2014 Aston Martin Rapide S: Car Review (Video)

Aston Martin's $200,000 Rapide S is the sleekest of the trend toward stealth luxury sedans with four doors and sports coupe styling and performance. Not to mention sharing Aston Martin's 007 legacy.

I had just finished parking my borrowed Aston Martin Rapide S on Sunset Boulevard when a pedestrian pointed out, with maximum self-righteousness, that I had taken up two spaces (I was still getting used to maneuvering behind the car's majestic 7-foot-long prow). Apparently, haphazardly parking a $200,000 British sports sedan on a public street is just the sort of flagrantly 1-percent behavior that inflames the 99 like nothing else. 

Make no mistake, the 2014 Rapide S invites commentary from complete strangers--more typically good-natured envy from civilians and fraternal acknowledgement from fellow travelers of exotic automobiles. ("That your daily ride?" a BMW 7 Series M owner marveled at a Playa del Rey filling station.)

Like its Aston Martin stablemates the DB9, successor to the classic DB5, 007's original car in the Bond movies, and the Vanquish and Vantage models (current 007 Daniel Craig unwrapped a Vantage convertible for his 45th birthday last year), the Rapide S satisfies Hollywood's prevailing status prerequisite in that it is not nearly as ubiquitous as its nearest, hardly overexposed competitors: the $102,000 Maserati Quattroporte and the $78,000 Porsche Panamera (fewer than 50 examples of the 2014 Rapide S ply the roads of greater Los Angeles.) 

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Like the Panamera and Quattroporte, the Rapide S is part of trend toward coupe-like luxury cars fitted with four doors, back seats of varying plausibility and drop-dead sexy sports car styling with performance and handling to match. (The all-electric Telsa Model S shares a similar silhouette and mission statement, minus the exotic car performance and detailing.)

The Rapide S cuts a particularly svelte figure and incorporates its two extra doors and subsequent extra length--just over 16 feet, a foot longer than the DB9 coupe--with more grace than the otherwise fetching Panamera, which by comparison looks like an ungainly stretched Porsche 911.

The Rapid S's interior is every inch refined British sports car: drilled brake and accelerator pedals, analog speedometer and tachometer, and a center console that is occasionally old school to a fault: the six-speed transmission is engaged by pressing buttons that recall nothing so much as a parking garage elevator's; the requisite navigation screen materializes from the dash with Bondian stealth but bears a safety disclaimer that must be turned off every time the car is started.

My Rapide S was outfitted with optional (and veddy trendy) carbon fiber trim on the console and paddle shifters; the dash and seats swaddled in black leather with crimson stitching and an embroidered Aston Martin crest on the headrests. The headliner and visors wore a suit of handsome charcoal microsuede, another trend in smartly tailored cars this season.

The firm front seats offer good lateral support and comfort and plenty of legroom. The back seats are hemmed in by the transaxle tunnel and the steeply raked roof, which terminates in a hatchback. While there is far more legroom in than in DB9's token back seat, it's on par with that of an airline charter in Chapter 11.

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Four doors notwithstanding, the Rapide S announces its sports-coupe, grand touring lineage with deafening authority the moment you goose the 5.9 liter, 550 hp V-12 and a trumpeting exhaust note tuned as if to reach the crab nebula erupts. It's been pointed out that massive, naturally aspirated engines such as the V-12 that powers Rapide S are becoming anachronisms, that turbocharged, smaller displacement engines that deliver comparable horsepower, performance and better mileage with more technology and less brute force are the new normal.

But there's something to be said for the sheer, raw power that flows from beneath the Rapide S's bonnet and thence to the 20-inch wheels mounted with Z-class tires rated for continuous driving at 149 mph and above, a handy thing for a car that can cruise at 190 mph. Considering the immense power plant, expect a not-terrible 19 mpg on the freeway and 13 mpg around town, though those numbers skew southward fast when the temptation arises to put the engine through its paces. 

It's said that Craig has a lifetime arrangement with Aston Martin in which he can wander into the company's factory in Warwickshire, England and zoom off with which ever model in the inventory strikes his fancy. Should he tire of his Vanquish, I suspect that he and the Mrs.--Rachel Weiz--would enjoy a spin in the Rapide S. Just like 007, the Rapide S is composed, refined yet capable explosive performance. 

Just let the valets handle the parking.

Additional footage shot in Point Dume, Malibu courtesy of James Whalen of Sotheby's International Realty