First Drive: Aston Martin Rapide S

Aston Martin's sublimely-styled Rapide S has joined the 200mph club

Aston Martin's sublimely-styled Rapide S has joined the 200mph club

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As with most Aston Martins, there is much about the Rapide S that is reassuringly familiar. The DB9-based exterior is as beautiful as ever, but is distinct from that car on account of the bullish nose, as well as the extra pair of doors.

The DB9-based exterior is as beautiful as ever, but is distinct from that car on account of the bullish nose, as well as the extra pair of doors.

Of greater significance is the adoption of a new eight-speed automatic transmission which not only promises smoother shifts and the extra ratios but also a higher top speed; the Rapide S can now bust the 200mph barrier for the first time. The suspension has also been tweaked to improve the ride and handling and there are some new trim options too.

The Rapide S has the kind of looks that grab your attention whether you want it to or not. It has curves, grace and a swagger to it that is hard not to love, even if you’re not the fortunate person behind the wheel. The changes to the 2014 version only go as far as some new colour options – notably Diavalo Red which was previously only available on the limited edition Zagato – and new ten-spoke alloy wheels.

It might seem incongruous to think of an Aston Martin as being practical, but the Rapide S is designed to carry four people and their luggage. If you’re sat in the front then getting comfortable is a cinch, with plenty of adjustment in the seats and good space. In the rear space is a little tighter, but unless you scale over six feet tall, the rear seats are cosy and cocooning. The boot space is useful too, with the ability to fold the rear seats and increase the space.

The things that haven’t changed about the Rapide S are still brilliant, chiefly the sensational 6.0-litre V12 engine, but the new gearbox allows you to get the best from it. In automatic mode, the shifts are smoother and faster, so you can ooze around town just using the mighty torque. A firmer squeeze and the Rapide S accelerates with ease, while you can switch to manual control of the gearbox to fully exploit the huge power reserves.

The Rapid S also manages to handle like the sports car it is based on, despite being larger and heavier than the DB9. The steering is responsive but not too sharp, the ride controlled and the handling very reassuring. It’s a significant improvement on what was already excellent.

It’s hard to make a case for the Rapide S being good value for money with a sticker price of nearly £150k, but you certainly get a lot for your cash, including a kick-ass Bang & Olufsen audio system. You can bump the price still further too by adding rear seat entertainment and other toys.

This is certainly a car for the wealthy, no doubt, and although the well-heeled do tend to be fussy about what they buy, it’s safe to say they will be impressed by the Rapide S. It has plenty of space for long weekends, while parents could complete the school run if they want to give their kids instant playground kudos.

VITAL STATS

Price £147,950

Engine 6.0l petrol, 12-cyl, 552bhp, 465 lb ft

Performance Top speed 203mph, 0-62mph in 4.4 s

Economy 21.9mpg combined

CO2 emissions 300g/km

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