Aston Martin Rapide S (2013-2021) used car review

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By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

In the way that it drives as well as in the way that it looks, the four-door, four-seat Rapide, launched in 2010, set a new benchmark for Aston Martin. Hand built, luxuriously appointed and very pretty, it was desirable, expensive and very fast. Wherever you take it, more style per hour is guaranteed.

Models

5-door GT [6.0 V12]

History

What exactly, might the world's most elegant four-door sportscar be like? Design it in your mind. Or perhaps you'll allow us. A supercar badge, a storming V12 engine, pin-point handling and the sleekest possible shape that could disguise comfortable rear space for two and a decent boot. The car we've described is this one, Aston Martin's Rapide, launched in 2010 and the first four-door from this British brand since the Lagonda of the mid-1970s.

That car went out of production in 1989, but Aston never gave up thinking about a replacement. Eventually, at the Detroit Auto Show in 2006, we saw the beginnings of one, the Rapide Concept, nominally a four-seater, in reality little more than a stretched coupe. More work was needed, four more years of it in fact, before the designers were able to release the Rapide we got four years later. It was still hardly a limo, but was probably as sensible as any Aston Martin is ever likely to get.

As the company itself always pointed out, this was a sportscar first and foremost, with the added bonus of two extra doors. A claim we've heard before from cars like Porsche's Panamera and Maserati's Quattroporte. But cars not good enough for typical Rapide buyers with the kind of exclusive budget they'd normally invest in a Bentley. You already know from just glancing at this car that it's desirable. But will it work as a used buy? Time to see.

Initial Rapide models were built for Aston by Magna Steyr in Austria but in 2011, the company moved production back to Gaydon to reduce costs. The car sold in standard form until 2013, then evolved into the Rapid S form we're focusing on here, with 81PS more and improved Touchtronic III transmission in late-2013. Special editions were launched in 2016 and 2019 and potent AMR variants were produced before production finished in 2021.

What You Get

The Rapide is breathtakingly elegant in a way that you'd think would be impossible were it to be practical in any meaningful way. From the front, it sticks very much to established Aston Martin design themes first seen on the Vanquish and subsequently carried forward to DB9, DBS and Virage models. Get up close and beautiful detailing catches the eye, from the double-deck front grille and light tube sidelights that line the edge of the headlight clusters to the dramatic vent behind the front wheel arch, while extended creases along the coachwork deliver the long, low appearance that the stylists were clearly aiming at. It's all a far more beautiful solution to the problem of how to get four adults and their luggage into a sporting-looking car than that delivered by less exclusive four-door coupes from the period like Mercedes' CLS or Porsche's Panamera.

But you'll be wanting to know the answer to the question everyone asks about this car. Is it a really a proper four-seater? The answer is yes, but it's a qualified one. To understand why, you first have to understand what this car is made of, an aluminium construction with a torsional stiffness better suited to two doors rather than four. To maintain it and keep those flowing lines in proportion, designer Marek Reichmann had to keep the rear doors on the small side, but in compensation, they are undoubtedly rather clever, with a 'swan wing' design that uses scissor hinges that enable them to open up and out at 12 degrees as well as outwards to an opening angle of 70 degrees, the whole process designed to protect the nine coats of paint applied to the Rapide's metalwork from high kerbs or verges. And of course to aid more dignified entry and exit, though ladies with skirts above the knee may find that to be rather a challenge.

You do, after all have to negotiate a high, wide sill if you're to make it to one of the individually-sculpted sports seats which are separated by a wide centre console. Once you get there, despite an overall vehicle length of over five metres and a width of nearly two metres, it's all very snug - too snug probably if you're over six foot tall and sitting behind a front seat occupant of similar size. For us, it's just about OK and certainly fine for the kind of shorter journeys and airport hops that Aston say this car's rear compartment was really designed for. To be fair, there isn't the kind of claustrophobia here you might expect, thanks to race-style front seats which taper towards the headrests to give rear passengers a superb view ahead. The detailing is exquisite with hand-stitched leather, walnut and Iridium Silver detailing. At high speeds, the laminated windows even automatically move further up into their frames to improve refinement and each rear-seat passenger has an individual air-conditioning system to enhance comfort further.

