What Car? says...
Have you ever woken up and felt like going for a nice drive to the South of France? For most of us such spontaneity isn’t feasible, but those with (quite a bit) more time and money will want something fast and fun to drive, yet comfortable and of a high quality to do it in. For those people, the Aston Martin Rapide S is very much an option.
Beneath the familiar Aston Martin looks sits a huge 6.0-litre V12 petrol engine which produces 552bhp, and despite the Rapide S stretching to more than five metres long and weighing very nearly two tonnes, that engine pulls it to 60mph from standstill in just 4.2sec. Wait a little longer and the Rapide S will keep going all the way to more than 200mph.
The reason for all that length is simply because the Rapide has seating for four people inside, which places it up against other mile-munching behemoths such as the Audi S8 Plus, Bentley Flying Spur, BMW M760Li, Mercedes-AMG S 65 and Porsche Panamera Turbo.
All these cars are trying to combine luxury with sledgehammer performance, but does the Aston do it best? Read on over the next few pages of our in-depth review to find out.
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Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Aston Martin’s V12 petrol engine is one of the largest engines on sale and it certainly takes centre stage when driving the Rapide S. There are no turbochargers to aid response at low revs, but, to be frank, none are needed. Although the V12’s best work is done higher up its rev range, it pulls brilliantly from low down in most gears given the colossal amount of torque it produces. Push it hard and you’ll struggle to believe something quite so large and heavy as the Rapide can move down the road with such visceral urgency. It’s perhaps a shame, then, that the Rapide’s exhaust note seems muted compared with Aston’s other more sporting V12 models such as its Vantage and Vanquish.
The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox is also less impressive. At higher speeds and when using the column-mounted paddles for manual changes it flicks between gears no problem, but at slow speeds in town it feels jerkier both on manual switches and in Drive.
Unfortunately, the engine rather overshadows the rest of the driving experience. Even in its Normal driving mode, with its suspension at its softest, the Rapide is unsettled by ruts and bumps at all speeds, while selecting firmer Sport mode simply makes things even more uncomfortable. And the car’s big dimensions hurt its handling, too, because despite having nicely precise steering the Rapide doesn’t feel particularly agile. That poor ride quality also means it’s easily unsettled mid-corner, which isn’t something that inspires confidence in such a large, powerful car on tight UK roads. A Porsche Panamera Turbo manages to feel far more composed at speed and therefore more fun to drive on our roads.
It’s a shame that you also have to put up with a noisy interior on the move. The Rapide’s huge wheels kick up a large amount of road noise on all Tarmac, but particularly over coarse surfaces. True, wind noise is well suppressed, but all the Rapide’s main rivals are more comfortable and quieter cruisers.
The interior layout, fit and finish
For such a long car, getting in and out of the driver’s seat is quite difficult thanks to B-pillars that are unusually wide leaving a fairly small opening. However, once you’ve slithered your way in the Rapide’s standard sports seats will accommodate most sizes of driver well, even if they don’t provide as much bolster support as some of the British firm’s more sporting models. Electric front seat adjustment is standard and wide ranging, but the fact that the steering wheel adjusts manually at this money is disappointing.
From behind the wheel it’s difficult to see out, too - that’s the price you pay for sleek styling. The windscreen is quite shallow, as are the side windows, while the rear screen is very small indeed. That’s not ideal for such a long, wide car, but at least front and rear parking sensors are standard and so too is a reversing camera.
Interior quality is also a mixed bag. The main dashboard architecture is an ageing design now, and as such the dash materials, steering wheel and switches look and feel pretty average for a car that costs so much money. Not only that, but the Rapide’s many rotary dials and numerous buttons aren’t particularly logically laid out. Certainly versus cars from Bentley, Audi and Mercedes, the Aston lags behind. However, the quality of everything else is much better, including the hand-stitched leather seats and the tall centre console that runs the length of the inside and the up into the rooflining.
Part of the Aston’s ageing dash is its infotainment system, which consists of a 6.5in colour screen mounted high up by the windscreen and a rotary dial and shortcut buttons on the dashboard. Both to look at and use, the system feels pretty archaic in this day and age, but then it’s no surprise, as the Rapide is one of Aston’s oldest models underneath. At least advanced smartphone mirroring technology Apple CarPlay is included, improving matters.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
At more than five metres long, you’d expect the Rapide to provide generous space for its four passengers. Unfortunately not. Two adults will have enough room in the front seats, but the Rapide’s sleek roofline means there’s ultimately less head room than in rivals. The real problem area, though, is space in the rear seats, where two further adults will struggle to sit behind another two without their knees forced into the front seats. Head room in the back is also poor by the standard of its rivals, while the Rapide’s tall centre console robs those in the back of elbow and shoulder room.
On paper the Rapide has about as much boot space as a family hatchback, but the reality is quite different. For starters the space on offer sits across three stepped stages and is relatively shallow, while the access to it is hampered by a narrow opening. The rear seatbacks fold down to open up the space a little, but the space remains too shallow across its length to be genuinely practical. In most Aston Martins this wouldn’t be an issue, but as a four-seater designed to carry people and luggage across countries, the Rapide’s space looks stingy next to its rivals from the UK and Germany.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Nobody who enters an Aston Martin dealership will be surprised by the sort of prices being proposed by the salesperson. They’re extremely expensive cars for extremely wealthy people and the Rapide costs a small fortune. For what it’s worth, it costs more than an Audi S8 Plus and Porsche Panamera but slightly less than a Bentley Flying Spur or Mercedes S65, but in all cases we’re talking the sort of prices that would buy you a small house.
In most cases you can expect to lose a huge amount in depreciation, too. Although the Aston will hold on to more of its value than the Mercedes, the Audi, Bentley and Porsche will all hold on to more of theirs.
It therefore goes without saying that the Rapide’s running costs will be gigantic. We are yet to run it through our True MPG fuel testing, but on our drive we saw less than 20mpg during mixed driving. Nearer 30mpg is possible on the motorway, yes, but in town don’t expect to be doing much better than 10mpg. And because the Rapide’s engine pumps out so much CO2, it attracts the largest possible first-year road tax payment and sits in the highest company car tax band for anybody lucky enough to be considering one.
Furthermore, Aston Martin’s parts are expensive to buy and its labour rates are high, which, combined with the fact that it’s extremely desirable (more people will want to steal it) means insurance premiums are eye-watering. The same goes for servicing costs - that big V12 will want for lots of oil and serviceable parts over its lifetime. You can’t fit any old tyres to a Rapide, either; it’s a 200mph car that requires very expensive rubber.
But bear in mind that in this regard the Rapide is no worse than any of the range-topping rivals we’ve already mentioned. All of them require a huge amount of cash to buy and a serious investment to keep them in tiptop condition.
The Rapide’s big price does (rightly) means a long equipment list. Electric, heated, leather seats, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, DAB radio, sat-nav, climate control and xenon headlights are among the luxuries included.
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