More pace, no more space. Aston’s Rapide is now a Rapide S, boosted by 80bhp in a bid to attract more buyers. Words Mike Duff. Photography Stuart Collins.
Let’s be polite and call the Aston Martin Rapide an acquired taste. One that relatively few potential customers have evinced much of an appetite for. There’s lots to like about the four-door Aston, but it battles its rivals with notable faults, such as cramped rear seats. And if some of those potential customers expect to spend any time being chauffeured, that’s an issue.
Aston has decided to stir up a bit more interest with the new and more powerful Rapide S. No more cabin space but there’s a welcome boost to the Rapide’s already plentiful performance. The highlight is the new ‘AM11’ version of Aston’s familiar 6.0-litre V12, producing 550bhp (an 80bhp gain on the old car) and 457lb ft of torque. The gains come via a host of internal revisions, including lightweight hollow camshafts, and a sizeable increase in the V12’s rev ceiling: peak power now arrives at 6750rpm, not 6000rpm. There’s still only one gearbox option, a six-speed automatic with manual override.
Other than spec and design tweaks, the other significant change comes to the Rapide’s suspension, with a new, ultra-firm ‘Track’ mode for the adjustable dampers. Despite its title, this turned out to be pretty much perfect on our test route – a combination of Alpine passes and French D-roads, all super-smooth. The stiffened dampers retain enough compliance to take the edge off bumps, but they also control the body (and the Rapide’s considerable mass) remarkably well. There are very few other two-tonne, rear-driven cars that can be threaded down a challenging road with such impressive composure.
The V12 engine remains the star of the show. Compared to turbocharged rivals it lacks a little in low-down torque – it needs 3000rpm properly to wake it up. But thereafter it’s a remarkable powerplant, pulling with perfect linearity and a wonderfully full-chested soundtrack that, you suspect, could probably reanimate the recently deceased. It feels noticeably quicker than the previous Rapide (Aston claims a 4.9sec 0-62mph time – 0.4sec faster than before); indeed, it’s quicker than the DB9 Coupé, which makes do with a 507bhp version of the engine.
Although welcome, none of these revisions broaden the Rapide’s appeal among those put off by its lack of rear accommodation. But if you are looking for a proper four-door coupé, and can accept the cramped cabin, then the Rapide S is a handsome, exclusive and devastatingly rapid contender. And as Aston hasn’t increased its price over that of the old, less powerful car – £149,950 to you, sir – it qualifies as something of a bargain too.
Top and above It couldn’t be anything other than an Aston, even with four doors; tweaks bring more power, but you still can’t read the FT in the back seats.