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The Flawed Beauty of Aston Martin's Rapide

Not perfect, but have you checked out a used Rapide today?

Jonathon KleinWriter, Photographer

Aston Martin's sales are never going to compete with those of Ford, Chevy, or even Mitsubishi. Aston sells only around 3,500 cars per year, but it has carved out a market niche wherein it builds kinetic sculptures—the kind of designs that make us want to see the company succeed. But as popular as Aston's Vantages and Vanquishes are, its four-door Rapide S remains something of an outlier seven years after its launch.

The Rapide is beautiful to these eyes, even if it doesn't universally make people who encounter it bite the back of their hand. There's that superb V-12 up front to rival John Williams' compositions, and then there is handling that begs for twisty canyons. But sales of the big four-door are laughable, the rear seats are made for children—or adults without legs, torsos, or heads—and the Rapide sucks down fuel like Godzilla munching helpless townsfolk.

Good news, though: While the Rapide S' price tag starts from the factory at $206,000, and the one pictured here is $228,000, you can pick up a used Rapide with only 8,000 miles for about $100,000. Settle for one with only 2,000 miles more and the price might drop to less than $90,000. And we're talking certified, pre-owned warranty coverage here, silencing the voice in your head screaming about uncoverable repair bills.

Cost-of-running worries aside, and despite sales not setting the world alight, a second-generation Rapide is indeed in the pipeline and is scheduled to debut before the end of the decade, but given its lackluster performance in the market and issues such as the limited rear legroom, we can't help but wonder, does it make sense for Aston?

It can, as you very much want to explore the Rapide's limits. Turn the steering wheel—now a seemingly ancient design that dates the interior—and you're presented with something that feels half its size. The chassis feels lively as you push it through a set of tight switchbacks, yet it is compliant in its ride quality when just ambling along. The seats are supportive, but soft and supple enough to allow for longer drives.

Its sonorous 5.9-liter V-12 is its party piece, though. With 560 hp and a quick-shifting eight-speed gearbox, your self-restraint will come under fire. The Rapide implores drivers to push harder, though you might be hard-pressed to ever get close to the top speed in excess of 200 mph. You'll also find yourself looking for edifices to bounce the engine's noise back to you (tunnels, downtown skyscrapers, high-walled entry and exit ramps), and you will downshift deliberately if unnecessarily whenever you encounter these features.

You also can't help but feel dignified, something very similar, I imagine, to the original from the mid-1960s. There's drama to this car, even when just mulling about town, heart-attack-inducing price included. And unlike many cars approaching this price, it doesn't deliver as much of a feeling of flaunting your success to the less fortunate.There is no air of the aristocracy.

The Rapide, however, is a rolling compromise. It's a low-slung, four-door "coupe" based on the DB9's architecture, built hastily to compete with Porsche's Panamera. Unfortunately—and in stark contrast to the homely-but-practical Panamera—its beguiling aesthetic is the cause of its limited four-up usefulness. Enter Aston's new, hyper-limited, million dollar Lagonda Taraf: By extending the wheelbase 7.9 inches and increasing rear headroom with a body resembling a normal four-door, Aston Martin fixed the Rapide's space issue.

However, the Lagonda does not address all of the Rapide's quirks. The transmission tunnel and rear HVAC controls combine to form a massive central column that can have you feeling isolated from your passenger. (This might be a good or bad thing, circumstances depending.) The infotainment and HVAC controls don't feel particularly special, with both the Rapide and Lagonda suffering from an interior that isn't worth the price of admission.

So extend the wheelbase and smarten up the cabin, maintain a striking design and juicy performance, and the next Rapide will be something to talk about. If the interior matches that of the upcoming DB11, complaints should be eradicated. In other words, Aston Martin's future Rapide can't be a compromise to deliver what Aston, the business, needs. On the other hand, pick up a minty used Rapide on the downside of 50 percent of its original value, and you might be too busy giggling to bother lodging a single complaint.

2016 Aston Martin Rapide S Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $ 207,820
Engines:  5.9L naturally aspirated DOHC 48-valve V-12/552 hp @ 6,650 rpm, 465 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm
Transmission:  8-speed automatic
Layout: 4-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD, Sedan
EPA Mileage: 13/21 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H: 197.6 x 75.9 x 53.5 in
Wheelbase: 117.7 in
Weight: 4,400
0-60 MPH: 4.2 sec
Top Speed: 203mph