Aston Martin Rapide S | PH Used Buying Guide

Aston's flawed but fabulous four-door can now be bought for little more than £40k – here's how to get one

By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, 18 December 2022 / Loading comments

Key considerations

  • Available for around £41,000
  • 6.0-litre V12 petrol naturally aspirated, rear-wheel drive
  • Cheap for the character, performance and quality
  • Reliable but not cheap to run or maintain
  • Your rear-seat passengers need to be small
  • Forget them, just fold down the back seats for an Aston estate

Ask the average Joe in the street how many seats an Aston has, and you’d bet your house on them saying ‘two’, but of course, this is a false association. Aston Martin has been making four-seaters since the firm started up in earnest just after the first World War.

What they haven’t been into in a major way are four-door cars. The one we all remember of course was the Bill Towns-designed Lagonda of the 1970s, a divisive sort of creation whose shock and awe effect may have contributed to the twenty-year wait between its discontinuation in 1990 and the arrival of the next four-door Aston in 2010, the Rapide.

Built on the VH platform, the Rapide was a full foot longer than the DB9. Extra length rarely translates into elegance but the Rapide somehow pulled it off. Performance was smooth and correct for the brief, its six-litre non-turbo V12 hustling the car through the 0-62 in 4.9sec and on to the 100mph in a respectable low eleven second time. Bumbling around became somewhat less of a bumble when you were operating in the broadchested midrange up to 4,000rpm. Hanging on to the gears beyond that by pressing the S button on the dash and using the paddles revealed a highly satisfactory tapestry of sound and fury that, through another button press, could be underpinned by a substantial stiffening of a chassis whose integrity shone through despite the car’s length. The rear space looked beautifully cocooning in pictures and the whole car delivered very nicely on the Aston promise of luxurious high-speed touring.

The S that we’re focusing on here came out in 2013 as a replacement of the first Rapide (whose name was a hat-tip to the fabulous four-door Lagonda Rapide, 55 of which were built between 1961 and 1964, and before that to the Le Mans-winning Lagondas of the 1930s). Thanks to a ‘proper’ engine refresh including lightweight hollow camshafts and a new induction system the S had 77hp and 15lb ft more than the straight Rapide. It was sportier power too, the new peak coming in 750rpm later at a heady 6,750rpm. The S had the six-speed Touchtronic II torque converter gearbox to start with and the engine was still naturally aspirated, so you had to go ‘all in’ on the revs to get to these new maxima, but the cataclysmic racket the S made during that process made it well worth the effort. It was still a heavy car too, at 10kg short of two tonnes, so the S’s 0.3sec quicker 0-62mph time of 4.9sec was stimulating rather than stellar, but the potential to motor along at 190mph with three friends (or enemies) on board was a party trick that never got old.

For the 2015 model year the S received a nice present in the shape the ZF 8HP 8-speed automatic gearbox, branded in the Rapide S as the Touchtronic III. Coupled with small power and torque gains courtesy of a reworked Bosch engine management system and a reduction in exhaust back pressure, the extra gears in the new (but still not twin-clutch) trans helped to chop half a second off the 0-62 time and increase the top speed to 203mph. The S’s weight went up too, but the revised gearing knocked back the emissions and added an extra mile to the combined mpg figure. More on those figures, some of which might scare you, in the next chapter.

A Shadow Edition came out in 2016 with 565hp and the same torque, followed in 2018 by the Europe-only AMR model with 595hp at 7,000rpm, 465lb ft, 21in wheels, a recalibrated transmission and unchanged 0-62mph and top speed numbers. 

How much might it cost you to buy a Rapide S today, i.e., the end of 2022? At the time of writing there was a perfectly nice-looking Cat N (non-structurally damaged) car with 41,000 miles on it up for £37k. The cheapest uncrashed car we found on sale in the UK was a 2013 49,000-miler at £41.5k, so that’s what we’re quoting as the base S used price here. That doesn’t seem like a lot for a graceful and quick thoroughbred Brit that was built in Britain, at Gaydon (only the first 2010 non-S Rapides were put together by Magna Steyr in Austria) and that will please you as much to look at as to drive.

As we always have to say in these guides, for the sake of objectivity and balance, style is a matter of taste, but it’s hard to think of a better looking four-door saloon than a Rapide. There’s no denying the engineering excellence of its main rival the Porsche Panamera, but if you park a 2014 Pana V8 GTS next to a Rapide S of similar vintage don’t expect to see too many bystanders gathering around the Porsche. And certainly don’t expect them to believe the line that a V8 GTS of that age is only £10k cheaper than the Aston.

