Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg
Cars

At $207,000, the Aston Martin Rapide S Is Not a Good Deal

The marque makes far better cars in other categories. Turn to Porsche, BMW, or Tesla for a four-door daily driver.

The first words Aston claims about its $207,000 Rapide S declare it “the world’s most beautiful four-door sports car.”

This is true.

Whether or not you believe in objective beauty (I do, but we can debate that philosophy another time), you will see that the Rapide S goes easier on the eye—looks more classical, more elegant, more perfectly proportioned—than the Porsche Panamera, the BMW Alpina B7, and even the Tesla Model S (bring it on, Twitter).

 This is the car Aston made to further entice customers who had bought the Vanquish, the Vantage, and/or the DB9 GT but who wandered over to some of the above brands for their four-door needs. It’s still relatively new, too: Introduced as a concept only 10 years ago, it made its official production debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009.

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Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

Response to the first four-door, rear-wheel-drive Aston remains strong: Last year Aston Martin Rapides comprised 20 percent of the brand’s overall sales of all models, roughly what the brand had projected when it launched the line.

Standard on the 2017 model are cool 10-spoke alloy silver wheels, LED and electroluminescent lighting, hands-free entertainment and heated front- and rear seats, among other things (the “S” is a nameplate traditionally attached to high-performance models or variants at Aston, such as the V12 Vantage S). But if you’re going to buy an Aston Martin, and I highly suggest you do, make it the Vantage GTS or the DB9 GT. They're perfect. The Rapide S comes close but falls short. 

Elegant and Expensive

Here’s why. The Aston Martin Rapide S is the prettiest sedan money can buy. The one I drove in L.A. for a week last month cost $226,485, including an $8,330 sound system and $4,545 20’’ 10-spoke directional alloy wheels that are diamond turned with graphite finish, among other special extras.

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Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

But despite its fine looks, it lacks the driving aggression and precision of the less expensive Porsche Panamera Turbo S. It's inferior in craftsmanship to the less expensive Bentley Flying Spur V8 S, and less spacious inside than both of those or the excellent $137,000 BMW Alpina B7, $191,000 Mercedes-Maybach S600, or $121,500 Tesla Model S P100D, all of which are as fast or faster. These are significant discounts from the Rapide S price level.

Heck, the more expensive $244,600 Bentley Flying Spur W 12 blows all of those out of the water in every respect and in a way that justifies its extra cost, though it’s not as sexy as the Aston. 

It pains me to say this. And let’s remember that this is very rarefied air—most people, including myself, would be delighted at the opportunity to drive, let alone own, such a lovely car. But if you’re going to spend $220,000 on a practical sports car, you should get your money’s worth.

The Breakdown

Let’s talk about it. The new Rapide S comes with a 6.0-liter V12 engine that gets 552 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. It can hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. Top speed is 203 mph.

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Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

But the Porsche Panamera Turbo S, for instance, has more horsepower (570 hp) and more torque (553 pounds-feet), is faster (0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds), and costs less ($180,300). So does another German standout, the BMW Alpina B7  (600 hp; 590 lb-ft; 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds; $137,000). I highly recommend even the B6.

Tesla’s Model S P100D can hit 60 mph in less than 3 seconds in Ludicrous mode, and its steering paired with that acceleration unfettered by gears feels galactic in comparison.

That said, the Rapide is swift and smooth to drive as you push through its eight-speed automatic transmission, which is among its finer characteristics. Driving it across L.A.’s broad highways and sunny avenues was a treat; one friend called it “the car you drive to show off without looking like you’re trying to show off.” It’s lighter than its competitors, and I certainly felt that difference at the wheel, especially in Sport mode (Normal and Track are the other driving options). The car is incredibly well-balanced and responsive for a sedan.

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Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

It beats those others when it comes to top speed, too, although that doesn’t matter nearly as much as those other criteria. While you can sometimes get away with driving 100 mph on an American highway, anything faster remains mostly aspirational, and therefore theoretical and irrelevant, to most drivers.

Interior Quality

As for the interior quality of these sedans, you’ll find the thickness of the leather, the refinement of the stitching, the polish of the wood, and the quality of the metal far superior in Bentley’s stately V8 S and W12 S models rather than in the Rapide. (Take your pick of those Bentleys, by the way—the W12 costs more than the Rapide but is far more powerful; the V8 S is less expensive and nearly equal in terms of driving specs.)

Mercedes-Maybach offers a plush interior in that S600, too, with even the armrests, door panels, cup holders, and rear seats all heated. That one can feel cluttered and overstuffed to younger drivers; the Aston just feels a little outdated.

I love how Aston continues to use the sleek rectangular key fob that you push into a slot on the dash to start the car. I love how the low, deep seats in the front and rear of the car feel more like a jet cockpit than any other sedan on the market. But that seating arrangement also works against Aston: each chair feels like it’s in its own silo rather than oriented toward the center of the car and your fellow passengers. That makes it difficult to interact. On a traffic-congested multiple-hour drive down to Orange County, the lounged angle of the sport seat placement began to fatigue my 5’10’’ back and long legs.

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Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

Elsewhere: Can you have too much stitching and quilting in a car? Probably. The Rapide S, with innumerable quilted effects on each of the four seats, plus ventilation throughout, comes dangerously close. The leather feels a bit thin, a little plastic-y, compared with competitors. And the knobs that control the sound and entertainment onboard should be heavier, thicker, when you feel them. I predict this will be improved when the model is completely redone in its next generation by the end of the decade. It will be worth waiting for that if you can postpone your purchase until then. In the meantime, lease!

Aston does provide a wide rear storage deck in the back of the Rapide, which eases the cramped quarters in the rest of the car, but if you need sheer space in your sport sedan—for shoulders, head, legs, bags—go with the Porsche, Bentley, or BMW. They feel particularly cavernous compared with this snug Aston.

The reason for the close quarters, of course, is that the designers at Aston Martin have ingeniously kept the car close to the same proportions as its two-door siblings. (I am particularly excited that the DB9-replacing DB11 is so gorgeous to look at and thrilling to drive.) The two rear doors, which are small and open at an angle, are carved out of the rear flanks of the car rather than added by their own volition.

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Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

In fact, it makes sense to orient them that way—why mess with perfection?

Which is to say that with the Rapide S you’ve got a very expensive, very beautiful car from perhaps the most idealized brand in the business. If you buy it, you’re tapping into the aesthetic James Bond himself deems worthy to flaunt. But for actual use on a daily basis, you can do better.

 

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