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Rapide Aston rains on Porsche’s Panamera parade

Fwoar-door: Aston's all-new Rapide enters production late this year.

Battle royale looms between two new four-door heavy-hitters from Porsche and Aston

15 Apr 2009

ASTON Martin has attempted to spoil Porsche’s Panamera reveal party at next week’s Shanghai motor show by announcing its forthcoming Rapide is on course for a public debut in late 2009 before first customer deliveries take place in early 2010.

In what is shaping up to be a four-door turf war over the hip pockets of the well-heeled between all-new models from two of the world’s most hallowed sportscar-makers, the first sedans ever produced by Porsche and Aston will hit the road within six months of each other.

The German brand last week officially confirmed the Panamera ‘Gran Turismo’ will make its world public debut on April 20 at Auto Shanghai in China, where Porsche sales were up 140 per cent in its 2007/2008 fiscal year to 7600 vehicles.

“The Panamera will thrill aficionados of exclusive, sporting cars the world over”, said Porsche president and CEO, Dr Wendelin Wiedeking in a press statement designed to highlight the importance of emerging Asian nations. “This is a clear signal that we count on these markets and have full confidence in their future economic potential.”

Porsche reiterated its desire “to sell an annual average of at least 20,000 units of the Panamera worldwide throughout the entire lifecycle of the car”, and said its fourth model line, to be built alongside the Cayenne at Leipzig, will go on sale in Europe in September, Australia and the US in October and China in early 2010.

Full interior and exterior images, along with complete engine, chassis, equipment and new technology details, are now available for the direct-injected V8 sedan range (V6 and hybrid versions will follow) in a slow-release launch program that began last September.

44 center imageLocal Panamera pricing was announced in February, and ranges between $270,000 for the rear-drive S and a 911 Turbo-matching $365,000 for the Panamera Turbo AWD flagship, which is claimed to feature category-firsts like an active rear spoiler, adaptive air suspension and, like all Panameras, a (PDK) dual-clutch automated manual transmission with idle-stop function.

Precisely one week after Porsche’s pre-show release, which came with two images of the Panamera in Shanghai, the British brand has announced the Rapide is in the final stages of endurance testing ahead of a September debut – almost certainly at the Frankfurt motor show.

Like the Panamera, the more exclusive Rapide is aimed directly at buyers of four-door grand tourers like the successful Maserati Quattroporte and Mercedes-Benz CLS, and also promises to deliver class-leading dynamics, refinement and luxury.

This week Aston Martin has confirmed the rear-drive Rapide will be powered by a 470hp (350kW) and 600Nm version of its own 6.0-litre V12, which will be hand-built at the company's engine facility in Cologne.

Performance figures are yet to be revealed but Aston says early indications are they will be class-leading, following a development program that included extreme climate testing and dynamic and high-speed performance trials at the company's new Nürburgring Test Centre.

Based on the UK maker’s Vertical/Horizontal (VH) extruded aluminium chassis, the four-seater Rapide will feature a “highly responsive Touchtronic gearbox”, along with “swan wing” doors that rise upwards and outwards as they swing open to provide access to its two “beautifully trimmed individual rear seats”, which accommodate “children or two adults on shorter journeys”.

Based on the concept that first emerged at the 2006 Detroit show, Aston says the Rapide will be its “first true four-door production sports car” after being signed off following the purchase from Ford of most of the company by a consortium including Prodrive owner David Richards and a Kuwaiti investment firm in June 2007.

The Rapide will be produced at a new production facility in Graz, Austria, that is managed by Magna Steyr and a “fully integrated” Aston Martin team from the UK, and which is said to be closely modelled on its Gaydon factory in Warwickshire. The latter has annual capacity for 8000 vehicles, and Aston expects to sell 2000 Rapides annually.

Expect it to be priced somewhere between the 911-rivalling V8 Vantage coupe ($258,737) and the V12 DB9 and DBS coupes costing a respective $358,572 and $497,411.

“The Rapide will be the most elegant four-door sports car in the world. It completes the Aston Martin range conveying our established attributes of power, beauty and soul,” said Dr Ulrich Bez, the chief executive of Aston Martin, which has also announced it will revive the Lagonda marque in 2012 via a full-size SUV previewed at last month’s Geneva show.

“In 2010 there will be an Aston Martin for every type of sports car customer regardless of the demands of their lifestyle. The Rapide is the most versatile, bringing a new benchmark of luxury and refinement to both driver and passenger.

“Rapide will exceed expectations to deliver elegance and practicality in a form that will allow driving enjoyment and comfort beyond anything that exists today.

“The Rapide will exist in a class all of its own, a true Aston Martin with the high performance and dynamic excellence that defines the brand, and a luxurious sporting grand tourer without equal,” said Dr Bez.

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