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Gaydon’s four-door grand tourer gets more power and panache, but hasn't evolved to quite the same transformative degree as its main rival, the second-generation Porsche Panamera

Aston Martin’s mission to bring us the most beautiful four-door in the world hit second gear with this, the Aston Martin Rapide S.

When 2013 rolled around, it marked the arrival of what you might call a mid-cycle refreshed version of the intriguing hybrid coupe-cum-saloon, launched in 2010 - except that the Aston Martin Rapide S is a much more altered animal compared to the original model than those terms would imply.

Gaydon says this is its most customisable series model yet

There’s a whole new front-end structure here, a revised engine, a reinforced body, a reappraised chassis, a freshened-up cabin – as well as that thrusting new grille.

Here, then, is a chance for Gaydon to hit the reset button; to cast memories of the first Rapide’s troubled early years – of outsourced production, slow initial sales and punishing early residual values – to the dustbin of history. This car may not quite be all new, but rest assured, it’s much newer than it looks. Perhaps even more important, it’s a clean slate.

Aston’s claims for it are many. This car, they say, pushes the company’s four-door model through two specific performance watersheds: it takes 4.2sec to hit 60mph, and is capable of 203mph flat out.

It has 17 percent more power than its predecessor, and 10 percent more torque at 2500rpm. It has a heavily revised chassis too, and offers as big a gain in refinement as it does on speed. 

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Is all that to be believed? You’re about to read the only verdict that matters.

First drives