Aston Martin lent us their four-door supercar to experience in person. The $200,000 Rapide S is a vast improvement on the original Rapide, but how does it muster up to the competition? All images by James Elliot Bailey.

High performance luxury sedans are hardly a rare beast; performance variants of executive saloons litter Beverly Hills parking lots like sticky cockapoo droppings. But Aston Martin argues its brand new Rapide S is no saloon, thank you very much, but rather a legitimate, dyed-in-the-wool sports car… with better space. But that last bit is a dubious distinction — yes its back seats are functional, unlike most sports cars with rear seats built for action figures. Taking your friends downtown for dinner? Sure. For a weekend trip up the coast to Napa? Not exactly. Its trunk is the size of the Vanquish, which is to say laughable. But if you drop the back seats the trunk suddenly expands to hold golf clubs, skis and even a small surfboard. Try that in your 911.

And it really is a sports car. Whipping the Rapide S through the harrowing Atlanta Motorsports Park was an exercise in glee. It’s an exceptionally well balanced car — 49/51% front-rear weight ratio, with 85% of weight between the axles. Slip it into Sport mode and the shocks firm up by 30% (up 60% in Track mode). The low slung, long wheelbase Aston handled corners with exceptional precision and stiffness; few can compare to the Rapide S in the performance category.

Unfortunately some can, like the Panamera Turbo S that eviscerates the Rapide’s 0-60 mph time by almost a second-and-a-half (3.3 seconds vs. 4.7), while costing you about $25K less. Still, make no mistake: the Aston’s superlative 6.0-liter V12 workhorse is a thing of wonder, in both performance and sound. The naturally aspirated power plant generates 80 more horsepower than the first-gen Rapide, now up to a supercar-level 550 horses. Whether stuffed into the DB9, Rapide S or previously mentioned Vanquish, Aston’s V12 will let everyone at the golf club know what size wood you’re swinging.

Like the Panamera, the Rapide also appears like a slightly stretched sports car, as if someone put its sibling on a medieval rack. The Rapide’s proportions, however, work much better than the Panamera’s. Moreover, the Aston Martin interior is far superior: nine cowhides’ worth of hand-stitched semi-aniline leather cover every centimeter of exposed surface, and its dash is a model of minimalism — its visual crown a row of five buttons that lets you select between driving modes. The hole where you insert the crystal key fob is yet another small token of Aston Martin extravagance; lose your key, and you have to pay Aston $2,800 to replace the genuine Swarovski fob. With small indulgences like 7 layers of paint on each body panel, it’s no wonder it takes over 200 hours to hand build each Rapide S. That attention is evident in every last detail, and helps to make its super-sized pricetag digestible.

HITS: Off the charts handling, best of the bunch; Aston’s vaunted (if aging) naturally aspirated 5.9L V12 will narrate your commute like a choir.

MISSES: No one buys an Aston on a budget, but the pricetag makes it difficult to argue its value. Infotainment and other details are anachronistic, and badly in need of an update.

PRICE: $198,250 base / $224,300 as tested

One more LIAS-exclusive gallery of the Aston Martin Rapide S after the Jump…

“The low slung, long wheelbase Aston handles corners with exceptional precision & stiffness…”

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