Move to the front and as you open the driver's door, there's a chance to appreciate what Aston Martin calls 'window choreography'. All four doors are frameless, with front and rear window panels meeting in the middle, each pane dropping a little when you pull the door handle before jinking sideways to allow you to enter. Once inside, everything is beautifully finished, from the metallic contra-rotating dial pack to the soft mood lighting and you've the familiar Aston mix of soft English leather and cool metal switches. There's no conventional gearstick, just large 'P', 'R', 'N' and 'D' buttons on the centre console. You'll get used to using these, but you may be disappointed to find that there are a few Ford bits scattered around. Existing Bentley owners won't be expecting to find indicator stalks from a Fiesta. The Volvo-sourced sat nav is a bit out of place too. We do though, like the Bang & Olufsen turrets that rise from the dash when you fire the engine and the way that the acoustic signature of the stereo changes when the rear seatbelts are used so that the whole car fills with sound, not just the front.

Out back, it's a little surprising to find a hatchback rather than a boot, but provision of a fifth door is certainly a welcome extra aid to practicality, with 301-litres on offer and a pop-up bulkhead boot divider to help secure luggage. There are lovely touches like an umbrella in its own holder and at the touch of a button, the seatbacks fold down electronically to give a 750-litre luggage bay.

What You Pay

If you're looking at an early '10-era model Rapide V12, you're looking at starting prices beginning from around £39,000 (around £44,250 retail), rising to around £54,500 (£61,500 retail) for a late '13-plate car. We've given you those figures so you can compare against what you'd pay for a Rapide S, which prices from around £55,000 (£62,000 retail) on a '14-plate, with values rising to around £96,700 (around £106,750 retail) for one of the last '21-plate models. All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. Click here for a free valuation.

What to Look For

You don't expect a hand-crafted car of this kind to be faultless as it ages - and the Rapide very definitely isn't. If you want something closer to perfection in this segment, buy something German.

Based on our ownership survey, here's some things to look out for when perusing used examples.

Check the bodywork carefully, particularly the panel edges as the aluminium can bubble underneath the paint finish. It's worth getting a specialist inspection of the underside of the car as the protective panels fitted have to be taken off to check the condition of the underbody. Make sure you inspect the boot and the rear cabin carefully for damage to the trim and the leather. Britax makes a bespoke child seat that fits into the rear of a Rapide - it costs £120, including an ISOFIX fixed base.

As for the engine, look for signs of oil leaking from the cam covers. We've heard of oil starvation issues from the V12 used here in other Aston Martin cars, but there don't seem to be any reported problems for the Rapide: keep an eye on the oil level just in case. Servicing is every 10,000 miles or every year, whichever comes first, and a major service is due at 70,000 miles.

Make sure that the car you're looking at has had all the various recalls taken care of. There was one in 2014 for a chrome-plated transmission switch that reacts with the printed circuit board, causing the gearbox to go into neutral with no warning. There was also recall for a fault Park mode in the gearbox that can let the car roll in Park, which was caused by a communication area between the engine control module and the transmission control module. We've heard reports of the adaptive dampers starting to leak - a replacement full set will cost you £4,000 - so check the adaptive damping modes during your test drive. Bear in mind that the brakes and tyres on this car will get worked harder than they would on a DB9 because the body weight is 190kg more. The front discs are bigger than those on a DB9 and new rotors and pads cost around £600, plus fitting.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2013 Rapide S V12 ex VAT - Scuderia Car Parts) An oil filter costs around £24. Front brake caliper around £693. A battery is around £257, a front side door is around £2,758 and a rear tailgate around £5,734. Rear brake pads are around £20. And a fuel tank around £3,857.

