This is it, then. A once bold new era for Aston Martin, heralded by the introduction of a vehicle platform called VH that allowed the launch of about a dozen (similar) cars on the same architecture, draws to a close. It was the Bez of times, it was far from the worst of times.
But the new Aston Martin revolution is underway. And this Rapide, as outlandish as VH cars became, what with having four doors and four seats, is the last of the old line of cars to disappear. It’s going out in limited-run Rapide AMR specification.
There will be 210 badged this way, with an extra 22kW and costing $77,840 more than a Rapide S, so 433kW and $459,950.
What sets the AMR apart from the standard Rapide?
These Rapides are the last VH cars you can order. Production and some deliveries have already started, and you don’t have to have the racing-inspired day-glo highlights of the one photographed here.
What you will get are carbon-ceramic brakes behind 21-inch wheels and AMR-specific tuning, turning what was Aston’s most laid-back GT car/four-door coupe/fastback sedan/family hatch/call it what you will into something more raucous.
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You’ll also get, if you overlook the bespoke Valkyrie, the last of Aston Martin’s naturally aspirated V12s, the 6.0-litre-badged (actually 5935cc) stalwart that has provided sterling work, in various iterations, since its introduction in the DB7 Vantage of 1999. That was the first production Aston with a V12. Now, after two decades, you can’t imagine the Aston range without one.
As ever, the V12 drives the rear wheels, these days through an eight-speed automatic gearbox mounted at the rear, and a limited-slip differential.
Those traits and a lengthy 2989mm wheelbase are what have lent the Rapide one of the nicest inherent chassis balances among super sedans, or even some big GT cars, over which the Rapide was – and remains – more agile and deftly balanced.
The Rapide’s kerb weight is 1995kg, which seems like a lot until you realise a Bentley Continental GT, despite having two fewer doors, weighs another quarter of a tonne.
And even now, nine years after the Rapide’s introduction, there aren’t many cars of this weight and size that are more engaging or more agile to drive, or that hide their mass so well.
The AMR alterations to the chassis are pretty subtle. They add a firmness to the ride and a bit of extra body control. I might have preferred it as it was – this is a big sedan, after all – but it has been a while since I drove a standard one. The ride quality is still actually quite good – a touch fidgety over small ripples, but never close to frighteningly harsh. Still very much evident is a lovely balance.
The steering is smooth, pleasingly weighted and gains weight and road feel as you turn. At three turns between locks, it has anything from half to a full turn over some big cars, as they try fitting sharper steering to make them feel more agile. Not here. No hyperactivity, no active roll bars, air springs or rear steer. It is what it is – straightforward, honest, with the smoothest of V12s and a clean gearshift – and frankly all the better for it.
If rivals have anything over the Rapide, it is interiors that are roomier, and stuffed with lavish materials and world-class electronics systems – hence their weight. The old Aston navigation and entertainment systems are as baffling as they ever were, and the analogue dials are not as clear as they should be, but there’s a digital speedo and phone mirroring. I’d get along just fine with those.
There’s not a direct Rapide replacement – the DBX will, effectively, be it. It’s a shame that the last of the VH cars wasn’t a fire-breathing version of one of the more glamorous coupes, rather than this lower-key run-out. But the Rapide, being the longest Aston, with a hefty aluminium structure down its middle, has the biggest backbone of them all. So, in a way, fitting. I know, new dawn, but I’ll miss it.
Tested and rated on MOTOR reviews
2019 ASTON MARTIN RAPIDE AMR SPECS
Engine: 5935cc V12, DOHC, 48v
Power: 444kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 630Nm @ 5500rpm
0-100km/h: 4.4sec (claimed)
Like: Muscular normally aspirated V12; agility for its size; smooth steering and gearshifts
Dislike: Firmer suspension tune; baffling multimedia system; instrumentation clarity
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars