One Force of Nature Meets Another

When Hurricane Joaquin came to town in early October, we found it fit to test out the most beautiful four-door on the road.

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Matthew Ankeny

Hurricane Joaquin came to town in early October, but it didn’t do much. It blew, it rained, it spread debris across the streets. What was promised to be a supercell landing on New York turned farther east and ended up as nothing more than a minor blip of Northeast weather in the fall. In the end, its windy, watery bout with British automotive royalty wasn’t truly a fair fight.

The Aston Martin Rapide S comes from Warwickshire, England, has a curb weight of 4,410 pounds, and is stacked with a 6.0-liter V12, front mid-mounted engine with rear-wheel-drive good for a max speed of 203 mph and a 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. In its last bout, the car was criticized for being too slow, so it took the off-season to bulk up and came back with 18 percent more power. An aluminum, magnesium alloy and composite body also makes the stocky middleweight as toned and chiseled as a four-door can be.

The venue was the passageway down to Atlantic City. The drive let the Rapide work through the storm, with freeways to give the car plenty of time to work the upper body, and some small, coastal back roads, just enough to let the car get a few punches in down at the kidneys. Rain and debris hammered the sheet metal, but with deft dodges of the wheel — tuned with taut race inspiration — any hard punches landed in the wake of the wheels. The Aston Martin jabbed hard and stable, strong, long punches ripped across the pavement, and even when delivering its force of velocity in the triple digits, the car stayed balanced and stout. There is more power than what was needed to cut Joaquin on the eastern seaboard down to bits.

Winds moved into the 50 mph range, but what’s that when you have 552 horsepower quivering under the hood and sheet metal that cuts hard and sharp into anything inclement? The bout was over in a few hours, and the Aston stood above the debris-littered streets four haunches strong; the engine was torrid, but it didn’t break much of a sweat.

Aston Martin Rapide S Specs

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Engine: 6.0-liter V12
Transmission: six-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Horsepower: 552 bhp @ 6,750 rpm
Torque: 457 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Drive System: RWD
0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds
Top Speed: 203 mph

The Rapide S does three things great in the ring/on the road: it is beautiful, it is powerful, and it is an audible delight. Aston Martin doesn’t do much business making four-doors — they make coupes and they make them well. This coupe design language translates over to this longer body, and from all angles looks nothing like what one imagines from a sedan. It is, as claimed by the company, the most beautiful four-door on the road.

On a relatively open freeway (who drives when a hurricane is in town?), it was only fair to give the car time to stop at the shoulder, hazards flashing, and then kiss the pedal to the floorboard and let the traction control flip out as everything roared forward. This car only knows how to go fast, even in the driving rain. With the V12’s power going straight to the rear wheels, it is classic, erudite speed.

With the V12’s power going straight to the rear wheels, it is classic, erudite speed.

And then there’s the athlete’s heavy breathing. For all the cackle and spit of a Porsche 911 or a juiced-up Bentley GT, and for all the high whine of a finely tuned Ferrari or McLaren, the Aston Martin comes in clean and classic. There’s no excessive gargle, no high whine. The sound’s not showy or trendy, just the best of power drawn clean through finely fashioned pipes. It’s a sound one can imagine the British monarchy delighting in.

The fighter has weaknesses, of course, and most come in the interior. The media interface is dated and a visual bore. Despite having more leather than any previous Aston Martin, it still feels more sports car than luxurious coach (though there is, naturally, a “boot-mounted” umbrella holder). The sportiness of the exterior is matched in the tachometer and speedometer design — two brushed metal circles with straightforward, minimal markings. There’s also an engine performance mode in the flip-up center display, which reflects the car’s racing purpose and gives more relevant insight to a driver than the Crayola-inspired GPS map (a nearly laughable element in the car). The rear seats are too compact for a full-sized adult, and a small screen in the back of the seat is a far cry from quarter-million-dollar luxe.

So what one gets for their pounds or dollars is a fighter with the sleek beauty and deft movement of the greats in the ring. It’s not a hyper-luxe sedan. Rather, it’s exactly what Aston Martin delivers in their other vehicles, just now in four-door form — sleek gestures in body design, an unfailing culling down to essentials of layout, an unfathomable amount of power, and a stately, refined roar coming from the rear. In that, it is its own force of nature — and at the end of a bout with Hurricane Joaquin, Great Britain showed strong mastery over Mother Nature.

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