IT’S AN EACH-WAY BET, THE 2016 ASTON MARTIN RAPIDE S, IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE.
Firstly, it’s got restrained supercar looks, a 12-cylinder engine, a five-door body and adequate seating and luggage space (just) for four adults; a win-win in plenty of respects.
But secondly, its days on 'Planet Earth' may be numbered.
There is a replacement in the wings, or so we believe, but will it be as gorgeous as this, and manage to hide so deftly the 'four-door' practicality under such rakish lines? It can go wrong; make Exhibit A here the first Porsche Panamera (thankfully now being replaced).
Or maybe the replacement just won't do it for you, or isn’t suitable (or is just too expensive).
Decisions, decisions… buy now, or wait?
Vehicle Style: Premium Five-Door Sports Coupe
Price: $382,500 (plus on-roads) As Tested: $425,000 plus on-roads
Engine/trans: 411kW/630Nm 5.9 litre 12cyl petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 12.9 l/100km | Tested: 16.0 l/100km
Put simply, the 2016 Aston Martin Rapide S is Aston’s acknowledgement that not all of its owners are happy to sacrifice the convenience of back doors and seats.
You won't see a wagon anytime soon, this is about as practical as an AM gets. And this particular five-door model mixes crushing supercar performance with that practicality to arrive at something the carmaker can sell without upsetting any of its well-heeled devotees.
The Rapide is having your cake and eating it too; Aston’s beautiful lines are not entirely abandoned to accommodate the extra doors.
Of the (impressive) 91 cars sold by Aston Martin in Australia to the end of September this year, only 10 of those sales have been the Rapide S while the remainder are all two-door coupe and convertible models.
We drove the Rapide S back in 2014, but the model has since received a significant overhaul to the infotainment system and a new eight-speed automatic to replace the previous six-speed unit. The changes bumped the price upward slightly, but brought improved fuel economy as well.
So how does the Rapide S stack up in 2016?
- Standard equipment: leather trim, climate control air-conditioning front and rear, heated seats, electric seats, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, auto on/off headlights and wipers, umbrella
- Infotainment: pop-up 6.5-inch infotainment screen with joystick control, digital radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB/AUX inputs, satellite navigation, rear DVD stacker,
- Options fitted: Piano Black interior trim pack, rear seat entertainment system
The unavoidable first impression inside the Aston Martin Rapide S is ‘detail’.
As you might imagine in this segment of the market, the roof lining and carpets are just as important as any buttons presented to the driver on the dash and their associated functions.
There are four plush seats; all buckets of course and finished in Chancellor Red in this instance. While the Rapide rides close to the road, getting in and out of those seats certainly isn’t the full hamstring-stretching experience you get in other supercars.
To that end, the doors open slightly upwards in a scissor effect to maximise accessibility and shrink the Rapide’s almighty footprint just a touch.
Naturally, leather abounds with almost every touchable surface, with carbon-fibre and refined metals completing the interior look.
The detail doesn’t end with the visuals, however, as the Rapide (like most Astons) presents one of the best instrument clusters in the business.
“Pure Aston Martin”, the driver is reminded in a no-nonsense British way, as the key is inserted into its centrally-located receptacle before the engine growls into life. More on that in a moment…
For the enthusiast, the speedometer winds all the way up to 200 MPH (330km/h), and virtually the entire infotainment display screen can be devoted to an instant power and torque readout.
James Bond wannabes will love the dash-mounted tweeters (speakers), which rise elegantly from the dash and have the added benefit of significantly enhancing the audio experience. Very cool.
Also cool (and functional) is the joystick controller for the improved infotainment system, along with the touch-sensitive centre console controls which subtlety vibrate like your smartphone as the driver selects certain options.
Accommodation in the rear is somewhat tight, but passengers may not notice with the optional rear seat entertainment pack bringing individual seat-mounted screens, Aston Martin headphones and remote control usability.
