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Aston Martin Rapide S review (2013 onwards)
Significant horsepower boost and some subtle restyling brings the Rapide on leaps and bounds.
We like - Comfortable interior, great ride, charismatic engine, surprising space.
We don't like - Dashboard dates back ten years, still lacks that final killer punch of acceleration, automatic transmission lacks necessary response in Sport mode.
The Rapide was a bold venture when it was launched three years ago - a four-door Aston Martin. But it made sense too, tapping into the seam of Aston Martin owners who had grown out of two-door, two-seat sports cars as well as those who simply wanted a bigger roomier Aston to add to their stable of luxury cars.
Aston hates this well-worn criticism
As with every Aston Martin over the past decade, the Rapide makes uses of the company's smart chassis engineering that can be adapted to suit every model in the range. This allows economies of scale and at the same time makes a wide range of cars possible without extraordinary expense.
Except - and Aston Martin hates this well-worn criticism - all the cars looks rather similar. Too similar to my mind. Then there's the fact this Rapide uses a dashboard that's readily identifiable as the same one that was launched in the DB9 over ten years ago, and has subsequently appeared in every car from Gaydon until the latest Vanquish appeared. It is not what I expect in a £150k car.
But Aston Martin argues that the exterior design signature is a more fundamental part of its DNA, as it has every right to. The latest Rapide S has a new look to the nose with a much bigger, more imposing grill, and a revised profile to the boot lid. It does, indeed, look rather good.
The really key new ingredient, however, is the V12 engine. Although exactly the same capacity, 5935cc, it has been completely re-engineered, with a new block, variable valve timing and a host of other developments.
The changes were driven by a need to comply with US emission regulations, and as a result the engine is both cleaner and more economical. But we reckon buyers will be more interested in the power.
It's increased by 81hp to 558hp. That's massive muscle even in these power-saturated days, and it makes a big difference to the way this two-tonne sports car performs.
The engine is more responsive low down and once you hit 3,500rpm there's a newfound energy right the way through to the 6,750rpm engine redline. It's accompanied by that great Aston Martin metallic exhaust noise that is amplified when the essential Sports setting is selected.
The six-speed transmission is fully automatic if that's what you want, but it's readily overridden by the paddle shifts behind the steering wheel. The paddles are needed more than you might expect when you are on a mission, because the transmission in automatic, even in Sport mode, simply doesn't kick down quickly enough.
That's not to say you can't have a lot of fun in the Rapide S, but it's weight ultimately means that occasionally it lacks the killer punch you might anticipate.
Ride and handling
There are certainly few comprises when it comes to the ride and handing. With the suspension set in the regular mode the ride comfort is superb, handling almost every road irregularity with aplomb.
Revel in the high levels of grip and feedback
The suspension adapts to your driving style as well as providing the opportunity to manually select a stiffer condition. It certainly does what you'd expect, though it's rarely necessary to stray beyond the most comfortable setting.
Aston Martin's CEO, Dr Ulrich Betz, wants you and me to think of the Rapide S as a sports car that just happens to have four doors. Perhaps, but it's hard to get away from the fact that this is a sizeable car.
Best to revel in the high levels of grip and steering feedback which make the Rapide S impressive whether the road is gently curving or full of tight second gear hairpins.
Familiar dashboard notwithstanding, the interior of the Rapide is a lovely place to travel. The seats are firm but well shaped and comfortable. Those in the back are a little upright but the level of space, with just a little compromise from those in front, makes this car where four adults can genuinely travel.
There is room for their luggage too, the dual-level boot proving relatively spacious. The rear seats even fold forward to extend the area. Just like a family hatchback.
There are some new trim options for this 2013 Rapide, including dual-tone leather, graphite and piano black. The optional B&O sound system may be expensive but the sound quality is superb.
Economy and safety
It was never going to be easy to make a V12 engine clean and green, and by any standards the 5.9-litre in the Aston Martin Rapide S is at the bad end of the scale.
Yet economy is improved - the average is now rated at 19.9mpg, and CO2 emissions are reduced by seven per cent to 332g/km.
The MSN Cars verdict
The latest Aston Martin Rapide S is a lovely car, undeniably delightful to look at and, apart from the reservation about the fascia, charming inside. It's good to drive too, notably more responsive than before.
Yet you need to firmly buy into Aston Martin values for the Rapide to be your car of choice. There are other options from Maserati, Mercedes and Porsche that are equally enticing and notably cheaper.
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