Before the SUVs and the electric vehicles start rolling out, Aston Martin has spruced up its four-door saloon powered by the last naturally-aspirated V12 remaining in the segment – we drive the 2019 Aston Martin Rapide S Shadow Edition and find that time waits for no one…
With the DB11 and the new Vantage, Aston Martin has, with a little help from Stuttgart, stepped through a time warp and essentially emerged in the present. Congratulations, where have you been? This, if you look objectively, is hardly an achievement. Aston Martin has finally started making cars that are technologically on a par with the rest of its competitors. Hurray, etc…
The Rapide S Shadow Edition is a peek into why despite their many failings, Astons remain desirable. However, a bit of context is in order here. The Rapide was Gaydon’s first modern four-dour “sports car”; a term that’s bandied about more than is healthy. I drove the first iteration in early 2011 and despite its stunning looks, it was decisively not a practical saloon. The room in the back was, well, there was very little if you had legs, and the four-seat arrangement with a thumping great armrest in the middle and a sloping roof meant that your passengers and claustrophobia would be on first-name basis pretty quickly. It’s still the case.
Anyway, this is the limited-run Rapide Shadow Edition, which, to all intents and purposes, is mechanically the same as a bog standard car. The refinement is definitely better than the original Rapide and wind noise doesn’t batter your ears as it used to – and get this, one of the highlights of the infotainment system isn’t a calculator anymore, seriously – but compared to the current crop of super saloons, namely the Porsche Panamera, this is in another century. Last century, if I might add.
Inside, everything feels dated and the quality of plastics leaves plenty to be desired, especially if you consider the price tag of AED965,000. That said, it’s all pleasingly analog in here. The steering is heavy, direct, and the ride quality provides a superb balance of suppleness and control. And that V12! Gosh, it sounds amazing amongst all its rivals that are making do with muffled, smaller capacity turbocharged units. In theory, a 6.0-litre V12 (okay, 5.9 to be pedantic) could be considered wasteful and unnecessary these days, when engines half the litreage can deliver way more than 565 horsepower and 630Nm of torque with ease. The zero to 100km/h sprint time of 4.4 seconds is hardly impressive either – an Audi RS3 hatchback is quicker, for perspective. And yet, it is all very likable.
The Rapide Shadow Edition, for better or worse, is in something of a class of its own. It affords a driving experience unlike any fast four-door on the market. And, it turns heads unlike any other, as well. At over five metres long, this is not a small car, but it looks compact, sleek, and sits low to the ground – it looks gorgeous. In fact, during the test I completely forgot it was a four-door and tried to retrieve my laptop from the back seat by moving the front seatback forward, rather than just opening the rear door. Trust me, this whole saloon-coupe thing? No one has pulled it off better than Aston Martin.
The interior, especially in the Shadow Edition, has been tarted up, making it suitably upscale, but no amount of wood and leather can conceal the fact that it’s been ravaged by time. To be fair, however, the trim materials are fantastic and display great attention to detail.
Let’s be honest, the cash Aston wants for the Rapide Shadow Edtion can get you into cars that are exponentially more capable, and probably for a smaller price (shout out to the Panamera, again), but there is a charm about the Rapide that its rivals lack. You know it’s not perfect. You know it’s not that fast. You know it’s technically dated. But you’re still drawn to it. It’s a car that, in this age of assisted this and that, brings back the real thrill of driving and it’s beautiful. It’s visceral. It’s engaging. It’s not that quick. But who cares? It’s not about how fast you get to your destination, it’s how you get there. In the Rapide, you get there in style, guffawing like your brain’s on vacation. That’s a feeling no amount of money can buy.
2019 Aston Martin Rapide Shadow Edition
5.9-litre naturally aspirate V12 | eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive | 565 horsepower and 630Nm of torque | zero to 100km/h in 4.4 seconds | AED965,000