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Frankfurt show: Aston rolls out its succulent Rapide

Super sedan: The Aston Martin Rapide finally came out of the R&D closet at Frankfurt.

Aston Martin’s most first ‘true’ four-door shown at Frankfurt ahead of 2010 launch

Aston Martin logo18 Sep 2009

By TERRY MARTIN

AFTER attempting to divert attention from Porsche’s Panamera GT launch before the Shanghai motor show in April, revealing photographs and the first details of the tantalising Rapide, Aston Martin has now shown its full hand in Frankfurt this week for the long-awaited modern-era sedan.

Deliveries of the four-door four-seat Rapide remain on track for the first quarter of 2010, but the British sportscar manufacturer is still to confirm pricing – which could be as high as $400,000 – and initial allocations for Australia.

“Rapide is the culmination of the Aston Martin range of sportscars, a car that seals the revival of a truly admired marque,” said Aston Martin chief executive Ulrich Bez. “There is now an Aston Martin for every taste and for every use.

“With Rapide, the entire family can enjoy their Aston Martin together in unison, in an invigorating yet comfortable environment, sitting low, with plenty of visibility from every seat and with new levels of comfort, refinement and entertainment.”

44 center imageAs GoAuto reported in April, the Rapide is built off Aston’s ultra-stiff and lightweight Vertical/Horizontal (VH) extruded aluminium chassis and has at its heart a 350kW (at 6000rpm) and 600Nm (at 5000rpm) version of its own 6.0-litre (well, 5935cc) V12 engine, driving the rear wheels through a retuned rear/mid-mounted Touchtronic 2 six-speed automatic transmission.

With the Rapide’s unveiling in Frankfurt, Aston has now divulged its performance figures, which show that the hand-built all-alloy front/mid-mounted quad-cam V12 can hurl the car – which has a 1950kg kerb weight (just 190kg more than the smaller DB9) – from 0-100km/h in 5.3 seconds. Its maximum speed is 303km/h.

Based on the concept that first emerged at the 2006 Detroit auto show, the Rapide is 290mm longer than the DB9 at 5019mm and has an overall width of 2140mm and a well-contained 1360mm height, the latter indicative of the low roofline and a centre of gravity that is as low as possible to assist with the engineering target of class-leading handling characteristics.

To emphasise the point, Aston points to the inherent structural stiffness of the Rapide, which it claims would require 28,000Nm of force to be twisted through one degree. With the gearbox mounted at the rear on the transaxle, a “near perfect” weight balance of 51:49 front/rear also contributes to high-grade handling.

No panels other than the front doors and bonnet are taken from other Aston Martin models. The front wings are composite, the doors and roof are made from pressed aluminium and the rear-quarter panels are steel.

Contact to the road is made via 20-inch wheel shod with Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres – 245/40 R20 at the front, 295/35 R20 behind – and feature a taller sidewall for reduced vibration and maximum cabin refinement.

As on other Aston models, the Rapide suspension comprises double wishbones, anti-rollbars and monotube adaptive dampers all-round, plus an Adaptive Damping System (ADS) with ‘Sport’ mode. A two-stage DSC stability control system is also onboard, enabling the driver to tailor the amount of electronic intervention provided. Naturally, it can also be disengaged.

In a first for the British brand, the Rapide features a dual-cast brake system, with the front and rear discs – measuring 390mm diameter and using six-piston callipers at the front, 360mm with four-piston grippers at the rear – made from cast iron and aluminium.

Aston claims the result is a brake that is 15-20 per cent lighter than standard cast-iron, which in turn reduces unsprung mass and improves handling. Other advantages include less corrosion and wear.

As well as DSC, the Rapide comes with ABS, EBD, EBA (emergency brake assist), HBA (hydraulic brake assist), PTD (positive torque control), traction control and an electronic park brake.

Dual-stage twin front airbags, front side airbags and front and rear head airbags are fitted standard, as are bi-Xenon headlights with integrated LED side lights and direction indicators. LED is also used for the tail-lights and side repeaters.

Accessed via ‘swan wing’ doors (opening up and out at 12 degrees), the Rapide cabin will be familiar to Aston owners and combines full-grain leather trim with walnut veneer and an iridium silver centre console finish.

Aston claims there is “ample” room for four adult occupants, all of whom are treated to heated sports seats and individual air-conditioning controls (and face-level vents), to name just a couple of notable features.

The standard stereo is a 1000-watt Bang & Olufsen BeoSound unit with ‘ICEpower’ technology and the full gamut of connectors and input sockets for media files. A rear entertainment unit, including LCD screens and a boot-mounted six-DVD multi-changer, will be available as an option.

The boot holds 301 litres and can be accessed from the cabin via a removable bulkhead. The rear seats also fold flat at the touch of a button to create a flat loading space, increasing the luggage volume to 750 litres.

“Like a race horse standing still, you can see its power and elegance, the shape of Rapide’s rear haunches are muscular conveying the power that lies beneath while its low stance produces a powerful look,” said Aston Martin design director Marek Reichman.

“There is a real sense of proportion with this car, akin to a tailored suit. The new double grille gives more presence on the road while the iconic signature side strake has been lengthened through to the rear doors to enhance its lateral proportions in a subtle, yet elegant way.

“The car’s purity makes it look right from every angle.” The Rapide will be built at a new production facility in Graz, Austria, managed by Magna Steyr in concert with Aston Martin executives based at the company’s headquarters in Gaydon, England.

Aston expects to sell 2000 Rapides a year.

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