Engine: 6.0-liter V12 with 552 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 14 MPG city, 22 highway, 17 combined
Price: $207,820 including both gas-guzzler and delivery fees
Chances are you’re familiar with the duck test. This little saying goes as follows: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck then it’s probably a duck. Likewise if a car has four doors, comes with a back seat and offers a separate storage compartment then it’s probably a sedan … except when it isn’t.
In Name Only
Boutique British automaker Aston Martin is best known for its sporting machines, models like the Vantage, DB9 and Vanquish. These vehicles offer exotic looks, supercar performance and all the exclusivity of owning a condo on Mars, but the company also offers a four-door vehicle that caters to customers wanting something a little more practical.
And the qualifier there is “little,” because despite having a quartet of access portals, rear buckets and a trunk the Rapide S fails pretty miserably as a sedan. Simply put, its aft-most seats are incredibly cramped.
Steerage is dominated by an enormous tunnel that separates its duet of perches. Presumably this covers portions of the car’s drivetrain, which must be larger than the triple-expansion steam engines of the Titanic. Also, the seats themselves are awkwardly shaped and extremely narrow. Adding insult to injury, head and legroom is severely lacking. Overall the Rapide S is a sedan in name only.
Beyond its compromised seating arrangement this car’s trunk is also tiny, clocking in at less than eight cubic feet. We’ve seen fanny packs that can hold more than that! For a little context Chevrolet’s Spark city car, their smallest vehicle has more than 11 cubes behind its back bench; fold ‘er down and the Chevy’s capacity grows to more than 31.
How is this possible? We don’t have a good answer other than the Aston Martin’s horses are more numerous and therefore take up extra space, but here’s something else to think about. The Spark’s wheelbase is less than 94 inches. By comparison the Rapide S’s hub-to-hub span is nearly 118. Also, the British car’s overall length is about 53 inches greater – that’s nearly four-and-a-half feet of additional vehicle! Those horses must be Clydesdales.
Lap of Luxury
Elsewhere inside there’s an abundance of stitched leather and other quality materials. The Rapide S is a pretty convincing ultra-luxury vehicle and fortunately its front seats are much more hospitable than its rear accommodations; I had no real complaints about comfort while reclining in first class.
Regrettably, the car and its owner are both let down by a few unfortunate oversights. Like other Aston Martins the Rapide S is saddled with a deplorable infotainment system. It’s woefully out of date and difficult to decipher. Also the center stack is dominated by an odd arrangement of too-small buttons, weirdly oversized knobs and an ultra-low-resolution display. With the exception of its push-button transmission and nifty ignition this portion of the car looks like it was fished out of a supplier company’s discount bin full of leftover technology from 1998. Where’s the MiniDisc player?
In addition to these disappointments the Rapide S’s instrument cluster also features a couple postage stamp-sized displays that have incredibly low resolution. Beyond all of this the turn-signal and wiper stalks feel brittle and flimsy, totally out of place in a machine costing as much as this one does. The sun visors are also useless. They’re way too small for their intended purpose and they don’t swivel to the side. If you drive a Rapide S make sure to store a few hats in the trunk so the sun’s carcinogenic rays can be kept in check.
But none of this prevents people from gawking as you drive by. This car garnered more looks than an alien riding the New York City subway at rush hour. Come to think of it, that might not make New Yorkers look twice. You get the idea…
Its body work is stunning, with a lengthy hood, wind-swept mirrors and deeply sculpted rear fenders; she’s a supermodel all right. Even California’s cynical drivers and bystanders took notice of this machine, more so than the bright blue V12 Vantage S I drove on the same day.
Power to Spare
Of course the Rapide S is a lot more muscular, stylish and entertaining than Chevy’s A-segment Spark – to compare these two polar opposites once more; it’s also nearly 16 times more expensive. Somewhat justifying its astronomical $207,820 base price (including both gas-guzzler and delivery fees) is its thundering 12-cylinder engine. With 6.0-liters’ worth of firepower this car packs a punch, 552 ponies to be precise; torque clocks in at 465 lb-ft. And those figures are not even the half of it.
The sounds this powerplant produces are absolutely sinister; they practically make you feel like an RAF fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain. The warbling melody this engine belts out brings to mind a Supermarine Spitfire high above Dover’s white cliffs. Jerry bombers at 4-o’clock!
Now before you leave a terse message in the comments section below I realize this aircraft’s V12 was designed and built by another prestigious English automaker; they shall go unnamed in this review but you’re savvy enough to Google “Merlin” so you can figure the rest out for yourself.
Of course maybe you’re not as nostalgic as I am and that’s OK; not everyone gives a damn about history or the Second World War and if that’s the case Aston Martin has you covered, too. The big news with the Rapid S for 2015 is the addition of a fresh gearbox. The car gains an advanced Touchtronic III eight-speed automatic transaxle that was co-developed with ZF. It’s installed at the rear of the car for better weight distribution, the first time this particular unit has been mounted in such a fashion.
This transmission replaces a six-ratio unit and is supposedly three percent lighter and a better fit in the car. Aston Martin claims the eight-speed can change ratios in just 130 milliseconds and I’d be inclined to believe that measure; it’s really fast, especially in sport mode.
Of course the advantages of this cutting-edge gearbox are not lost on you, the AutoGuide.com audience. It provides dramatically improved performance and reduced fuel consumption. The Rapide S can hit 60 miles an hour in just 4.2 seconds, down half a second from last year’s model. Top speed is 203 MPH, which is insane for a car of this size.
When it comes to consumption the Rapide S stickers at 14 miles per gallon in urban driving and 22 on the highway. Combined it should average around 17 MPG, which is quite impressive given its prodigious power and the fact that stabbing its accelerator pedal is all but irresistible. Engines are best when the cylinders can be counted by the dozen, aren’t they?
How’s it Drive?
Yes, indeed because they’re smooth, responsive and generally sound amazing. The Rapide S’s V12 is the undisputed star of this show; it makes up for some of the abovementioned shortcomings, rewarding the driver and passengers with a broad river of torque and one of the best internal-combustion soundtracks found on a road-legal car.
Naturally this machine is fast, though not surprisingly it doesn’t feel quite a fleet or connected as some of Aston Martin’s smaller products, but what do you expect? For what it is the Rapide S drives extremely well.
Body control is exemplary, though just like its acceleration the Rapide S is a little duller than its siblings, but not by much. Overall this car is a willing dance partner, even on mountain roads that twist like an overcooked linguini noodle.
Out on the highway this car is unexpectedly refined. It’s whisper quiet, reasonably comfortable (if you’re in one of the front seats) and the ride is not as firm as you might think. However there is one curious thing that happens if you like to drive alfresco. Wind buffeting can be severe, even with more than one piece of glass rolled down. To prevent this annoying side effect make sure at least two windows are mostly retracted.
Sound, speed and style are the Aston Martin Rapide S’s main attractions. It screams like a banshee, looks richer than a blue-blood’s family fortune and runs like the wind, though unfortunately it’s a pretty compromised luxury car and a downright lousy sedan. It’s expensive and bodacious, things that undoubtedly appeal to some customers, though if you’re in the market for a car like this there are better choices.
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