Likewise, the Rapide S probably isn’t suited to a week-long holiday with four adults aboard if each likes to pack for four seasons. Pack lightly, and the boot will easily swallow a couple of small cases and overnight bags, but then the golf clubs will have to stay at home.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 411kW/630Nm 5.9 litre 12cyl petrol
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic, RWD
- Suspension: Independent double wishbones, front and rear
- Brakes: 400mm, six-piston dual-cast front, 360mm four-piston dual-cast rear
- Steering: Servotronic speed-sensitive power assisted rack and pinion
Despite having almost two-tonnes to lug around (1990kg to be exact), the Aston Martin Rapide S manages to successfully straddle the sports car / luxury car divide.
This is no finite racing car, but it’s no lumbering limousine either.
Throw it into a few corners on a winding road and the Rapide is absolutely surefooted, with push-button adjustable suspension that can be switched from comfort to pure 'sport', and responds with spearing accuracy.
Rapid, indeed, but the Rapide's nature leans more to civility; most drivers will have tyre-chirping cornering somewhere down the priority list. Why bother breaking point-to-point records when the Rapide is such a pleasant place to be?
Much of the Rapide’s appeal in fact comes from that glorious, desirable, delightful and definitive 411kW/630Nm 12-cylinder petrol engine, which just simply makes the world a better place.
From the outset, this 12-pot powerhouse isn’t afraid to tell the world that you’re on your way, as it snarls into life with a decent boot-full of revs for good measure.
It’s hard to imagine ever growing weary of the V12’s symphony, as even moderate acceleration is sure to remind you of its presence. That said, gentle acceleration during general driving and motorway cruising will keep a lid on the soundtrack if you choose. And it certainly doesn’t interfere with conversation.
Stamp on it though, and it howls, and you will find the horizon rushing at you with mind-numbing urgency.
The highway is where the Rapide is most at home, as the enormous wheelbase, V12 engine and new eight-speed automatic combine with all of the interiors comforts to encourage long, long distances.
With 90 litres of petroleum to burn from a full tank of fuel, you’ll be able to put nearly 900km on the odometer between fills on the highway - if the 9.1 l/100km extra-urban (highway) fuel figure is to be believed.
It’ll be less than that in reality, but unlike plenty of other cars in this category, you won’t be stopping at every available refuelling point.
And when you do come to a stop, the Rapide’s brake package (400mm rotors, six-piston dual-cast front, 360mm rotors and four-piston dual-cast rear) will not disappoint.
ANCAP rating: Not tested by ANCAP
Safety Features: Dual-stage driver and front passenger airbags, front side airbags, rear airbags, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitor, tracking device (UK customers only).
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Does the Rapide have any direct rivals in Australia? The Porsche Panamera springs to mind, as it sets out to achieve the same goal (a four-door car in a two-door body).
At the top end, the Panamera is similarly-priced with similar power - plus it has all-wheel-drive - but there ain’t no V12 under the bonnet of the Porsche.
Otherwise, Bentley’s Flying Spur also has AWD but is around $54,000 dearer before on-road costs if you want the 12-cylinder engine, while the updated Maserati Quattroporte GranSport is a relative bargain at $345,990 plus on-roads - but it has to 'make do' with a 390kW/650Nm 3.8 litre twin-turbocharged V8 (21kW less, but 30Nm more).
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If you’re longing for an Aston Martin that’s as practical as possible, but still an Aston in every sense, you will not be disappointed with this uber-chariot.
The Rapide S has the styling, the sounds, the performance and the luxurious interior of any Aston Martin and that might be all that matters. Aston unashamedly calls it “the world’s most beautiful four-door sports car”.
If you’re cross-shopping against other performance models with four doors and at least four seats, you might find that $400k price-tag something of a leap. But if you’re buying with your head and not your heart perhaps you shouldn’t be shopping in this segment of the market anyway.
From the coachwork, to that definitive V12, to the beauty of those superbly adapted four-door lines, this is such a consummate car.
It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with the ‘theatre’ of an Aston. As good as some of BMW’s premium models may be, seriously good in many cases, there’s a reason James Bond ‘007’ doesn’t drive BMWs anymore…
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