Let’s do a quick count-up of the Rapide S’s trump cards. Physical beauty, a naturally aspirated V12 that could howl or hum on demand, solid handling, the ability to carry four bods and at least some of their gear, plus pleasing affordability on the used market. An accomplished and generally rather lovely V12 Aston for around £41,000 – should we be slapping ourselves in the face and wondering what the catch is? Read on to find out what that catch might be – if, indeed, there is one.

SPECIFICATION | ASTON MARTIN RAPIDE S (2013-19)

Engine: 5,935cc V12 48v
Transmission: 6-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],750rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],500rpm
0-62mph (secs): 4.9 (4.4 on ’15-on 8-speed)
Top speed (mph): 190 (203 8-speed)
Weight (kg): 1,990
MPG (official combined): 20.9
CO2 (g/km): 355 (332 S)
Wheels (in): 8.5 x 20 (f), 11 x 20 (r)
Tyres: 245/35 (f), 295/30 (r)
On sale: 2013 – 2019
Price new: £149,995
Price now: from £41,500


ENGINE & GEARBOX

If you’re a non-negotiable fan of engine noise there can’t be much argument about this Aston being the best sounding of all the cars in this segment, cars like the Panamera, RR Ghost and Bentley Flying Spur. The beauty of the Rapide S lay in its dual personality. Its AM29 V12 engine could be stretched to dish up a delicious three-course Sunday dinner audio experience or dialled back for an intimate jazz club supper level of refinement that was a match for any of these rivals. The S was even more refined than the straight Rapide thanks to a new torque tube which cut down on the amount of transmission noise getting into the cabin.

The reason why used Rapides are cheap relative to, say, used Panameras might become clearer when you experience the first gearchange through the Aston’s conventional non-dual clutch gearbox, having engaged your chosen drive mode via the slightly quaint array of buttons on the dash. But then you might think, do I really need lightning-fast changes in my four-door grand tourer? Probably not, might be your answer, as you wonder why you’re talking to yourself again. A hundredth-of-a-second delay between changes really wasn’t that much when you thought about it.

More moments of clarity came to unwary Rapide owners in paper form, specifically in the form of petrol receipts and maintenance bills. The official combined rate of fuel consumption sounded almost acceptable at 19.8mpg, but hoofing your S in a concentrated manner would soon see your life savings melting away as you roared downwards past the urban claim of 13.2mpg to something in the unmentionable single figure range.

Servicing was on a 12-month/10,000-mile basis. Aston’s own schedule prices these services up at between £805 and £840 for the first four years. The £840 even-numbered year services included brake fluid changes, but at year four/40k miles you had to add £130 for new auto diff oil. Coolant was changed within the £920 and £990 cost of the 5yr/50k and 10yr/100k services.

The biggest service came up at 70k when the spark plugs had to be changed at a not-inconsiderable additional cost of £1,150. Obviously, you can save a lot of money on these costs by going to a respected independent specialist. Names that have been mentioned with honours on PH forums in the past include Bridge Mill in Macclesfield, McGurk’s in Warwick and Bamford Rose in Shipston-on-Stour. Others are no doubt available.

Although this V12 did have a problem with oil starvation on other Astons, it appears to have behaved itself in the Rapide. It’s still worth checking the valve covers for oil leaks, but by and large this motor (which had its fair share of issues in the DB9) has a fine reputation in the Rapide.

The very first 8-speed Aston ZF boxes had a problem going into neutral when you hadn’t asked them to. Weirdly, this was traced to the chrome on a trans switch reacting adversely with a PCB. It was caught early and a recall was issued. There was also a recall to put right a comms error between the engine and gearbox control modules which allowed the car to continue rolling in Park mode. If you’re not using the Rapide as a daily (nice thought) it’s a good idea to hook the battery up to a trickle charger. Cteks are well-rated.

CHASSIS

A complete double-wishbone suspension setup with anti-lift and anti-squat geometry and electronically controlled adaptive dampers was part of the Rapide proposition from the start. To go with the Standard and Sport modes the S gained an additional Track setting which, although noticeably firm, was surprisingly useable on well-surfaced roads. The power steering was a lot sweeter than you might think too after viewing the car from the side.

If you were on the racetrack, you did need to be aware of the non-ceramic brakes’ tendency to get hot and bothered. The Rapide was a heavy car, and the stoppers did take a pasting. 2014-on 8-speeders benefited from bigger front brakes and a retuned brake booster, along with 20 per cent stiffer rear suspension bushes and a new steering ECU for crisper response.

Leaky dampers cost well over £4,000 a set to replace so you need to ensure that the modes you’re selecting on your test drive are also being selected by the car. These are not easy vehicles to manoeuvre around multi-storey car parks, owing to their impressive size.

