What is it?

This is hardly a car that requires an introduction. When it was first showcased at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Aston Martin Rapide set the car world alight. Here was a motor with all of the glamour, sleekness and speed of a modern Aston Martin, but packaged in a format that meant, if you owned one, you could bring the kids along for a ride. Since then, the Rapide has evolved into what we have here – the Rapide S, a more aggressive, more powerful version of the standard car.

The 6.0-litre, naturally aspirated V12 has had its power upped to 552 bhp, and it now delivers 630 Nm of torque, much of which is available from 2,500 rpm. There’s a new, 8-speed automatic gearbox and adaptive damping system as well. All of which means that this long, four-door saloon will do the 0-100 km/h dash in 4.4 seconds, and go on to a top speed of 327 km/h.

How does it drive?

Before we get to the drive, can we just take a moment to appreciate the stunning exterior of the Rapide S? We know that Aston Martin has since moved on from this overall design with the DB11 and new Vantage, but this is modelled after one of the all-time-great looking cars, the Aston Martin DBS. Because it has to accommodate four doors, the Rapide is quite a bit longer than the DBS, but Aston has done an incredible job of making the door and panel gaps flush against the rest of the body, meaning you can’t really tell it’s a four-door. And at the front, you still get that big, Aston grille and those angry, pointy headlights. It’s sensational to look at, this thing.

And that gets at one of the big plus points when it comes to driving the Rapide. People in the street literally stop and stare as you drive past. Because it’s such a thing of beauty, the Rapide just laps up constant… well, adoration wouldn’t be too strong a word. This makes it feel like you’re doing the world a service by driving it about – because you make people happy when they see it. It makes the dull, grey world of BMWs, Audis and Mercedes just that little bit brighter.

But quite apart from being a feel-good thing to drive, the Rapide S is genuinely exciting. That naturally aspirated V12 is star of the show. Even with the settings turned to ‘normal’, the exhaust snorts and bellows as you make your way about town, waiting to pounce. And when it does, the aural pleasure provided by this thing beggars belief. The engine simply roars. But it isn’t a meaningless bellow – it’s angry, for sure, but it’s totally tuneful. Think of the engine as the lead singer of Metallica and you’re about there. Except it’s wonderful in just about every way.

And the engine note isn’t the only thing that’s aggressive about the Rapide S. Looking at it, you think it’ll be a gentleman’s express – a comfortable, soft, long-distance tourer. But drive it for five minutes, and you realise that this is something much more sporting. Even with the ‘sport’ mode switched off, the suspension feels reasonably stiff, meaning you can take corners at speed and you’ll stay flat and true.

What’s more, the grip is monumental, given you’ve got 552 bhp being fed to the rear wheels. Sure, there’s some amount of electronic wizardry that keeps you planted, but even so, it’s astonishing just how well this thing will devour corners at speed. Switch it over to sport mode, and you’ll be allowed a little bit of slip, but in the real world, anything more than that is just inconvenient.

The steering is pointy and responsive. It feels old-school compared to the electronic set-ups that you get from the likes of Porsche – in a good way. There’s loads of feel through the wheel, meaning you’ve got a good sense of where the fronts are pointing, and the kind of forces that they’re battling against. All of which combines to make the Rapide S a much easier car to handle than its size would suggest.

There is a price to be paid for all of this aggressiveness, though – a stiff ride. On the smooth roads of Dubai, this isn’t too much of a problem, but you do notice it when you’re navigating car parks or the cobbled streets of Jumeirah Beach Residence. Happily, things improve at speed, and the new 8-speed gearbox, developed with ZF, is beautifully smooth when you’re not hooning about, so you could very conceivably use the Rapide S as a GT car.

Interior quality and tech

The design of the Rapide’s interior is beautiful. Which is a good thing, because, if we’re honest, it’s getting on a bit. The luxury German carmakers update their interiors every few years, but the Rapide has had to make do with the same overall cabin layout as it’s had since its launch. A good thing that the initial effort was so solid, then.

The seats are stunning – front and back. Perfectly stitched and made out of wonderfully supple leather, they’re both supportive and comfortable. In the back, there’s plenty of leg room for an adult, and because there’s no bench seat in the middle, you get the same sense of being cocooned as you do in the front. And the middle arm rest that sits in place of the bench seat is fabulous.

Elsewhere, the are a couple of materials on the dash that rightly shouldn’t be included on an AED 900,000 car – a few plastic switches here and there. But otherwise, if you spec the interior in the right colour (hint: beige), the Rapide S makes for a lovely place in which to spend time.

On the tech front, the Rapide S really does show its age. Newer Aston Martins borrow tech from Mercedes, meaning they’re bang up to date. But because the Rapide is part of the last generation of cars, it doesn’t come with all of the technological bells and whistles. There’s a new infotainment system (with a screen that rises out of the dash) that offers slick animations and the basics you’d expect of a luxury car, but little in the way of stand-out functionality.

For example, because the Rapide is so long, it could really do with a 360-degree, top-down-view parking camera, but it’s only equipped with a standard reversing camera. Likewise, the dials in front of the driver are analogue affairs, while the likes of Audi give you fully configurable TFT displays. Don’t get us wrong, they look great, and perhaps Aston Martin buyers prefer the old-school way of doing things, but if you’re looking for the last word in modern tech, this isn’t the Aston Martin for you.

Running costs

This is an AED 893,000 supercar. You don’t care about running costs. Still, if you’re interested, you’ll need about AED 20,000 for comprehensive insurance. As you’d expect, that big V12 is thirsty – you’ll empty the 90-litre fuel tank in about 690 km if you’re doing a mix of city and highway driving. And at today’s prices, it’ll cost you over AED 200 to fill the Rapide S up with Super 98 petrol. Happily, residuals are actually pretty good. We’re guessing the Rapide benefits from its looks enormously there.

Our verdict

The Rapide S is a product of a different generation of cars – before the world went SUV-mad and driver’s cars were supposed to be engaging. Whether or not you think that’s a good thing is down to you, but we rather like its approach to doing things. It may not be the most advanced machine on the planet, but it’s just got so much charm, and such a wonderful engine, that it’s way more preferable to most of the other four-door supercars on the market. If you’re unsure, just look at it.