First drive: Aston Martin Rapide S
We test the new Rapide S, complete with a new eight-speed auto 'box and some suspension tweakery
Ooh, a new Rapide?
Almost. Since it was launched in 2010, Aston has constantly evolved the pitch of its stretchy four-door. First it was a posh limo with a bit of go-faster-ness should it be called for. Then it received a healthy power boost and a prettier face. Now it's major transplant surgery as the Rapide S gets a brand-new gearbox, reworked suspension and a few other tweaks under the skin.
Is it faster then?
With the changes, the Rapide joins the 320kph club for the first time. For that you can thank new electronics that release a few more horsepowers, but mostly it's down to the new and impressive eight-speed automatic from ZF. The extra ratios make the most of the 6.0-litre V12 and help it creep over the magic double-tonne to a 327kph maximum. The 'box is mounted on an all-new sub-frame, and there's also a new diff to complete the link to the rear wheels.
What's the gearbox like?
Rather than squeeze each ratio to accommodate the new ones, it appears they've stacked the extra two on top. So the V12 gets to properly stretch its legs in each gear and, by the time you reach the top of eighth, you'll be doing 327kph. The advantage of the newfound cogs - apart from the higher top speed - is better fuel emissions. So you're looking at a naturally aspirated V12 with CO2 emissions of 300g/km (a Ferrari FF with the same number of cylinders produces 360).
And the suspension?
It's been completely reworked and there are greater gaps between the adaptive modes than before. You notice it. It feels like the engineers have removed a half-bounce from the dampers, so it's more composed over bumps and disguises its long wheelbase through corners. From the driver's seat it's easy to forget there's a useful pair of seats behind you.
Anything else I should know?
There's a new range of alloys, plus new trim options. So you can skin your cabin in California Poppy or Fandango Pink. One is like orange peel. The other is like lipstick. More subtle options are available, so - bearing in mind this is still one very elegant Aston - we advise that you choose wisely.
5935cc V12, RWD, 8-speed auto, 552bhp, 630Nm, 9.3kpl, 300g/km, 327kph max, 0-100kph 4.4secs, 1990kg