BUYING GUIDE: RAPIDE

With early ex­am­ples avail­able for un­der £60,000, the four-door looks fine value

VANTAGE - - Contents - WORDS PETER TOMALIN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY MATTHEW HOW­ELL

ULRICH BEZ AL­WAYS seemed to have one eye on what his old com­rades at Porsche were up to. The V8 Van­tage that was launched un­der his ten­ure as CEO was pos­i­tively laser-tar­geted at the 911, and when Porsche re­vealed it was launch­ing a four-seat, five-door sa­loon, it didn’t take long for As­ton to re­spond. The Panam­era ap­peared in April 2009, and less than a year later the first Rapi­des were rolling out of a ded­i­cated fa­cil­ity at the Magna Steyr fac­tory in Aus­tria.

Dr Bez had out­sourced pro­duc­tion be­cause he en­vis­aged an­nual sales of 2000 cars, which would have been far too many for Gay­don to cope with. In fact the Rapide never sold in any­thing like those num­bers, and in 2012 pro­duc­tion re­lo­cated to the UK. In­deed the Rapide is one of the rarest of mod­ern As­tons – in the UK, only around 420 orig­i­nal Rapi­des were sold, and so far some 300 Rapide Ss (tiny num­bers com­pared with well over 4000 Panam­eras sold in that time).

Some­po­ten­tial­buy­er­sweren­odoubt­de­terred by press re­ports of the Db9-de­rived Rapide’s rel­a­tively cramped rear seats and lim­ited lug­gage space, others per­haps by the wil­fully sport­ing char­ac­ter of its chas­sis and drivetrain. As­ton al­ways de­scribed it as a four-seater sports car, and it wasn’t kid­ding. De­spite its ex­tra length (250mm was added to the wheel­base) and weight, the Rapide was ev­ery bit as ag­ile and in­volv­ing as a DB9, with which it shared most of its un­der­pin­nings. Ex­ter­nally, de­spite a strong fam­i­lyre­sem­blance,on­lythe­bon­net­was­ac­tu­ally car­ried over.

At launch, the Rapide came with a 470bhp ver­sion of the now-fa­mil­iar 5.9-litre V12, driv­ing the rear wheels through a six-speed au­to­matic transaxle gear­box with the op­tion to shift man­u­ally via pad­dles – Touchtronic 2 in As­ton­speak. The per­for­mance claims were 0-60mph in 5.2sec and a top speed of 188mph. List price at launch was £139,950, with a gen­er­ous stan­dard tally of stan­dard equip­ment that in­cluded twostage adap­tive dampers and a fine B&O hi-fi.

In Jan­uary 2013, the orig­i­nal car was re­placed by the Rapide S. A deeper front grille and a new head­light treat­ment ramped-up the road pres­ence. Un­der the bon­net, vari­able valve tim­ing and a new man­age­ment sys­tem lifted peak power from 470 to 550bhp, drop­ping the 0-60mph time to just 4.9sec and rais­ing the top speed to 190mph.

Then, in late 2014, the S was given an ex­ten­sive re­fresh, which in­cluded the lat­est – and rather brilliant – eight-speed Touchtronic 3 gear­box, along with tauter sus­pen­sion and a host of de­tail re­fine­ments. The re­vised gear­ing and a small in­crease in power en­abled As­ton Martin to claim a truly as­ton­ish­ing 203mph and 0-60 in a faintly ridicu­lous 4.2sec. More than ever, the Rapide was As­ton’s four-seater sports car. But it’s the

first se­ries, built be­tween the end of 2009 and late 2012, that rep­re­sents the best value on the sec­ond-hand mar­ket, and those are the cars we’re fo­cus­ing on here. With early ex­am­ples now be­ing of­fered for as lit­tle as £55,000, a Rapide cer­tainly ap­pears to be an aw­ful lot of As­ton for the money, so what’s the catch?

Ac­cord­ing to in­de­pen­dent As­ton Martin spe­cial­ist John Mcgurk, buy care­fully and there re­ally isn’t one. John’s a big fan of the Rapide and, in fact, has one as his daily driver.

