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