Aston Martin Rapide S MY15: Review

Complaints about the previously facelifted Aston Martin Rapide S could be divided neatly into the objective and the subjective. The chunky stitching, the out-of-place Ford switches and the overall weirdness of a five-metre long four-seater coupe are all just matters of opinion. Subjective. But the six-speed 'box with its wide ratios and sluggish responses was not good. It was a very objective fly in Aston's Beluga Caviar.

New Fiesta called, wants its grille back
New Fiesta called, wants its grille back
And now it's been plucked from the dish and replaced by the same, fantastic, drivetrain as we tested recently in the similarly updated Vanquish.

Driving the MY15 Rapide S is an occasion in itself. Like most of the cars in this price range, the cockpit inspires an emotional response, for better or for worse. Surely, you'd have to be made of Scottish granite to ignore the melodious bark of 12cylinders firing up.

Eight times better
From the insertion of the pretentiously titled Emotional Control Unit - otherwise known as a 'key' - the stark roar and urgent fast idle from cold are not for the shy and retiring, though it soon drops to a typically smooth V12 tickover. The novelty of such a theatrical procedure may not always be welcome but such are the necessities of the emissions regulated warm-up.

Engine and eight-speed - match made in heaven
Engine and eight-speed - match made in heaven
In relaxed driving, the response of the updated 560hp engine and gearbox is absurdly smooth. It might only be 2hp up on last year, but the new ECU is a big change. And while the magic Sport button isn't quite so important when you're just floating along luxuriously, enjoying the efforts of Messrs Bang & Olufsen, it's always waiting for you.

When attention shifts from inside the Rapide to outside, and you've successfully navigated the frankly bewildering center console to enable sport mode and sport damping, then it all gets quite exciting.

Pushing this massive car through lanes and around hairpins is a lot easier than you'd ever think. Darting changes of direction, confident levels of grip from entry to exit. And that massive, top-end chorus of philharmonic V12 surge standing ready to push the rear tyres to their limits on every exit.

Previously compromised Rapide now more convincing
Previously compromised Rapide now more convincing
We said it of the Vanquish, and we'll say it here too. The quick to change and tightly-spaced eight-speed ZF gearbox is the best thing to ever happen to this car. It suits the delivery and nature of the AM29 engine perfectly. Scooting up to seventh and eighth in automatic modes maintains an economy unheard of in such a gratuitous 6.0-litre beast (21.9mpg combined, 31mpg extra-urban!). And the short gaps between ratios mean you can keep the motor on the boil when required. No dropping out of the power here. The Rapide S will even top 203mph now, a massive increase over last year's 190mph.

That this experience can be shared with three full-size adults, with only the slightest trade-off in performance versus a two-seater, is impressive.

With significant objective faults eliminated, the Rapide S might have reached a pinnacle right now. It's relatively safe to assume that this could be the last naturally-aspirated Rapide S ever. Over the horizon lurks AMG power, and behind that the global might of Mercedes Benz. Will it just be AMG engines that get shared with AML, or will the CLS-building Germans want a bigger slice of the pie?

Engine: 5,935cc, V12
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 560@6,650rpm
Torque (lb ft): 465@5,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.4 sec
Top speed: 203mph (electronically limited)
Weight: 1,990kg
MPG: 21.9mpg (claimed)
CO2: 300g/km
Price: £147,950


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Comments (48) Join the discussion on the forum

  • mrclav 13 Aug 2014

    Although there will predictably be posts on here saying "they need to change the styling/it doesn't look as good as the original" etc this is still one hell of a nice car; there's an older lady who shops in my local Waitrose who drives Concours Blue one and I must say the car turns my head every time. I think it's a lovely day-to-day proposition.

    Edited by mrclav on Wednesday 13th August 12:27

  • thatguy11 13 Aug 2014

    Still can't get over the fact that the key is called an "Emotional Control Unit". Plus the "Power, Beauty, Soul" dash display.

    It's the sort of thing that you might be able to get away with in flamboyant Italian stuff, but it's just chintzy and kitsch in an Aston Martin

  • NickZ4 13 Aug 2014

    Can you get me her number?

  • exceed 13 Aug 2014

    As above

  • smilo996 13 Aug 2014

    Saw a dark bronze on in the flest the other week. Spellbound. It is just a beautiful car and that it is four dorrs is difficult to see from a distance and that Aston have done such a good job in making it look so beautiful with four doors. TYhe Upper rear 3/4 view is amazing. Powerful rear haunches.

    Never seen the problem with the intimate cabin. Who actually drives from London to Monaco in a car these days. From house to restaurant perhaps, in which case it is fine. To deliver the kids to school sans RR Sport more likely.

    That Dr Bez increased Aston's sales etc is all well and good yet the predatory, nationalistic and protectionist German car industry another matter. He stated clearly that Aston production would move abroad and the early Rapide was built in Austria.
    It is getting really tiresome that Germany is eating up so many car companies with their suppliers in tow.

    That V12 (although made by "special Aston employees" at Ford Cologne) is a thing of beauty. It will be replaced by a mass produced AMG unit. Which in reality is oddly similar to BMW's until you realise that BMW's main suppliers are the same as Mercs.

    Next up an AMG unit, the ZF box plus axles topped with Bosch electronic everything and German suspension. Aston Martin will thus be reduced to sewing leather, knocking panels about and some painting for a while before it finally dies as an independent company. Even Dave Richards has given up. Cosworth, Hewland and Ricardo will likely follow at some point too.

    To many that won't matter because so many people push numbers about in glass towers these days. It might however to the @250 people that could be making engines for Aston Martin and subsequently other companies. Buyers will be swooning at the fact that AMG is pumping its suppliers into an other soon to be lost independent British car company. If McLaren, Jag, TVR and other companies can, so could Aston Martin. Fortunately by the time I can afford this Rapide it will be the last of the great Aston V12's (although it is made in Cologne by Ford).

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