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Top speed mph
With its four doors, its pair of plausible rear seats and its theoretically functional boot space, the Rapide has always been the sensible man’s Aston Martin. Indeed, so long as you were prepared to weather a few raised eyebrows from the sceptics, you could just about spin the selection of one of these witheringly pricy, hand-tooled performance objects as a matter of family-oriented pragmatism.
At the same time, the extent to which the Rapide represents an Aston Martin man’s Aston Martin has always seemed to invite heavy and daunting debate. Where did this giant tourer sit within the company’s fundamentally sporty lineage? Was it proper? Did this abrupt interest in the carriage and comfort of passengers stand for the natural extension of the brand’s core values or their stark abandonment?
The arrival of this peppery new Rapide S should at the very least narrow the scope for argument. At any rate, it felt pretty proper to me. There’s nothing different about the body, unless you count some new paint options, but underneath, the car has been thoroughly reappraised. It now comes blessed with the eight-speed ZF gearbox that’s also gone into the punchy, two-door and unquestionably Aston Martiny Vanquish. You get your two extra gears at the cost of no extra bulk and in a package that is apparently lighter than the outgoing box. The system is capable of making its shifts in 130 milliseconds, meaning the car’s fibres twitch faster than anything Lewis Hamilton’s muscles could muster, even in a blind panic.
Power from the V12 engine rises to 552bhp. Down comes the 0-62mph time, crashing by half a second from 4.7 seconds to 4.2 seconds. And up goes the top speed, from a trifling 190mph to a truly pugnacious (and, of course, starkly illegal) 203mph. And to hold it all together, there’s a new Bosch engine management system, a stiffened rear suspension and some significantly fatter front brakes. All of which enables Aston Martin to herald “a significant step change” for the model — or, as we used to say, in the days before corporate blather, a significant change.
As for that gearbox, it’s a thing of wonder whose skills seem to encompass mind-reading. Brake and hold onto the downshift paddle and the gear most appropriate to your newly decelerated speed will be conveniently available to you by the time your foot gets back to the accelerator. Whether in normal drive mode, or in the booted-up, more growly Sport setting, it would require some fairly serious operator error before the Rapide S allowed you to look like a bad driver.
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