificent sense of balance as you flick flack through left and right handers, hefty steering encouraging you to put in as much effort as you can through the corners, almost daring you to see what potential lies beneath. For a car that measures nearly 17 feet long, it’s incredibly well composed with no bodyroll evident and understeer in only the most ambitious of turn ins. Slide into the Rapide S hotseat and you wouldn’t feel you were driving ‘just’ a four-seater. You’ll feel you’re driving Aston.
If you’re feeling particularly lairy, Sport and suspension buttons on the centre console can be pressed to stiffen that silky ride and speed the gear changes up. For my (hypothetical) money though, neither is necessary. There’s no real tangible difference in ride quality/stiffness, and any additional lairness from the V12 feels a bit over the top for a luxury four-door commuter. This is no track weapon, as the similarly-engined V12 Vantage S proves.
I’ve no doubt many of you are reading this thinking me to have gone completely potty. And that’s fine: even I was surprised by my verdict. For me though, an Aston Martin is a product of beauty, elegance and sophistication that boasts a hidden hoon-ability: something that can be driven to the plushest of restaurants, receive improving nods from fellow motorists (and looks of seething envy from the neighbours), and be your secret weapon when picking up a date. A car that to be driven vigorously rather than aggressively.
For me, an Aston Martin should not be brash or unnecessarily showy. It should be a Rapide S.
- Technical specifications available on page 2
Enjoy our Aston Martin Rapide S test drive?
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|V12 / 5935cc
|552bhp @ 6750rpm
|465lb-ft @ 5500rpm
|Touchtronic 2 six-speed transmission/ rear-wheel drive
|Independent double wishbones / anti-dive geometry / coil springs / anti-roll bar / monotube adaptive dampers
|Independent double wishbones / anti-squat and anti-lift geometry / coil springs / anti-roll bar / monotube adaptive dampers
|Dual cast discs / 398mm diameter with six-piston monobloc calipers (front) / 360mm diameter with four-piston monobloc calipers (rear)
|8.5J x 20-inch silver painted alloy (front) / 11J x 20-inch silver painted alloy (rear)
|245/35 ZR20 (front) / 295/30 ZR20 (rear)