Car Review: Aston Martin 2017 Rapide S

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Car Review: Aston Martin 2017 Rapide S

Aston Martin is 007's car brand of choice. Can this one prove its worth as a functional 4-door coupe?


George Kuruvilla

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Published: Fri 14 Apr 2017, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 14 Apr 2017, 2:00 AM

Aston Martin is not only the road companion to one of fiction's greatest characters, but also one amongst the last of the few surviving British-owned luxury brands. They are known to build sports cars, both in 2-door and 4-door formats. And today we take a look at their largest vehicle, the 2017 Aston Martin Rapide S.

For starters, here is some history! The Rapide S is the spiritual successor to the 4-door Lagonda - a car with a design that matches the dictionary definition for the term 'wedge'. This Rapide S, though, is a culmination of curves - a fastback saloon version of the now out-of-production, but gorgeous, DB9 coupe. Forget the coveted winged badging and the exotic colour scheme you can avail, this car is gorgeous bumper to bumper and tyre to roof; and it won't take a petrol-head to distinguish it from the multitude of luxury cars in this city.
Recognised by its sharp slant of the nose, full-face aluminium grille honed as a single piece and jewel-like headlamp setting, the Rapide S shamelessly sets itself apart from the garden variety of sedans.
Unlike the first-generation Panamera's bubble back, Aston's evidently has chosen aesthetics over practicality and that's the reason they kept the flowing fastback roofline. And they have done a splendid job. It's the best cross between a thoroughbred sports car and an estate vehicle. In fact, it's so coupe-like, it's only in profile you notice its enormous S-Class-like 5,019mm length. It is so swoopy, one can almost imagine how easy it would be for air to flow up and over the bodywork and the little upswept 'flip' spoiler at the rear which helps keep it planted at all speeds. And the rear too is unmistakably Aston Martin, thanks to the frosted crystal fixtures they call tail lamps.
These days, even run-of-the-mill sedans come with dual exhausts, so you may think perhaps a V12 super car demands more number of outlets or larger diameters than the two round dual exhaust tips. But we think they are 'keeping it real', as they say, and elegant. If you are looking for a change, you can get them in black ceramic coating as well.
Like shoes to a lady and a watch to a gentleman, there is nothing like a good set of rims that complete the automotive outfit. The test car rode on elegant 10-spoke 20-inch wheels wrapped in wide Bridgestones tyres. There is a variety of spoke design you can choose from, one with polished metallic look or shiny black ones, but remember, the diameters remains the same.
Getting in is rather interesting. You have to pull open those almost concealed door handles that are flush with the panels. And even though the roof is lower than most sedans - at 1,360mm height - it's rather easy to climb into the front seats, if you can ignore the tub effect of the cabin (which means you have to literally pick your feet up from the pavement and place them inside). Interestingly, the doors swing upward by 12 degrees, a bit like a beetle's wings. This prevents the door from meeting with street curb. How thoughtful!
What to expect on the side? A snug interior with full-grain leather upholstery; some of it goes into the dashboard and the doors too. It sure did feel nice and comfy in here. The comfort of the lush leather - which is of Scottish origin and supplied by Bridge of Weir - is augmented by the option of heating/ventilation.
The rest of the cabin is accented by piano black or a host of natural wood finishes such as mahogany and walnut. But if taking a tree down is against your ethics, you can also choose carbon-fibre or an Iridium finish. It is certainly the land of velvet pillows and golden spoons, as I said once before about the Rapide.
The 3-spoke steering is optimally shaped, sized and positioned for drivability. Funnily enough, the rake and reach can only be adjusted manually, and 'manual labour' aren't popular  words with industrialists and bankers. Also, I wish they would improve the quality of the blinker and wiper stalks. The instrumentation, which has metallic dials, aren't backlit like modern-day vehicles; instead, they have tiny spotlights on them. Quaint!
The rear cabin seats only two adults, not more, thanks to the centre console that extends down the aisle. And unlike the front seats, getting in and out is a bit of hassle. But once inside and seated in those appropriately-named bucket seats, you are in a private sanctuary. Overall, comfort is fantastic, but vision through the rear windows is limited.

