Represents the last of the old-school Astons and, with a naturally aspirated V12, is as charming as it always was

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The Aston Martin Rapide AMR is it, then. The once bold new era, heralded by the introduction of a vehicle platform called VH, which allowed about a dozen (similar) cars to be launched 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 under way. 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. 

Even now, nine years after the Rapide’s first introduction, I don’t think there are many more cars of this weight and size that are more engaging or more agile to drive

It’s going out in limited-run AMR specification. There’ll be 210 of them badged this way, with 35 extra horsepower and costing 45,450 extra pounds over a Aston Martin Rapide S, so 595bhp and £194,950. 

What sets the AMR apart from the standard Rapide?

You might find unregistered examples of the Vanquish S at dealers, but production of that has finished. These are the last VH cars. Production and some deliveries have already started, but you can still order and specify one, and you don’t have to have the racing-inspired day-glo highlights of the one photographed here. 

You will get carbon-ceramic brakes behind 21in wheels and AMR-specific tuning, turning what was Aston’s most laid-back GT car/four-door coupé/fastback saloon/family hatch/call it what you will into something more raucous.

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You’ll also get, if you’re prepared to overlook the Valkyrie (which, for these purposes, I am) the last of the naturally aspirated V12s, the 6.0-litre-badged (actually 5935cc) stalwart which 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 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. 

Unleashing the Rapide AMR on the road

Those traits and a lengthy 2989mm wheelbase are what have lent the Rapide one of the nicest inherent chassis balances among super-saloons, 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 first introduction, I don’t think there are many more 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 saloon, after all – but it has been a while since I drove a standard one. The ride quality is still actually pretty good – a touch fidgety over small ripples, but never close to frighteningly harsh. 

And what’s still very much evident is that lovely balance. The steering’s 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, rear steer. It just is what it is – straightforward, honest, with the smoothest of V12s and a clean gearshift – and frankly all the better for it.

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How does the Rapide AMR stack up against the competition?

If rivals have anything over the Rapide, it’s interiors that are roomier, and stuffed with lavish materials and world-class electronics systems – hence their weight. The old Aston navigation and entertainment are as baffling as they ever were, and the analogue dials never as clear as they should have been, 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. I wonder if it’s a shame that the last of the VH cars wasn’t a fire-breathing version of one of the more glamorous coupés, 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.

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Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes.