The Aston Martin Rapide S has four doors, but look beyond that for a moment; it's no exception from what Aston Martin has a longstanding reputation for: turning out some of the world's top grand-touring sports cars.
Far more faithful to sports-car athleticism than to the luxury-sedan hints it may drop, the new Rapide S—replacing the former Rapide in the Aston lineup for 2014—gets a little more performance-focused, without losing any comfort.
The Rapide made its debut about three years ago; yet it’s getting a bit of a relaunch to accommodate the new-generation ‘AM11’ V-12 engine, altogether making 550 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque. That's 80 more horsepower than before, most notably, from a new 'AM11' version of Aston's V-12, and it bumps top speed to 190 mph, with 0-60 mph in just 4.7 seconds. EPA fuel economy ratings stand at 13 mpg city, 19 highwa—about typical for this class of vehicle.
Not much changes in the Rapide's overall profile—curvaceous and classic Aston Martin—and that's great. With a larger 'full' grille, the face of the Rapide S is wider, and the lower aero work adapted to suit that. Aston has raised and recontoured the hoodline to meet EU pedestrian impact standards, while also adding a trunklid 'flip' spoiler to aid aerodynamics (top speed is 190 mph).
Those changes drop the engine about 0.75 inch lower—improving its center of mass. And three modes for the Bilstein adaptive damping system now allow a separate Track mode, along with normal and Sport modes—in addition to the Track mode (or full off) for the stability control. And a Sport mode for the powertrain allows a stronger tip in and delayed shift points, and enables an exhaust bypass valve so that the V-12 sings its song a little earlier and more audibly.
Compared to the CLS63 AMG, or the Porsche Panamera Turbo S, there’s less of an edge to the Aston’s powertrain itself, yet the handling and steering is sharper and more communicative and the car feels smaller, leaner, lighter. The Rapide S is wide—really so, at 84 inches—and that tightness may be nervous-making on narrow country lanes or when you need to park this precious beast in a standard-size parking space.
Focusing back in on the packaging: The Rapide is essentially a 2+2, but with four doors; if you plan to have the front seats positioned rearward for a taller driver, don't expect more than a child to be able to fit behind. Entry and exit through the rear doors is far from ideal, and some may need a helping hand. Although rear-seat passengers get their own center-console, and a rear entertainment system is available. The ride is on the firm side, but refinement is excellent, with road noise well damped out; and reasonably good comfort, even on jittery backroad surfaces—a surprise, given the very low-profile tires.
You’ll need to follow the rearview camera when parking—if you don’t always have valets for that sort of thing. Although you have a good view in front and to the side, rearward visibility is restricted through the narrow rear window.
Otherwise, there’s no mother lode of advanced tech features; only enough to enforce that athleticism with a sheen of sophistication. And there are plenty of 'bespoke' opportunities for he or she who orders the car to enhance that any way they want—with special materials, like a Carbon Exterior Pack, available piano black interior trim, or Duotone perforated red-and-black leather, among many, many options.
Our time with the Rapid S has so far been quite limited—with far more time clocked over a couple of drives on European mountain roads than on actual U.S. streets and highways. We plan to update our impressions as soon as we can get a longer drive Stateside. In the meantime, see our First Drive of the 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S.
- Naturally aspirated V-12 power
- Glorious engine sounds
- Excellent handling, poise
- Ride quality
- Pricier than rivals
- Thirsty next to turbo V-8s
- Ergonomically complicated