The naturally-aspirated motor of the Rapide S may very well be the last we see from Aston Martin, considering that the world has turned towards turbo-charging, and so has Aston. This one, though, has no forced-induction, no dual-clutch tranny - none of that technological gimmickry. The handcrafted 6.0-litre V12 in this is a recipe that has been honed and refined with every generation, with the added advantage of a few extra horses this time around.
When cranked up to 6,650rpm, it will churn out a massive 552bhp and enough torque to power a truck, i.e. 620Nm of torque at 5,500rpm. They have also upped the transmission credentials; it now sports an 8-speed Touchtronic III, instead of the 6-speed Touchtronic II automatic.
Starting up the car is momentous; keep your foot on the brake pedal, insert the crystal-edged key into a slot and the engine sets off with an emphatic roar and idles with a light rumble. This is grand tourer, so don't expect a launch control mode here. Yet, it delivers monumental thrust at will and you don't need to keep pot boiling to extract power for the everyday kind of use - drivability is key here. The Rapide S will pull away from standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds - a 0.5 second improvement over the last Rapide S we drove; even its top speed has been improved dramatically from 306 km/h to an astounding 327 km/h. But, of course, no one really goes that fast and these numbers are just bragging rights at a dinner party.
It's not just in the straights - the Rapide shows enthusiasm for the corners as well! The independent double wishbone suspension keeps those wide tyres connected to the tarmac and offers "predictable" handling even at speed. Equalling accelerating power is braking power. Armed with a 400mm diameter 6-piston calipers at the front and a 360mm diameter four-piston monobloc calipers in the rear, the Rapide S is a million dirham car that stops on a dime. It always felt planted and secure even when the brakes were employed with the audacity and frequency of a race driver on a circuit.
The fuel tank is as large as 90.5L, so even a few sessions of spirited driving won't send you to the gas station immediately. Aston claims it will let flora flourish - emitting up to 300 grams of C02 per km, down 55 grams lesser from its predecessor - without endangering the fauna too much. In the end, they've made it more eco-friendly and it's the thought that counts, especially in what could essentially be a weekend car.

Safety is a priority that must go hand in hand with speed, and having a good set of brakes is important but it isn't nearly everything. But you can rest assured in the Rapide S - with features like eight airbags, ABS, DSC and a rear-camera. It is also prepped with essentials like cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and satellite navigation which can be viewed through the rather small 6.5-inch screen via the AMi II infotainment system. It is now compatible with Android and iOS software.
Sourced from the house of Bang & Olufsen, BeoSound is a 1,000-watt, 15-speaker audio system with on-dash, pop-up speakers; it's a great set of noise-makers! Besides playing mp3 and wma formats, you also get a USB port and auxiliary input socket. That is if you don't want the 600-watt, 12-speaker company fitted unit. which you don't!
Aston hasn't forsaken your friends at the rear, with the option of the twin-screen rear-seat entertainment system which incorporates a 6-disc DVD player - kind of obsolete tech, if you think about it - with auxiliary input, wireless headphones and remote control to keep those back benchers occupied as you enjoy the front row seating.
The trunk isn't too bad either. The stacked cargo space will fit a suitcase and some of Aston's custom-made luggage. Aston has also managed to stow an umbrella in the boot, one for those rainy days. But that, too, is an option.

The 2017 Aston Martin Rapide S is a repurposed rocket ship that has been sculpted to soothe the eyes, like most Astons, can comfortably seat four. Getting into the rear cabin is a bit of a hassle and the infotainment screen is from another era - anything but secret spy-like - but a few moments in the driver's seat, where you can feel the brutal acceleration and the raw exhaust note, and you'd know that James Bond drives cars like these because he wants to. because it's appropriate for a gentleman!

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