By Matt Degen
Think of the Rapide S as Aston Martin's idea of a family car. Known as a builder of gorgeously designed and sinfully fast coupes, the British automaker has expanded its literal and figurative footprint with the 4-door Rapide. Aston Martin's largest vehicle offers exquisite seating for four and commendable cargo space with its hatchback design, yet remains an Aston through and through on the performance front. This comes thanks to a 550-horsepower V12 that enables the Rapide to hit breakneck speeds in seconds. Like other Astons, the Rapide's rareness is a double-edged sword. While you'll get an ultra-exclusive, $200,000 luxury vehicle, you'll also have to work with a smaller dealer network than if you opted for a Porsche Panamera, Audi S7, Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class or BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe.
If your idea of an outing with friends or family includes 0-60-mph blasts of under 5 seconds or the ability to hit 190 mph in a rare yet versatile luxury rocket, the Rapide S could be the exotic 4-door, 4-passenger projectile for you.
In addition to having to work with a much smaller dealer network than Porsche, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, 4-door coupe-like rivals from those luxury automakers can be had for far less investment.
The 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S replaces the former Rapide (without the S). This new version boasts a more powerful V12 engine, newly designed front and back, and the latest generation of Aston Martin's 3-mode suspension system.
Driving Impressions As you might suspect from its Aston Martin name, the 2014 Rapide S is about as far removed from an ordinary 4-door people-hauler as an iPhone is from one of...... those early mobile phones carried like a suitcase. Even among its ultra-premium rivals, Aston Martin's 4-door is an entity unto itself. While its main competitors get their motive force from turbocharged 6- and 8-cylinder engines, the Rapide S spits a different kind of fire thanks to a naturally aspirated V12 that cranks out 550 horsepower. This is the same engine found in Aston coupes such as the DB9 and Vanquish, and as with those supercars the Rapide is a rear-drive performance piece of art. While straight-line acceleration is more than commendable (0-60 mph is pegged at under five seconds), we just as much appreciate Aston's 3-stage Adaptive Damping System with Normal, Sport and Track modes. This allows the Rapide's mood to be set from hard-edged tarmac star to softer daily driver.
PROPER REAR SEATS
It's safe to say the Rapide S has the best back seats of any Aston. Sure, its coupes technically can seat four passengers, but few adults would want to be numbers three or four. The Rapide S, though, has two proper, sculpted rear seats that are also far easier to enter and exit, thanks to the car's two rear doors.
When not using the Rapide's rear seat to chauffeur a pair of lucky passengers, it can act as a cargo area that nearly triples in size when the seats are folded, a power-operated feat accomplished with the touch of a button.
We've already gushed plenty about the flexibility of the Rapide's cabin (see our Favorite Features). It's here we should also note the cockpit's quality and taste. As you should expect in a car that costs as much as a house, Aston's 4-door is awash in the finest materials. Full-grain leather is the covering of choice, while walnut and graphite trim materials play supporting roles. Controls for climate, audio and pop-up navigation screen are straightforward, but some are on the small side. Like other Aston Martins, this one is brought to life with the insertion of a hefty glass key, which the automaker calls an ECU, or "emotion control unit."Exterior
The 2014 Rapide S wouldn't be an Aston Martin if it didn't look the part. The British builder doesn't make the fastest or most technically sophisticated cars, but it sure knows how to captivate with design. In fact, the niche automaker modestly calls its Rapide S "the world's most beautiful 4-door sports car." We'll leave it to your eyes to judge whether the Rapide takes the top spot in this modeling contest, but it's hard to deny the style of its long hood and coupe-like profile. Even its rear, a spot where even the Porsche Panamera has had its issues, is elegant.
In addition to the Rapide's intangibles such as breathtaking style and lust-worthy badge appeal, this $200,000-plus machine comes with a stirring V12 engine, heated front seats, automatic climate control, satellite navigation system and front and rear parking sensors (alas, a rearview camera still costs extra). Also included is one of the best audio systems in the business: a 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen BeoSound with integrated iPod/USB connectors. Among the smaller yet appreciated touches are a Lamy pen and an umbrella mounted in the cargo hull.
You can outfit your Rapide to an even higher level with a twin-screen rear-seat entertainment system with 6-disc DVD player with auxiliary input and wireless headphones, ventilated front and rear seats, semi-aniline leather and personalized sill plates. A carbon exterior pack is meant to make the Rapide appear more aggressive, while the interior can be fitted with a choice of wood trims. For owners wishing to feel all the more like James Bond, there's the Rapide Transponder Watch, a dazzling timepiece by Jaeger-LeCoultre that enables its wearer to lock and unlock the vehicle with a touch of the watch.
Technically the Aston Martin Rapide S's V12 comes in at 5.9 liters, but we won't fault you or Aston for rounding it up to a nice 6.0. Fractional differences aside, we can agree that this motor is a potent yet smooth beast. All Rapides are rear-wheel drive, and power is transmitted through a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Aston's 12 cylinders are a joy to use and hear, but with efficiency ratings of 13 mpg city/19 highway, it's not exactly green. Further making that point is a $1,700 gas-guzzler tax applied to the 2014 Rapide S.
550 horsepower @ 6,750 rpm
457 lb-ft of torque @ 5,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/19 mpg
The 2014 Rapide S arrives with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price of just over $202,000, easily putting this dream car in the "if you have to ask." category. Those who can afford this exotic 4-seater will also be able to swallow the cost of its options, which can easily increase the price by thousands. Among luxury 4-door coupes, the Rapide S pretty much flies in a class of its own. It is two to three times the cost of the Audi A7/S7/RS 7 clan, BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, Mercedes CLS-Class, Maserati Quattroporte, and most Porsche Panameras. About the only one close in price is the faster, more powerful Porsche Panamera Turbo S, and even that model is about $20,000 less than a Rapide. This is where we'd usually point you to look up a Fair Purchase Price, but we can't imagine much haggling in this transaction. Also due to the Rapide's exclusivity, it's difficult to predict its residual value down the road.