Aston Martin is preparing to launch a significantly revised version of the Rapide next year, and test work with a semi-disguised mule is now under way at the Nürburgring.

It is believed that the revisions will be topped off with a more powerful version of the V12, most likely derived from the 565bhp unit that powers the new Vanquish.

The aim of the current testing is believed to be to ascertain whether the Rapide’s chassis, brakes and cooling system can cope with the extra power and resultant heat of that unit, or whether it will run a slightly detuned alternative.

The positioning of the camouflage on this test car highlights that the main external changes will be focused on the lights and the front and rear bumpers. The revised Rapide is expected to take styling cues from the recently revealed Vanquish, although it is unlikely to adopt that model’s dramatic rear wing arrangement.

When the new-look Rapide is launched, Aston Martin will subtly reposition how it markets the car. Rather than focusing on the four-door’s credentials as a family car, emphasis is expected to be put on its abilities as a sports car that offers extra space.

Sales of the Rapide have so far fallen well below expectations. They were initially projected at 2000 cars a year but have struggled to meet half that number.

In 2011 Aston announced it was ending six years early an eight-year deal for Magna Steyr to build the car in Austria, bringing production back to its Gaydon headquarters.

The Rapide’s strongest market is currently China, where it accounts for about 60 per cent of the firm’s sales.