Leaving Las Vegas in an Aston Rapide S
Another classic feature from the last 20 years of TG mag: the ultimate test of Aston’s four-door...
Posted: 22 Oct 2013
We slip away north to find a more suitable tableau. Fortunately, it doesn't take long. Vegas falls away quickly, sucked into the rearward horizon and replaced by scrubby, exhausted-looking desert. The roads are long and straight, and it gives me a chance to wind out the Rapide and consider what's new. The basics are these: this is the revised Aston Martin Rapide S, which translates as Aston's most practical GT, with four seats and a usable hatchback, wrapped in a profile that means you don't sacrifice style for semi-practicality. There's a new - controversially colossal - front grille and a reprofiled bootlid with an extra degree of kick in the vestigial ducktail, and it remains the kind of car the Porsche Panamera hopes to look like when it grows up. On the other hand, it is in no way as practical as any of its competitors (think Porsche Panamera Turbo S, Mercedes CLS63, Maserati Quattroporte or even the forthcoming BMW Gran Coupe M) and remains claustrophobic in the back for more than short hops. But one suspects that anyone who buys a Rapide in favour of those cars knows exactly what they're doing. And doesn't give a hoot.
We take a small detour into a place called Valley of Fire, marvelling at the whipcord roads threaded between the broken stumps of red-rock mesa pushing up through the desert. Park Rangers take a dim view of speeding, but the parks are big, the roads good and the traffic light. Pick your moment, and you can have a little fun in safety. It would be rather rude not to. And the Rapide feels... like a very healthy Rapide. The engine - the AM11 in Aston-codespeak - has changed a bit and been repositioned to drop the block 19mm, but this is more of a refresh than a substantial core-change. So it's still 12 cylinders of half a litre each, arranged in a vee and breathing natural atmosphere. There are relatively subtle tweaks, dual-variable timing on camshafts hollowed for lightness, more precise machining of the block and the like, but this is generally just good old-fashioned engine tuning.