BODYWORK

The Rapide’s rear door apertures weren’t massive, and nor was the tailgate’s, but the upside of small holes was good body rigidity. That gave the Rapide the ability to make the most of its high-quality chassis.

The quality of the bodywork and of details like the flush-fit doorhandles was right up there but the aluminium could bubble up over time. Water could mess up the operation of the windows.

The Rapide badges were a no-cost delete option but they weren’t really in your face. For recognition purposes the grille on the S was larger than the non-S’s.

INTERIOR

The quality theme was as apparent on the inside of the Rapide as it was on the outside. Those cocooning rear seats looked as great in the flesh as they did in the brochure, but it was the part you couldn’t see – the space in front of them – that could become an issue for anyone of more than average height. A bespoke child seat was available from Britax. Some drivers found that the look of the instrumentation beat its ability to give them clear information.

There was a Rapide Luxe spec in the first non-S cars of 2010 which brought active ventilation to all four seats along with TV screens in the front seat backs, a set of six luggage cases and a car cover, but we don’t think that was offered on the S.

The tailgate opened onto what we’ve seen described as a 317-litre space which if you folded the back seats down (electronically) grew to 750 or 886 litres, depending on your information source, but you might well find yourself scratching your head at these numbers when you personally examine the space. Whatever the true numbers were, the space configuration in two- or three-seat mode re-cast the Rapide (for those with the right mindset) as a proper Aston that was also a faux-estate with, let’s say, a decent cargo area, despite the 20-gallon fuel tank that added a lot of height to the transaxled Aston’s boot floor. What some of you will want to know is that the boot will take a large number of golf clubs, especially those that you have angrily snapped over your knee. We’ve never tried it, but it looks like you might even be able to wedge a bicycle in there with the seats down. Mind the oily bits getting on your lovely carpets though.

Thankfully the horrid old Volvo satnav that had been plonked in the original Rapide (which was signed off when Ford had both AM and Volvo in its Premier Automotive Group) was binned in the S. Unfortunately, the Garmin-based replacement was just as annoying, albeit in refreshingly different ways. Talking of refreshes, 2015-on 8-speed cars were given new colour choices in both paint and leather, the latter now including the fascinating sounding Fandango Pink. Anybody want to own up to ordering that?  

PH VERDICT

Smart alecs might sneeringly say that the only thing Rapide about this car was the depreciation. Losing ten quid from your pants pocket is bad enough but losing well over a hundred grand on a car in under a decade must have rankled with anyone who bought a Rapide new and then held onto it. This is great news for AM aspirants though, or at least those who fancy getting into Aston V12 ownership for the price of an approved used BMW 120D XDrive MSport.

If you buy a Rapide for its four-seat capability you might be disappointed. If, however, you think of it as a two- or three-seat estate with emergency seating for four, that kind of turns it into a British Ferrari FF for a fraction of the money. Ferrari fans will scoff at that notion, while Porsche fans will point to the Panamera’s superiority not only in the value retention department but also in terms of ecological cleanliness.

However, if you’re more interested in a character-rich motoring experience than in securing the moral high ground then the Aston is surely worth more than a look at prices starting from a little over £40k. From behind the wheel it feels like a 2-seater sports car. That’s a feeling you’re less likely to experience in a Panamera.

Can Rapide S prices get much lower? These are Aston Martins after all, dammit. Well, maybe they can. The entry level cost of a Rapide S has dropped by £20k in the last four years, and somewhat incredibly, prices for private non-S Rapides now begin with a 2. We’ve just been looking at what appears to be a perfectly serviceable DB7 at £13,995. Maybe the Aston Martin badge is just another name these days.

The Rapide is a V12 of course, which has its own cachet and a good reputation for unburstability in this application, so you’d think any further value drops would be insignificant, but then folk probably thought that about the regular Rapide in 2018 when they were £40k, having started off in 2010 at £164k. That initial price was too hard a sell for dealerships who (allegedly) had to be supported by the factory with a clandestine price cut to £135k. That, plus a mindset switch at AM which got salesfolk to describe it as a sports car with two rear seats rather than a family four-seater, brought more buyers to the door but with Aston’s slightly iffy reputation at the time you could see where the dealers were coming from. 

There wasn’t a £41,500 example on PH Classifieds when we were going to press but there was that £37k Cat N car. After that all the PH Rapide Ss were post-2015 Touchtronic III cars with the 8-speed gearbox, which is no bad thing as they would be most buyers’ preferred choice over the 6-speeders if you can swing for the extra cash. The lowest-price S on PH was this 25,000-miler at £57k. The most expensive? This late 2019 model with 16,000 miles was up for £82,890.


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