Aston Martin ups the ante with a new 550bhp Rapide S (w/VIDEO)

After last month’s re-financing deal with Investindustrial, what better way to top it off the marques centenary year than launch the confident new Rapide S?

Pitched squarely at the new Maserati Quattroporte and Porsche Panamera, Aston Martin has really taken the gloves off by adding a massive 80bhp over its predecessor (up 17% from the standard car’s 470bhp), thanks to its new AM11 engine.

The 6.0-litre naturally aspirated V12 boasts technology derived directly from Aston Martin Racing’s successful WEC GT campaign – to maximise both performance and efficiency. Fully CNC machined combustion chambers and lighter, hollow, cam shafts add power but also efficiency – improving CO2 emissions by seven per cent – from 355 g/km to 332 g/km – while average fuel economy now stands at 19.9 mpg.

Rapide S 22 Aston Martin ups the ante with a new 550bhp Rapide S (w/VIDEO)

That compares with the slightly less powerful 542bhp Porsche Panamera Turbo S, which achieves 270 g/km and 24.6 mpg and Maserati’s 522bhp 3.8 litre twin turbo V8 which achieves 278 g/km and 23.74 mpg. Peak torque increases, from 600 Nm to 620 Nm (457lb-ft) at 5,000 rpm, which falls a little short of the Quattroporte’s 720Nm (523lb-ft) and a shed-load behind the Panamera Turbo S with its 750Nm (553lb-ft) – or up to 800Nm (590lb-ft) on overboost.

The Rapide’s performance from 0-62 mph has dropped by 0.3 seconds to just 4.9 seconds, with a top speed of 190 mph which compares with 4.7 seconds and 192 mph for the Maserati or 3.8 seconds and 190 mph for the Porsche. From a price/performance standpoint it would be impolite at this stage to mention BMW’s M5, Audi’s RS 6 Avant or the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, all of whom would comfortably outperform the pricier Rapide S.

So overall, while Aston has made a huge improvement to the Rapide, the new S is now merely ‘competitive’ for the sector, albeit lagging significantly behind in terms of fuel efficiency and emissions.

Rapide S 7 Aston Martin ups the ante with a new 550bhp Rapide S (w/VIDEO)

The next stumbling block might be its price.

While Aston has yet to confirm the new Rapide S’ price, it’s expected to be close to the current car’s £150,000 (although certainly not less) – but for the record Porsche ask £123,776 for the Panamera Turbo S and you’ll need a little over 100,000 of your Britsh pounds to secure a new Maserati Quattroporte, so despite the Rapide S’ swish new looks, customers will need to engage more than just the left-side of their brain in order to justify choosing the Brit.

Elsewhere Aston Martin has optimised several other elements of the Gen4 VH architecture – The new AM11 engine has been lowered by 19 mm versus the previous car, with a corresponding reduction in the Rapide’s centre of gravity. This also leads to a noticeable improvement in the car’s front turn-in.

The Adaptive Damping System (ADS) now offers three distinct settings: ‘Normal’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Track’, each of them tailored to the increased power and torque of the Rapide S, together with revisions in the car’s dynamic stability control (DSC).

Rapide S 19 999x619 Aston Martin ups the ante with a new 550bhp Rapide S (w/VIDEO)

Much has been made of the Rapide’s new mouthier front grille with its imposing and assertive new ‘face’ – its design was clearly inspired by the discontinued One-77, but one wonders how good it will look here in the UK once a regulation front number plate bisects its grin.

The new Rapide S will be available to order from next month, when it will replace the previous Rapide, slotting in under the Vanquish as the second most powerful model in the range.

Some will find its V12 engine temptation enough, but the competition has moved on – offering the superior torque and efficiency of a twin-turbo V8 and the kind of performance that might leave the Aston more than a little flustered.

Will the allure of Aston Martin’s name be the deciding factor? Or perhaps its unique 4-door DB9 shape? Either way, the Rapide is now in with a fighting chance, even if it’s hampered by that price and a normally aspirated engine.

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