2014 Aston Martin Rapide S first drive review

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Can a four-door be a true sports car? In today’s market—even at the upper end of the market—it seems that there are too many so-called ’no compromise’ luxury cars looking to be so many things at once. With its curvy, performance, car roofline rather intimate 2+2 layout, you might of course wonder, is the new 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S one of those?

Absolutely not. With the new Rapide S replacing the Rapide for 2014, adding 80 horsepower, technical improvements, and a new face, the Rapide S promises (and delivers) a more athletic driving experience, and its primary mission is obvious: that of a grand-touring sports car primarily, with exclusivity, luxury, and all that is traditionally Aston following suit.

And in that tradition, a gentleman’s sports car is what it is. Upon pressing the ornate glass-crystal key/ignition button in the center of the dash, the big 5.9-liter V-12 (badged as a 6.0) fires up with a Bengal tiger’s roar and produces some spine-tingling cacophony when revved to its upper reaches. And there’s an ever-present edge reminding you that this is not just a tuned-up luxury sedan.

Yet this car’s a purring pussycat for everyday driving. There are no turbochargers, no direct injection, just the straightforwardness of a large-displacement engine, and that all gives this Aston the chops to outcharm models from Germany, England, and Italy that are faster by the numbers. It'll lumber along in sixth gear with the best of them, whether the cruising speed is 55 mph or 155 mph.

Stronger, faster—and with such charm

But what matters here is that the $200k Rapide S is closer to that “four-door sports car” ideal that company CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez still frequently mentions. It's considerably stronger and faster than its predecessor. Variable valve timing, a new intake manifold, a revised cylinder head, a stronger crank, and several other revisions altogether bring output on this AM11 engine up 80 horsepower from what it made in Rapide guise: 550 horsepower and 457 pound-feet. Aston places 0-60 times at 4.7 seconds—and a drag-limited top-speed of 190 mph—although again, the way this engine builds power all the way to the top makes it feel even quicker.

There’s no mother lode of advanced tech features; only enough to enforce that athleticism with a sheen of sophistication. The Bilstein adaptive damping system carries over from the Rapide, but it now has normal, sport, and track modes, while the electronic stability control has a separate track mode, as well as a full-off position.

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