Can the revamped Rapide S prove its worth as a functional 4-door coupe?
Aston Martin is not only the road companion to one of fiction’s greatest characters, but also one amongst the last of the few surviving British-owned luxury brands. They are known to build sports cars, both in 2-door and 4-door formats. And today we take a look at their largest vehicle, the 2017 Aston Martin Rapide S.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
For starters, here is some history! The Rapide S is the spiritual successor to the 4-door Lagonda – a car with a design that matches the dictionary definition for the term ‘wedge’. This Rapide S though is a culmination of curves – a fastback saloon version of the now out-of-production, but gorgeous DB9 coupe. Forget the coveted winged badging and the exotic colours scheme you can avail, this car is gorgeous bumper to bumper and tyre to roof; and it won’t take a petrolhead to distinguish it from the multitude luxury cars in this city.
Recognized by its sharp slant of the nose; full-face aluminium grille honed as a single piece and a jewel-like headlamp setting – the Rapide S shamelessly set itself apart from the garden-variety of sedans.
Unlike the first-generation Panamera’s bubble back, Aston’s evidently has chosen aesthetics over practicality and that’s the reason they kept the flowing fastback roofline. And they have done a splendid job. It’s the best cross between a thoroughbred sports car and an estate vehicle. In fact, its so coupe like it’s only in profile you notice its enormous S-Class-like 5019 mm length.
It is so swoopy, can almost imagine how easy it would be for air to flow up and over the bodywork and the little upswept ‘flip’ spoiler at the rear which helps keep it’s planted at all speeds. And the rear too is unmistakably Aston Martin thanks to the frosted crystal fixtures, they call tail lamps!
These days even run-off-the-mill sedans comes with dual exhausts, so you may think, perhaps a V12 super car demands more number of outlets or larger diameters than the two round dual exhaust tips. But we think they are ‘keeping it real’, as they say and elegant. But if you are looking for a change you can get them in black ceramic coating as well.
Like shoes to a lady and a watch to a gentleman, there is nothing like a good set of rims that complete the automotive outfit. The test car rode on elegant 10-spoke 20-inch wheels wrapped in wide Bridgestones tyres. There is a variety of spoke design you can choose from, one with polished metallic look or shiny black ones, but remember, the diameters remains the same.
But that is on the outside, getting is rather interesting! You have to pull open those almost concealed door handles that are flush with the panels. And even though, the roof is lower than most sedans – at the 1360 mm height – it’s rather easy to climb into the front seats, if you can ignore the tub effect of the cabin; which means you have to literally pick your feet up from the pavement and place them inside. Interestingly, the doors swing upward by 12 degrees, a bit like a beetles wings. This prevents the door from meeting with street curb. How thoughtful!
What to expect on the side? A snug interior with full-grain leather upholstery; some of it goes and the dashboard and the doors too. It surely did feels nice and comfy in here; instantly purging you from the stresses of life. And the comfort of the lush leather – which is of Scottish origin and supplied by Bridge of Weir – is augmented by the option of heating/ventilation.
The rest of cabin is accented by piano black or a host of natural wood finishes such as mahogany and walnut. But if taking a tree down is against your ethics, you can also choose carbon-fibre or an Iridium finish. It is certainly land of velvet pillows and golden spoons, as I said once before about the Rapide.
The 3-spoke steering is optimally shaped, sized and positioned for drivability. Funnily enough, the rake and reach can only be adjusted manually, and ‘manual labour’ aren’t the favourite two words of industrialists and bankers. Also, I wish they would improve the quality of the blinker and wiper stalks. Interesting, the instrumentation which has metallic dials, aren’t back lit like modern day vehicles, instead they have tiny spot lights on them. Very quaint!
The rear cabin seats only two adults, not more, thanks to the centre console that extends down the aisle. And unlike the front seats, getting in and out is a bit of hassle, much like a gaudy dress I suppose, which many of you ladies will relate to. But once inside and seated in those appropriately named bucket seats, you are in a private sanctuary. Overall comfort is fantastic, but vision out through the rear windows is limited.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
The naturally-aspirated motor of the Rapide S may very well be the last we see from Aston Martin, considering that the world has turned towards turbocharging and so has Aston. This one though, has no forced-induction; no dual-clutch tranny; none of that technological gimmickry. The handcrafted 6.0-litre V12 in this is a recipe has been honed and refined, with every generation, with the added advantage of a few extra horses, this time around.
