Google+

BBC Autos

Joyride

Aston Martin Rapide S: Four-door ferocity

About the author

Editor of BBC Autos, Matthew is a former editor at Automobile Magazine and the creator of the digital-only Roadtrip Magazine. His automotive and travel writing has appeared in such magazines as Wired, Popular Science, The Robb Report and Caribbean Travel + Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wonderful wife and four-year-old daughter.

 

HIDE CAPTION

Since its introduction at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show, the Aston Martin Rapide has been something of a tough sell.

Car shoppers seeking four doors generally do not contemplate Aston Martin, and shoppers contemplating Aston Martin generally do not contemplate four doors. And yet, the British marque’s sensuous four-door – it seems to defy the term “sedan” – is a complete charmer.

It debuted with 470 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque from its sonorous 6-litre V12, which delivered power to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Performance was adequate if not scintillating. That changes for the 2014 model year.

The Rapide has become the Rapide S, the added consonant a marker of dramatic front-end restyling and a host of under-hood revisions that bump output to a much healthier 550hp and 457lb-ft of torque. Aston claims the reinvigorated Rapide will find 60mph in 4.7 seconds and press on toward a top speed of 190mph. The engine is shared with the brutal Vanquish supercar, but is mildly retuned to better serve the larger, heavier Rapide (horsepower is down slightly relative to the Vanquish, but torque crests a bit sooner).

The Rapide’s most cunning trick is just how close to its two-door kin it feels from behind the wheel. The chassis, which features an independent double-wishbone suspension with a driver-adjustable three-mode adaptive damping system, hides its 4,387lbs very well, even on stretches like serpentine Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, California. On the open road, the car lopes along with mile-munching ease, the longer wheelbase delivering an exceptionally composed ride.

The new front fascia, which abets aerodynamics as well as pedestrian safety, gives the car an intimidating, almost predatory attitude, and the “ducktail” rear deck is an artful – and, given its downforce-improving qualities, clever – flourish. New 20in, 20-spoke wheels diminish the impression of size, and a blacked-out B-pillar, where the front and rear windows meet, imparts a cunningly coupelike profile.

Where the Rapide puts distance between itself and its supercar stablemates is, of course, in the back seats.

The rear compartment offers nothing close to the commodiousness of the just-introduced Bentley Flying Spur (a car that, puzzlingly, is often mentioned by Aston as a marketplace rival), but the twin buckets are hardly uncomfortable – at least after the narrow rear-door opening is successfully navigated. As ever, the interior is sumptuously trimmed; the perfume of fine hide is the kind of mild intoxicant that tricks the mind into overlooking ergonomic shortcomings.

Ultimately, the Rapide S is more ferocious than its predecessor, though every bit as useful. It is a car that still defies categorisation and marketplace rivalry. It is not a car that is spotted at every stoplight – even in statement-vehicle hotbeds like Beverly Hills and Miami. And for the rarefied few who will take one, that may be its most appreciated virtue.

Vital Stats: 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S

  • Base price $202,775 (inclusive of $2,825 destination fee and $1,750 gas-guzzler tax)
  • As tested: $223,595
  • EPA fuel economy: 13mpg city, 19mpg highway
  • Powertrain: 550hp, 6-litre V12; six-speed automatic transmission; rear-wheel drive
  • Major options: Carbon-fibre trim package; dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system with six-disc DVD player, auxiliary input, wireless headphones and remote control