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Test Drive: 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S
It's back and better than ever
by Evan Orensten
on 08 July 2013
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Aston Martin celebrates their centenary this year. One of their many achievements is the fastest and most luxurious four-door they've ever built: the 2014 Rapide S. A refresh of one of our favorite models, the Rapide (which started production with the 2010 model year) features welcome updates to the car's design and performance, and is just starting to be delivered to a few very happy people.

Aston invited me to drive the renamed 2014 Rapide S on a steamy, rainy June day at the Atlanta Motorway Speedway, and it did not disappoint. Automotive journalists are an opinionated group—and hearing a dozen of them say, "this is one beautiful car" over and over is telling. You won't find a better looking four-door sports car. While its principle competitors (the Mercedes CLS 63 AMG Coupé, Porsche Panamera and the Maserati Quattroporte) shine in their own ways, they don't have a chance against the Rapide S in terms of aesthetics alone.

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Those who look at the Rapide S closely will see an update on par with the work of one of Beverly Hills' best plastic surgeons—it's very noticeable, if you notice it. The exterior features a new hood and body panels. Pedestrian safety requirements dictated the height and angle of the car's new front, and the resulting nose-job improves its lines and stance.

The redesigned, hand-machined aluminum grille sports a more aggressive, wider and fuller posture. LED headlamps give the car a more current look. A new lip on the rear provides increased aerodynamic performance and looks better, too. Even the wheels get an update, with the optional lightweight forged alloy style that's exclusive to the Rapide S. It shares the common Aston VH platform with most of the model range but gets a special treatment for the Rapide S. Aston's design team has long integrated the rules of the Golden Ratio in its design, seeking balanced angles and proportions. While all Astons are stunners, the Rapide S is perhaps their finest achievement. Making a four-door car this sexy isn't easy.

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The cabin gets a refresh too, mostly with an increase in leather and refined execution. What you see is what it is; if it looks like glass, leather, plastic or aluminum, it is. There are no faux materials here and the Rapide S wears its finery and opulence well. It's a hand-stitched leather, aluminum and carbon fiber extravaganza. The interior updates are mostly topical, and the tight rear seats are still best suited for pets and kids; adults are best limited to short rides. Think more Concorde than first class suite on an Airbus A380. No one buys an Aston for the latest sat nav system—leave it in its closed position and use your smartphone's nav in an AirFrame instead.

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…the engine purrs and rumbles with an unmistakable and unbelievably mesmerizing mating call

The bulk of the refresh, however, is in what you feel and hear, not what you see. The new, naturally aspirated 5.9-liter, 550hp V-12 Gen 4 AM11 engine—recently debuted in the new Vanquish—sits 19mm/.75" lower than the engine in the previous Rapide, lowering the car's center of gravity. The car's weight is nearly equally distributed at 52/48 which is one of the reasons the car feels so balanced on the road. There is new engine software and a few mechanical tweaks, adding 80hp (to 550hp) and 14 lb-ft of torque (to 457 lb-ft), helping rocket you from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. A new Gen4 Adaptive Damping system adds a Track mode to its previous Normal and Sport modes. I was able to run consecutive laps on the track in each of the three modes, and experienced the system's capabilities first-hand. Most owners may never hit the track, but they can rest assured that despite its size and weight the Rapide S handles like its smaller and lighter two door siblings. Drivers will thoroughly enjoy tooling around in Normal mode, but the Rapide S begs to be driven to earn its best performance. It hits its stride when the paddle shifters are used and the driver works the engine, unleashing its torque as RPMs get pushed. Like all Astons, the engine purrs and rumbles with an unmistakable and unbelievably mesmerizing mating call.

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The 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S is lighter, faster, more luxurious, handles better, and is even more fun to drive than the Rapide that it replaces. Production has moved from its factory in Austria and is now hand-built at Aston's Gaydon, England plant. If you're not able to make the Aston of your dreams with the range of available options, their Q team will help you personalize your car any way you can imagine. Base price is $199,950.

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Check out our slideshow for a closer look.

Images courtesy of Aston Martin

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