When cranked up to 6,650 rpm, it will churn out a massive 552 bhp and enough torque to power a truck i.e. 620 Nm of torque at 5,500 rpm. They have also upped the transmission credentials, it now sports an 8-speed Touchtronic III, instead of the 6-speed Touchtronic II automatic.
Starting up the car is momentous; keep your foot on the brake pedal, insert the crystal-edged key into a slot and the engine sets off with an emphatic roar and idles with a light rumble.
This is grand tourer, so don’t expect a launch control mode here. Yet, it delivers monumental thrust at will and you don’t need to keep pot boiling to extract power for the everyday kind of use – drivability is key here. The Rapide S will pull away from standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds – a 0.5 second improvement over the last Rapide S we drove and even its top speed has been improved dramatically from 306 km/h to an astounding 327 km/h. But ofcourse, no one really goes that fast and these numbers are just bragging rights at a dinner party.
And it’s not just in the straights, the Rapide shows enthusiasm for the corners as well. The independent double wishbone suspension keeps those wide tyres connected to the tarmac and offers “predictable” handling even at speed. Equaling accelerating power is braking power. Armed with a 400 mm diameter with 6-piston calipers at the front and 360 mm diameter four-piston monobloc calipers in the rear, the Rapide S is a million dirham car that stops on a dime. It always felt planted and secure even when the brakes were employed with the audacity and frequency of a race driver on a circuit, during our tests.
The fuel tank is as large as 90.5 litre so even with a few session of spirited driving won’t send you to the gas station immediately. Aston claims its will let flora flourish emitting up to 300 grams of C02 per kilometer – down 55 grams lesser from its predecessor – without endangering the fauna too much. In the end, they’ve made it more eco-friendly and it’s the thought that counts, especially in what could essentially be a weekend car!
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
Safety is a priority that must go hand in hand with speed and having a good set of brakes is important but it isn’t nearly everything. But you can rest assured in the Rapide S, with features like eight airbags, ABS. DSC and a rear-camera. It is also prepped with the essentials like cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and satellite navigation which can viewed through the rather small 6.5-inch screen via the AMi II infotainment system. It is now compatible with Android and and iOS software.
Sourced from the house of Bang & Olufsen BeoSound is a 1000-Watt, 15-speaker audio system with its on-dash pop-up speakers and it’s a great set of noise makers. Besides playing mp3 and wma formats you also get a USB port and auxiliary input socket. That is if you don’t want the 600-Watt 12 speaker company fitted unit…which you don’t!
Aston haven’t forsaken your friends at the rear, with the option of the twin-screen rear-seat entertainment system which incorporates a 6-disc DVD player – kind of obsolete tech, if you thing about it – with auxiliary input, wireless headphones and remote control to keep those back benchers occupied as you enjoy the front row seating.
The trunk isn’t too bad either. The stacked cargo space will fit a suitcase and some of Aston’s custom made luggage. Aston has also managed to stow an umbrella in the boot, one for those rainy days. But it too is an option.
The 2017 Aston Martin Rapide S a repurposed rocket ship that has been sculpted to sooth the eyes, like most Astons, and can comfortably seat four. Getting into the rear cabin is a bit of a hassle and the infotainment screen is from another era – anything but secret spy-like – but a few moments in the driver’s seat, where you can feel the brutal acceleration and the raw exhaust note and you’d know that James Bond drives cars like these because he wants to…because it’s appropriate for a gentleman!
As exclusive as Aston Martin vehicles are, they are represented by as many as 159 dealerships in 48 countries!
Body type: 2+2-seater; 4-door ultra-premium sedan
Engine: Front-engine; 6.0-litre V12; rear-wheel drive
Transmission: 8-speed Touchtronic III (automatic)
Peak output: 552 bhp @ 6,650; 630 Nm @ 5,500
Top speed: 327 km/h (electronically limited; claimed)
0-100km/h: 4.4 seconds (claimed)
Price: Starting at AED 1,300,000
Good: Visual grandeur; potent powertrain; exclusivity; glorious soundtrack
Bad: Entry to the rear cabin; small infotainment screen
Editor’s Rating: 7.5/10