‘I think they’re crim­i­nally over­looked by most peo­ple,’ he says. ‘The Rapide has al­ways had all the lat­est and best tech­nol­ogy, big­ger brakes and so on. For such a large car, you can re­ally hus­tle it along the coun­try lanes. I think they’re bet­ter to drive than a DB9, and quicker too. The lat­est ver­sion, of course, is a 200mph sa­loon car, as quick as the Vanquish, which is a bit awk­ward for As­ton Martin be­cause the Vanquish ought to be the quick­est car! If you look at what all the As­ton Martin di­rec­tors drive – they all drive Rapide Ss, so that tells you some­thing.

The Mcgurk Rapide is a gen­uine fam­ily wagon. ‘We get me and my wife, two young chil­dren in child seats in the back, pushchair in the boot, and dog in the front pas­sen­ger footwell and we’re off out for the day!’ says John. ‘It re­ally is very use­able and re­ally very re­li­able.’

The Rapide is un­doubt­edly one of the best­sorted of all mod­ern As­tons, thanks in part to shar­ing so much with the DB9, whose early teething prob­lems had long since been ad­dressed by the time the Rapide came to mar­ket. The V12 en­gine en­gine, pro­vided it’s reg­u­larly ser­viced (in prac­tice that means ev­ery year) and the oil level checked re­li­giously, gives very few prob­lems.

‘Over­all, they’re strong cars,’ says Mcgurk. ‘Mine gets very heav­ily used. I drive it ev­ery day, and I drive it hard. It’s sat out­side now with a set of win­ter tyres on it! I’m cur­rently rack­ing up 15,000 miles a year. It gets ser­viced an­nu­ally, and I do keep an eye on the oil lev­els be­cause they do use a bit of oil, es­pe­cially if you drive them hard, but other­wise it’s just rou­tine ser­vic­ing.’

So, if he’s as­sess­ing a Rapide, what are the things he looks for? A full ser­vice his­tory – the intervals are an­nual or ev­ery 10,000 miles – with As­ton deal­er­ships and/or lead­ing in­de­pen­dent spe­cial­ists is ob­vi­ously key. ‘They’ve got to have the right his­tory, not least for when you come to re­sell the car,’ says John. ‘And you need to find a car that’s clearly been well looked-af­ter.

‘Brake con­di­tion is im­por­tant – re­place­ments are very ex­pen­sive. You’re look­ing at the best part of a cou­ple of grand for front discs and pads, a lit­tle bit less for the rear.

‘The con­di­tion of the diff oil is also im­por­tant,’ he con­tin­ues. All Rapi­des have a con­ven­tional torque-con­verter au­to­matic gear­box, which is com­bined with the dif­fer­en­tial. ‘We rec­om­mend chang­ing the diff oil ev­ery two years or, if you’re do­ing a high mileage, ev­ery year. The diffs are prone to a bit of wear, which you’ll hear with a whin­ing noise if they’re ne­glected.

‘Also lis­ten for the ex­haust si­lencer rat­tling – the valves inside the si­lencers can break off. Start it from cold and you’ll hear it quite clearly.

‘Make sure the elec­tric win­dows are work­ing in sync – they need to drop be­fore you can open the doors, and if you open the back door, the front win­dow has to drop as well. The front con­sist­sofamain­win­dowan­daquar­ter­win­dow, which drop in­de­pen­dently and they have a ten­dency to go out of sync, so it needs care­ful check­ing. Also check that the but­ton on the boot works – if you get wa­ter ingress, the switch fails.’

The idrive-style con­trol for the in­fo­tain­ment and sat­nav is a bit of a faff, but you do need to check that all the toys work as they should – any re­place­ments will be for­mi­da­bly ex­pen­sive. And the front wind­screen and the head­lamps should be in good or­der, as both are pricey to re­place.

