By on July 8, 2013

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The penultimate set of bends along the road course at Atlanta Motorsports Park, located in God’s own country about an hour outside of the big city, is a serpentine testament to all of the things that make motoring exciting. Triple-digit speeds approach quickly. The checkered start line quickly becomes a blurred memory. Warm tires grip the tarmac as beads of perspiration mount for the upcoming lap.

 

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Barreling down the track’s final straight – the only section of the track devoid of sharp changes in camber and elevation – induces a childlike sense of wonderment, not unlike that of being directed by a sled down a steep, snow-covered hill. In an ordinary beater, there’s nothing more fun than testing the limits of grip and adhesion. When the track day chariot is the latest iteration of Aston Martin’s six-figure supersedan, the 550-horsepower Rapide S, clenched jaws and white knuckles are mandatory accessories to the dopiest of grins.

The opportunity to try out the brand’s revised four-door coupe on a private, purpose-built racetrack invited a unique opportunity to experience the Rapide S in a way that only a handful of owners might. A crowded, suburban mall parking lot might have been a more realistic test of the Rapide S’s workaday capabilities, but exposure on the track was to demonstrate the most significant upgrades to last year’s model. Key among them is an increase of 80 horsepower and 14 lb-ft. of torque, which give an unnecessary but welcome bump to the 6.0-liter V-12’s already massive power. The last time anyone tried to buy six liters of anything this potent, Mayor Bloomberg made it illegal.

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Along the bends of AMP, this power translated to delightfully quick forward motion, delivered via a conventional, six-speed automatic gearbox. The engine and transmission pairing, devoid of the gimmickry of a dual-clutch transmission, was smooth and fast-acting. Well-heeled buyers will likely be swayed by the ease and relative simplicity of operation as well as the symphonic rush of snaps, crackles, and pops from the exhaust pipe – the humble brag-equivalent of a less than subtle machine.

Aston Martin claim that the Rapide S has a near-perfect weight distribution, and it showed, while hurtling a two-ton sedan along the undulating corners of the track. Roll and dive were neatly controlled and maintained, even in tight spots, and the adjustable suspension was useful in soaking up what few abrasions lay in the tarmac. For those who will use their Rapide S on runs to high-end grocery stores, Comfort mode changes the damping to allow the big Aston to glide over the pavement; in Track mode, the adaptive shocks hunker the Rapide S down.

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On the track, the Rapide S handled brilliantly. Remember that straightaway from a couple of paragraphs ago? In most other high-performance sedans, the sheer mass and proportions would dissuade owners from attending a track day designed to toss them around and plow, head-first, toward a retaining wall. The shared roots of the DB9 are evident here, especially in Track Mode. Be advised that turning Track Mode off is a good idea for your daily commute, lest you spill your latte all over your Incotex trousers.

The most noticeable difference is the one that most drivers will see in their rear-view mirrors: a restyled front grille that now comprises a massive, one-piece unit. The new grille is entirely fitting, regardless of the disapproving opinions of armchair journalists and jaded potential purchasers. Without pretense, this generation of Aston Martins, from the V8 Vantage to the Vanquish, exudes the elegance.The Rapide S is no different, and continues to seduce with elegant character lines that sweep from the front bumpers to the rear hip lines.

The interior receives minimal changes. The hand-sewn, hand-stitched, white glove-treated interior of the outgoing model is retained, along with the navigation system which is frustrating to operate The button-laden center stack, and standard Bang and Olufsen sound system also stick around. The entire cabin smells of a well-treated baseball glove, and not coincidentally, fits the driver and three passengers like one. Much has already been made about the rear bucket seats, and entry into them and egress from them. Put simply, they are more than sufficient for short trips, even for full-size adults. But buyers in this luxury segment have other options, if commuting takes precedence over performance, namely the Bentley Flying Spur and the Porsche Panamera Turbo.

And that’s the overall message driven home by the Rapide S: no amount of thrust was sublimated for the sake of driver and passenger comfort. It strikes a unique balance of sportiness and luxury in a segment ramping up, once again, thanks to signs of an improving economy. On and off the track, the sound and the fury of the V-12 will make happy buyers fall in love with the Rapide S on a regular basis. Bolstered by the full complement of luxury, and wrapped in a shapely cocktail dress, the Rapide S exemplifies the rare case of being all things to all people — if those people are a select few.

Disclaimer: Aston Martin provided flights, meals and accommodations to and from the Atlanta track day.

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20 Comments on “Review: 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S...”


  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    sooo, what you are telling me that it is almost as good as Camry SE, yes?