On the Road

Proof that this is first and foremost a sportscar rather than a luxury saloon is delivered before you've even gone anywhere. Get comfortable behind the wheel and you're faced with cabin architecture that's pretty much identical to that of Aston's DB9, complete with focused driving position and competition-style dials. But the clincher comes when you slip the little crystal block that constitutes the key into the dash and press it home. There's a brief whirring before the venerable hand-built 6.0-litre V12, also from the DB9, fires into life with an angry yowl.

Fired with anticipation, you press the big 'D' button on the dash - all Rapides being 6-speed automatics - then momentarily deliberate over the delicious decision as to whether to simply burble away into the traffic or allow the formidable firepower to pick you up and hurl the car at the horizon like a javelin. A 477PS output promises this car to be Rapide in nature as well as in name, while giving the throttle a prolonged stomping will see you reach 188mph before too long. With some nimble use of the magnesium alloy paddle shifters that control the Touchtronic 2 automatic gearbox, 60mph arrives in just 5.0s and 100mph just over five seconds later to the accompaniment of that fabulous soundtrack, enough to leave the uninitiated feeling as if they're trapped in a mahogany wardrobe in a thunderstorm. If you want to go faster, get yourself the Rapide S model we're focusing on here (produced from late-2013) which wrung another 81PS out of the 5935cc V12, lifting peak power to 558PS at 5,750rpm. Plus the 'S' benefitted from an uprated Touchtronic III auto gearbox.

Whatever your choice, prodding the dash-mounted 'Sport' button to sharpen the throttle response and the gearshift action further emphasises aural fireworks that start when the valves open at 3,500rpm and build to 5,000 revs in a glorious crescendo as you ping up and down the 'box just to hear those sharp barks of revs. But this is no mere muscle car, as you realise when first you point it at a twisting country road. For a start, the Rapide is beautifully balanced, rear wheel drive matched to an engine pushed as far rearwards as it will go in the interests of weight distribution - a near perfect 51:49 if you're interested. But it's the clever Adaptive Damping system that's really most responsible for this car's chameleon-like ability to morph from silky-smooth GT to gutsy sports coupe in the blink of an eye.

Ease off and it relaxes the suspension settings to improve comfort, but press on and everything gets taut and more responsive. To keep things that way, you've to press a provided button with a little damper sign, the sport setting for the suspension. So firm is the resulting ride that we can't imagine using this mode for much outside of a racetrack but at least there's the option to do so. If you do venture onto a circuit, you'll be glad of a 'DSC Track' mode that loosens up the stability control and lets the rear tyres slip just a little. And you'll appreciate the effort that the British engineers put into the surprisingly responsive steering feel, the limited slip differential to help you through tight bends and the prodigious grip from the bespoke Bridgestone tyres and 20-inch wheels. And of course you'll be thankful for the huge dual cast brake discs that are fashioned from aluminium and cast iron and tendto be more resistant to the kind of fading that usually afflicts Astons of this kind.

Overall

If aesthetics drive your buying decision, then here, your buying decision might make itself. Many would contend that the Aston Martin Rapide is the best-looking four-seat car money can buy from its period. The fact that it's also a brilliant driver's car seems almost inconsequential. No, it's not especially spacious in the back, but as long as occupants aren't especially tall, the Rapide will transport four of them with elegance, refinement and ineffable composure. It's eye-wateringly expensive to run of course, but then, the target market isn't hugely cost sensitive. What price elegance?

When it all comes down to it, the Rapide turns out to be basically how you imagine a four-door Aston might be. Thunderous V12, hand crafted cabin, elegant but sporting looks. It was a sports car with space for the family, rather than an attempt to muscle in on the luxury saloon market and as such, it's very desirable indeed. If a growing family or the advancing years are starting to make your supercar look like more and more of an extravagance, The Aston Martin Rapide is the sensible alternative. It isn't much more sensible mind, and that's its charm.

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