The Rapide should have been the car that took Aston Martin to a wider audience and considerably higher sales. It wasn’t to be, though, as the Rapide launched just as a global recession gripped and it didn’t help that many potential buyers found the Porsche Panamera, Maserati Quattroporte and Bentley Mulsanne more practical.
Yet the Rapide was a good car straight out of the blocks. Originally built by Magna Steyr in Austria, the four-door was made to a very high standard and suffered none of the teething troubles that had blighted the DB9. Reliability was, and is, strong, to make the Rapide a good choice for the long distance driving it was designed for.
Variable damping offered normal and firmer settings, alongside a Sport button for the six-speed automatic transmission. In its default standard setup, the Aston could deal with poor road surfaces very well while still providing good body control to make it engaging to drive. Excellent steering and ideal weight distribution thanks to the transaxle gearbox were big plusses, with only some road noise letting the side down. With the transmission and suspension in sportier modes, the Rapide delivered a more focused drive that edged it very close to its DBS coupe sister.
In 2011, Aston Martin moved Rapide production back to Gaydon from Austria as it had spare capacity in the UK factory, so it made sense to reduce costs from outsourcing build to Magna Steyr. Then, in 2014, the Rapide S succeeded the earlier car with a new eight-speed transmission and power increased to 560hp. That knocked half a second from the 0-62mph time, so it now needed only 4.2 seconds, while top speed went from 190mph to 203mph. There was also a small benefit to fuel economy and CO2 emissions.
New rear suspension bushes further improved the handling of Aston’s four-door hatch, but sales have always been a trickle rather than the hoped-for torrent. While several rivals offer more rear seat space and larger boots, the Rapide can accommodate two adults in the back and the individual chairs fold forwards to leave a long though shallow load space.
As a minority interest, the Rapide serves up an opportunity for used buyers as prices are now down to £45,000 for an early car with around 40,000 miles. Seek out the S and you’ll pay from £60,000, which has to be one of the most affordable ways to hit 200mph while taking three friends along.
Bodywork and interior
Britax makes a bespoke child seat to fit the rear chairs of the Rapide to make the most of the available room. It costs £120 including an Isofix base.
Take a long look at the bodywork, especially the panel edges, as the aluminium can bubble underneath the paint.
A specialist inspection will be needed to check the underside of the Rapide as the protective panels have to be removed to check the condition of the underbody.
Check the rear cabin and boot for damage to trim and leather.
Engine and transmission
The V12 has suffered from oil starvation issues in other Aston models, though there are no reported problems in the Rapide, so just keep an eye on the oil level.
Check for any signs of oil leaking from the cam covers.
Servicing is every 10,000 miles or 12 months. A major service comes at 70,000 miles.
Eight-speed auto replaced the six-speeder in 2014. Recall in 2014 for a chrome-plated transmission switch that reacts with the printed circuit board to cause the gearbox to go into neutral with no warning or driver input.
Recall for a fault Park mode in the gearbox that can let the car roll when parked caused by a communication error between the Engine Control Module and Transmission Control Module.
Suspension and steering
Adaptive dampers can begin to leak and replacing a full set will cost £4,000. Make sure the car selects each damping mode during a test drive.
Wheels, tyres and brakes
Brakes and tyres get worked harder on the Rapide than a DB9 as the saloon weight 190kg more. The front discs are larger than the DB9’s, with new rotors and pads coming in at £600 plus fitting.
SPECIFICATION – ASTON MARTIN RAPIDE/RAPIDE S
Engine: 5,935cc V12
Transmission: Six/eight-speed auto
Power (hp): 477/560@/6,000/6,750rpm
Torque (lb ft): 443/457@5,000/5,500rpm
Price new: £140,000/£147,950
Price now: £45,000/£60,000 upwards