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Thought at first is was a two-door Fusion. :)

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    During the revisions, this Aston’s front fascia has gone from being James-Bond-cool to looking like it caters to an era of bling-bling superstars…which it does, but still… Aston Martin should have kept the traditional two-part front grille. Other than that, it’s lovely.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I never thought I’d live to see the day where an Aston Martin carries the face of Donald Duck.

  • avatar
    markinaustin

    Hmmm. It may be that the big Aston is a uniformly wonderful car, but frankly this rather fawning review read more like something out of one of the pr-department-approved buff books than typical TTAC fare. I hope that doesn’t represent a trend…

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Locock

      Well said sir. According to this ‘review’ fast and well appointed cars are fast and well appointed.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        +2

        This review is extraordinarily sparse on actual details, technical information, specifications, particular impressions (subjective or otherwise) regarding things such as brake, steering, or chassis feel, nor does it delve even remotely deeply into everyday practicality as a daily driver (though what little mention is made of this is ridiculously erroneous).

        There’s even a TOTAL absence of boilerplate fare of the glossy magazine style ‘tale of the tape’ type stuff, like 0 to 60, 60 to 0, 0 to 100 and back to 0 again, 1/4 mile times, lateral g skidpad crap, etc.

        WEAK SAUCE & VERY SUPERFICIAL REVIEW.

        There was some comedic sarcasm with reference to ‘green shoots’ economic recovery, though.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      ++ made my comment before I read yours because I was eager after reading.

  • avatar

    I visited Aston Martin in Roslyn considering a used Rapide. It was way too small inside- smaller than the Panamera. All your money goes into the engine and name. The materials are roughly what you’d find in a top level Jaguar.

  • avatar
    donnyindelaware

    Ok I may be the only one who sees this but do Aston Martins remind you of the Chrysler concepts from the early part of 2000′s? The ME412 and the Viper based Chrysler ( dont recall the name)?

  • avatar
    thanh_n

    Upon viewing the photos, I couldn’t help but notice that the line from the fender grille that stretches across the door towards the rear quarter panel is such an eyesore. I’ll have to see it in person for a better opinion.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    The last track review on this site was about a rental car Camry, and was far more engaging. Frankly, the presence of the word “penultimate” two seconds into the review already predicted what kind of review this was going to be, and clicking on it confirmed my expectations.

    At the risk of being called out for not being able to do a better review myself (which I can’t): there’s no angle, no story, and no real voice to this Aston review, but a lot of hackneyed cliches. Nice effort, but keep working at it. Or pitch this as ad copy to the leather-driving-gloves set.

    To call upon a cliche, myself, the front end of this thing brings to mind the term “gaping maw.” If your Aston isn’t going to be pant-wettingly beautiful, you really may just as well get a Porsche.

  • avatar
    TurboDeezl

    Ford Fusion

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    A few thoughts:

    -This design doesn’t translate well into muted colors. There’s too much volume of metal in the rear half, with no dark angles to give it definition on a light-hued car.

    -The new grille looks ridonkulous in an aftermarket sort of way, and the original was superior.

    -This isn’t so much a TTAC review, more of a Y! style fluff piece. Please have a do-over via Alex Dykes.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    A few thoughts:

    -This design doesn’t translate well in muted colors. There’s too high a volume of metal in the rear half of the car, and no darkness or depth to give it definition.

    -The new grille looks ridonkulous in an aftermarket sort of way, and the original grille was superior.

    -This isn’t so much a TTAC review, more of a Y! style fluff piece for the front of the automotive page. Please have a do-over via Alex Dykes.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    A few thoughts:

    1)This design doesn’t translate well in muted colors. There’s too high a volume of metal in the rear half of the car, and no darkness or depth to give it definition.

    2)The new grille looks ridonkulous in an aftermarket sort of way, and the original grille was superior.

    3)This isn’t so much a TTAC review, more of a Y! style fluff piece for the front of the automotive page. Please have a do-over via Alex Dykes.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    A few thoughts:

    This design doesn’t translate well in muted colors. There’s too high a volume of metal in the rear half of the car, and no darkness or depth to give it definition.

    The new grille looks ridonkulous in an aftermarket sort of way, and the original grille was superior.

    This isn’t so much a TTAC review, more of a Y! style fluff piece for the front of the automotive page. Please have a do-over via Alex D.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Too much front overhang, and not the sleek kind found on supercars. The bloated kind found on front wheel drive compromisemobiles.

    This article would be more appropriate in Aston Martin Magazine.


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