Set for a formal debut at the Geneva Auto Show in March, the 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S will replace the existing Rapide model when it arrives in showrooms around the world later this year. Matching its bolder exterior treatment with an even-more-potent V12 engine, significant chassis upgrades and enhanced cabin amenities, the S-spec version of this stunning aluminum-intensive 4-door GT steps up its game on every level.

Visually, the new Rapide S puts a slightly more aggressive spin on the classic Aston Martin face, courtesy of a revamped fascia with a larger grille, new hood and redesigned internal structure to help it meet European pedestrian-impact regulations. Out back, a modified decklid that resolves in a pronounced "flip" adds character while reducing high-speed aero lift. The Rapide S also will be offered with a new Carbon Exterior Pack that brings a carbon fiber front splitter, rear diffuser, mirror caps and taillamp accent elements.

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The latest and most-potent version of the car's naturally-aspirated 6.0-liter AM11 V12 engine benefits from numerous competition-derived design enhancements, changes that help boost output from 470 to 550 horsepower - a huge 17-percent gain -- while improving fuel efficiency and lowering CO2 emissions by about seven percent. Peak torque also rises from 443 to 457 lb-ft with even more substantial gains turning up from as low as 2,500 rpm.

That motive force -- the most ever in a 4-door Aston Martin -- heads to the rear wheels via a tweaked version of the car's rear-mounted Touchtronic2 6-speed automatic transmission and a limited-slip differential, sending the 4,387-lb Rapide S from 0-62 mph in 4.9 seconds compared to 5.3 ticks for the current Rapide model.

While proud of the improved power and efficiency of this latest member of the lineup, Ian Minards, Head of Product Development for Aston Martin stresses that it's only half of the equation. "Balance, poise and control are the keys to a successful sports car and the dynamic improvements we have made with Rapide S showcase our efforts to make this not just the most beautiful, but also the most beautifully balanced, car in its class."

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Key changes on that front start with repositioning the engine nearly 0.8 inch lower in the cradle, thereby dropping the center of gravity and improving turn-in. The Rapide S also benefits from the latest iteration of Aston's tri-mode Adaptive Damping System. Standard wheel/tire fitment wraps Bridgestone Potenza performance rubber - 245/35 up front and 295/30 on the rear - around lightweight, 20-inch staggered-width alloys while stopping chores are handled by huge anti-lock disc brakes.

Beyond a meticulously handcrafted 4-passenger interior that complements the bounty of comfort/convenience touches found in the Rapide with significantly improved cabin isolation, the new Rapide S will offer buyers an even greater number of personalization opportunities. Highlighting the list is a Piano Black interior pack that pairs this mirror-polished noir trim with unique dark surrounds on the instrument binnacle and steering wheel. This primo sedan will also be available with duotone red-and-black perforated leather trim on its deeply bolstered sport seats - a first for Aston Martin.

The 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S will go on sale in the U.S. this May or June. While formal pricing has not yet been announced, it's expected to start around $200,000.


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