2014 Aston Martin Rapide S – First Drive


Herman Tike, you’re one mad bastard. If you were seeking to punish somebody, maybe a divorce lawyer or something that is, that two-mile stretch of pavement called Atlanta Motorsports Park you designed constitutes a guy wonder?

Never in 24 many years of racing, have I been assaulted by more blind rises, high-speed, off-camber curves, double apexes, dizzying elevation changes and genuine bowel-loosening fear. Good job, man!

Formula One fans will recognize Tike as among the foremost architects of F1 circuits. Why the good old boys in Georgia made a decision to hire this guy is puzzling, but there it sits. And also the crew from Aston Martin took across the facility for a couple of weeks, bringing a bunch of snarky Rapide S cars together.

The Rapide S possesses a profile that appears more fitted to the Autobahn or Bonneville Salt Flats. Considering its 190mph top speed (yes, faster compared to the Vanquish), it wouldn’t be out of place at either. Moreover, you could carry your family with youThe thought of adding extra doors was actually a solid move, which fleshed out the company’s product roster very well. Here was the quintessential British sports car with room for yourself and three close friends.

Perhaps it’s the Rapide’s practicality that made Aston Martin nervous, though. Maybe people would assume the Rapide S compromised the awesomeness carefully cultured over the past 100 years. Never mind that the new-n-improved Rapide S boasts 550hp, can breach 60mph in 4.7sec and features active suspension smarter than HAL, you have to show people it’s still an Aston. So here we were, during moonshine central, on this twisted piece of tarmac with orders to “go at it.” Helmets on, strapped in, we did that!

Although we’ve covered the basic technical areas of the Rapide in a former issue, here’s a brief summary: The new S model is actually a Limey hot rod. I visited the Gaydon factory where Dr Bez and his awesome team do crazy shit like stuffing V12s into Cignets or building supercars like the One-77. They’re making more of those, although the Rapide S is much the same.

Sporting a revamped (AM11) V12 engine, the newest car lends another 80hp and 30 lb-ft of twist towards the equation, bringing its total to an impressive 550hp at 6750rpm and 457 lb-ft, respectively.

Nifty tech like hollow, variable profile cams, and CNC’ed combustion chambers provide the lion’s share of your new found ponies.

The primary differences in the ‘AM11’ engine are a revised block, new head with dual variable valve timing (first seen on Vanquish), new crankshaft, thermostat and camshafts uprated fuel pump, enlarged throttle bodies ( 6mm), a revised ‘big’ wing intake manifold, and machined combustion chambers. The latter increases airflow inside the chamber, enhancing the compression ratio and providing more consistent output from each cylinder. Knock sensing allows air/fuel mixture detection to extract maximum fuel and power economy.

As a result of the latest parts, the engine is 22 lb lighter than its predecessor in the original Rapide. And, as much fun as it is to speak about the magnificent V12 motor from a technological standpoint, it gets irrelevant as soon as theThe sound from your naturally aspirated powerplant is reminiscent of the low-frequency growl of your tiger just before it rips your face off. You just sorta sit behind the wheel, paralyzed because this gorgeous machine comes to life.

Aston Martin’s David Harington shot me a glance. “Are you feeling alright, then? ” Apparently I’m sweating despite the fact the cabin is at 72? F. I pretend to take a mobile phone call. Never mind, I’m wearing a helmet…

Within two turns I’m lost. David suggests I’d like to use the navigation system. He’s only half joking. After ten laps I’ve was able to remember seven of the corners. I’m improving and the Rapide S has forgiven my transgressions, it’s working with me.

I’ve got the back straight wired. Once we hit the first kink, the Rapide S is tickling 132mph. I barely nick the inside line and allow the Aston drift to the next apex. It’s beautiful.

At this speed, barely perceptible rises become daunting ramps; I start wondering just what the car will feel like airborne. It never happens. The newest Gen4 of Aston Martin’s Adaptive Damping System (ADS) offers three settings: Sport, Normal and Track. Obviously, we’re from the latter along with the ride is incredibly firm, almost hard. Yet the Rapide feels stuck to the pavement by gigantic magnets, body roll is minimal. Dropping the engine another 19mm undoubtedly helped with the center of gravity a good deal.

Whatever code the Aston propeller-heads programmed into the Rapide’s Dynamic Stability Control, it seems to be the least intrusive system I’ve ever driven. If it’s even on, i wonder. I make David switch it off and locateWho cares, although i still miss an apex or two? I’m having fun. Then David suggests I temper my throttle inputs. “Why the hell would I want to achieve that? ” “Because you’ll go faster and save the tires! ” he replied. Grudgingly I respond and it also rewards me with 139mph on the back straight.

I’m using a lot more braking now but they don’t seem to care. Bearing six-piston calipers and gigantic 15.6 rotors, the Rapide S sheds speed well, like “crashing into a mountain of Silly Putty.” This particular car wears 20 alloys shod with 245/35 front and 295/30 rear Bridgestones.

In less than two hours I’ve reduced the Rapide S to something just north of a BTCC ride. Unsure that’s what Aston intended, but that’s how I used it.

I don’t think I even looked at the cabin except to push the big “D” button on the dashboard to engage the transmission.

The cockpit is nice… very nice, a mixture of old world craftsmanship combined with a tasteful mixture of organic and synthetic materials. This particular car was trimmed in a full-grain leather with alcantara headliner, navigation, 1000W B&O sound system with pop-up tweeters, electroluminescent displays along with a pop-up LCD screen with back-up camera. And, wow, look at that – paddle shifters! I didn’t realize they were there.

David tells me I’m in a “red it’s and haze” time to cool down. He puts the Rapide S into “Normal” mode and the car instantly relaxes; I follow suit.

2014 aston martin rapide s front center console

2014 aston martin rapide s rear center console

2014 aston martin rapide s cargo space

I’d been dancing in the edge for quite a while, so the change of pace was actually a relief. Plus, I get to get rid of my helmet and enjoy the noise from the magnificent V12 again.

Once outside, the Rapide’s impossibly handsome face is worth crawling across broken glass to experience. Aston’s cosmetic overhaul includes a striking new grille, rear deck profile and petulant trunk flip.

While I’ve been fortunate to operate a vehicle a great many luxury grand touring cars, I can’t remember one as engaging because the Rapide S. While the current crop of high-end Euros is impressive, they can create the driver feel as though he was an afterthought. The Rapide isn’t like that. For over two hours I felt similar to a king behind the wheel, an integral part of a lovely machine.