The Rapide in­her­ited much of the DB9’S bonded alu­minium mono­coque. Most of the body­work is alu­minium, too, and, con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, it does cor­rode – so on early cars look for signs of bub­bling along panel edges. Also check for any ev­i­dence of ac­ci­dent dam­age. Since much of the un­der­side is cov­ered over, it might be wise to pay an in­de­pen­dent spe­cial­ist a few hun­dred pounds for a full in­spec­tion.

Rapi­des bought through the dealer net­work may well qual­ify for As­ton Martin’s ‘Time­less’ warranty, and most lead­ing spe­cial­ists also of­fer ro­bust third-party cover. Bud­get around £1000 a year for ser­vic­ing and con­sum­ables (tyres are £250 apiece) and you shouldn’t have too many nasty sur­prises. With early Rapi­des now reach­ing the gen­tler slopes of their de­pre­ci­a­tion curves,awell-main­tained­car­with­low­toav­er­age miles shouldn’t lose too much at re­sale time.

‘Prices have been pretty steady for quite some time,’ says John. ‘A 2010 car that’s done 40-50,000 miles, prob­a­bly two or three own­ers, is cur­rently

‘FOR AS LIT­TLE AS £55,000, A RAPIDE IS AN AW­FUL LOT OF AS­TON FOR THE MONEY’

in the up­per-50s. Of course every­one wants a car that’s done low miles. You should be able find some very nice ex­am­ples that have only done 20,000 miles for about £65,000. The seven-speed S cur­rently starts at around £75,000, and an eight­speed car from around £90,000.

‘The rear en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem, which has two video screens, is a de­sir­able op­tion and one peo­ple look for, and I per­son­ally re­ally like the 20-spoke wheel that looks a bit like a tur­bine fan.

‘Colour-wise, most buy­ers went for fairly safe choices, but to be honest they look a mil­lion dol­lars in Tung­sten with a black leather in­te­rior. And while a light in­te­rior might look nice, in re­al­ity if you’re re­ally us­ing the car – and I do the school run in ours – then dark leather is much more prac­ti­cal and won’t get marked by shoes. That said, Sand­storm does look great and ac­tu­ally wears very well.’

Nick El­wood bought his Rapide new in De­cem­ber 2011: Onyx Black with a Sand­storm and Ob­sid­ian Black in­te­rior. ‘We were ini­tially scep­ti­cal about the Rapide as a vi­able way to carry the fam­ily over long dis­tances and con­sid­ered some much big­ger tra­di­tional sa­loons such as an S-class, but hav­ing lived with it for over five years, it was ab­so­lutely the right choice. We have a fam­ily of four with teenage sons and have man­aged nu­mer­ous cross- con­ti­nen­tal jour­neys in com­fort. Pro­vided you aren’t car­ry­ing much more than four medium-large bags, the boot is well-sized and will take ev­ery­thing needed for a week’s break – al­though ski­ing was ad­mit­tedly a squeeze!

‘We mainly take the car out on week­ends and for trips, so the ma­jor­ity of driv­ing has been on open roads and mo­tor­ways. It man­ages about 20-22mpg, which is about what we were ex­pect­ing, and quite rea­son­able for a two-ton car with a 5.9-litre V12! The car has never gone wrong and so the main run­ning costs are yearly ser­vic­ing charges and ex­tras such as win­ter tyres.

‘How­ever, the main rea­son we bought the car wasn’t to do with prac­ti­cal­i­ties. It was af­ter we heard it roar through 5000 revs, chucked it through a few cor­ners and had enough time to soak up its ut­ter beauty that we de­cided to take the plunge. I don’t know of an­other four-door that will sit equally hap­pily on a track, con­cours or snow-lined pass. It brings four smiles to the faces of the fam­ily ev­ery time we drive it.’

Left and op­po­site It’s snug, but Rapide is gen­uine four-seater. This beau­ti­ful late-2010 ex­am­ple was on sale at As­ton Martin Works in New­port Pag­nell but has since been sold. Works does, how­ever, usu­ally have sev­eral in stock

Above Ear­lier V12s oc­ca­sion­ally suf­fer oil star­va­tion and have a rep­u­ta­tion for lunch­ing coil-packs, but both is­sues had been ad­dressed by the time the Rapide launched

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