Automotive beauty can be a two-edged sword, simultaneously enticing with seductive curves while disappointing through any number of ergonomic missteps. And while the original Rapide stunned with its fluid silhouette and snarly V12, the sedan had a tough time stealing buyers from Porsche's eminently practical (and more affordable) Panamera ubersedan.
How to stoke the fire of what is arguably one of the most gorgeous four-doors money can buy? Three years into its product life, the Rapide has gained a series of upgrades intended to make it more relevant. First and foremost is a power bump from the 6.0-liter AM11 V12, which gains 80hp for a grand total of 550hp. Torque also climbs to 457 lb-ft, with a fatter bottom-end for livelier takeoff; Aston claims 60mph can now be reached in 4.7sec (0.4sec shaved from its predecessor), while fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions have also improved.
The engine has been dropped to meet pedestrian impact requirements (with the hood acting as a trampoline), offering the added benefit of greater agility with a lower center of gravity.
Bilstein's adaptive damping adds a new "Track" mode to augment "Normal" and "Sport"; the stiffness levels take into account throttle and brake position, steering angle and speed.
Visually reflecting these upgrades is a bigger, more aggressive grille and a more pronounced lip on the rear.
Swing open the signature "swan wing" doors and climb inside. The low-slung cabin offers predictable luxury: available in new duotone red and black leather with subtle perforations in offset colors, while the alcantara headliner serves up a plush counterbalance to the metals and optional carbon fiber throughout.
The waterfall instrument panel still features an outdated multimedia system with a pop-up nav screen - the Rapide hasn't inherited the updated set up from the Vanquish - but the exquisite swathes of fragrant leather make it hard to fault.
A push start of the V12 stirs a raspy exhaust note, and tapping the leather-wrapped paddle shifter enables smooth forward motion. The electronically adjustable suspension's three modes deliver a dramatic effect on ride quality and stiffness, though we didn't find the more aggressive settings entirely necessary during high-speed tangos on the twisty roads north of Barcelona.
The added torque at low revs lend the Rapide S perceptibly quicker acceleration, while the "Sport" button further enlivens the exhaust note and delivers sportier shift points, awakening the drivetrain with more dramatic power delivery. In fact, the engine will readily bounce off the rev limiter and leave cog swapping entirely up to the driver. This can require careful timing since the counterclockwise tachometer offers no visible redline. Yet the tall-geared six-speed automatic delivers quick gearshifts and immediate response from the paddle shifters.
Several hours of fast paced driving make it easy to forget two snug seats are positioned aft, and that's just as well: at its soul, the Rapide S is more of a 2+2 than the bubble-tailed Panamera. The choice of a bulky, cabin-cramping rear transaxle speaks volumes about Aston's priorities: the resulting weight balance is welcome when tossing this two-ton machine through winding roads. There's something incredibly special about how easily the $200k Aston maneuvers.
We can credit Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez for curating such engineering choices: the German relaxes by endurance racing at the Nurburgring and was previously responsible for developing watershed sports cars like the iconic 993 Porsche 911.
It may have a sumptuous cabin and seductive body surfacing, but Aston's Rapide S feels notably gutsier than before, delivering a more satisfying rush for sybarites who absolutely must marry the sports car experience to a sedan. Although not without faults - especially when it comes to the vestigial rear seats - the Rapide S proves nothing compares to purposeful beauty.
2014 Aston Martin Rapide S
Layout Front/mid-mounted engine, transaxle, RWD
Engine 6.0L V12 48v, all alloy, dual variable camshaft timing
Transmission six-speed transaxle with limited-slip differential
Brakes six-piston monobloc calipers, 398mm dual-cast rotors f, four-piston, 360mm r
Suspension independent double wishbones, monotube three-way adaptive dampers f&r
Wheels & Tires 20x8.5", 245/35 ZR20 f, 20x11", 295/30 ZR20 r
Exterior bi-xenon headlamps with integrated LED side lights and indicators, carbon front splitter, functional engine vents, integrated rear lip, clear LED tail lights
Power 550hp at 6750rpm
Torque 457 lb-ft at 5000rpm
0-60 mph 4.7sec
Top Speed 190 mph
Weight 4387 lb
Economy 13/19/15mpg city/highway/combined (estimated)
MSRP $199950 (inc gas guzzler)