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Aston lands Rapide Down Under

Rapide deployment: Aston Martin's V12 four-door Rapide grand tourer is set for a meet-and-greet tour of Australian showrooms.

Red carpet ready for potential Rapide buyers as Aston Martin confirms 19 orders

16 Feb 2010

ASTON Martin expects the first in a series of invitation-only “customer, prospect and depositor” preview events – to take place in Melbourne this Friday – to significantly boost Australian interest in the bespoke British brand’s first four-door model.

Due to be officially launched in late June before first deliveries occur in July, the Rapide grand tourer has already attracted 19 firm Australian orders (and a further seven in New Zealand) and more than 40 interested parties awaiting an opportunity to view the vehicle – despite an official pricetag of $366,280 plus on-road costs.

In contrast, the Rapide’s most direct rival, Porsche’s four-door Panamera – which ranges between $270,200 for the Panamera S PDK and $364,900 for the Panamera Turbo PDK – has found 50 homes since going on sale here last October.

Aston Martin’s Australia, New Zealand and South Africa operations manager, Marcel Fabris, said anywhere between 30 and 50 Rapides were expected to be sold in Australia in its first full year, from a global annual production run of 2000 vehicles.

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“The Rapide is very much an unknown quantity for Aston Martin, so while we’ve got an idea of the interest we think it should attract, we thought we’d leave it open an let the market decide. If there’s a need for more cars there is a facility to provide for that,” he said.

“We don’t want people waiting years and years, so we could ramp up production for Australia or find cars from elsewhere. In a perfect world there would be no more than a five to nine-month wait.”

The first in a rolling roadshow of regional dealer events to preview the Rapide in most Australian capital cities will take place in Melbourne on Friday, followed by Sydney on February 25, Brisbane on March 9, the Gold Coast on March 11 and Adelaide on March 23.

For the money, Australia’s Rapide will come standard with a 350kW/600Nm 6.0-litre V12 engine driving through a rear-mounted ZF six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic transmission, plus adaptive suspension damping and a 1000-Watt Bang & Olufsen sound system.

As we reported following its global production debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September, the Rapide will be both the first Aston Martin four-door and the first to be built in a new 17,000 square-metre production facility at sub-contractor Magna Steyr’s plant in Graz, Austria.

Billed as the world’s most elegant four-door sportscar, the Rapide is based on a stretched version of the four-seat DB9 coupe’s aluminium platform, offering significantly more rear legroom despite being just 254mm longer and 63.5mm taller than the DB9.

Aston claims the 1950kg, 5019mm-long Rapide can sprint to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 303km/h.

Meantime, The Times newspaper in the UK has reported Aston Martin chief executive Ulrich Bez as saying the sportscar-maker will go to the stock market within two years to fund the next generation of its models – including the Mercedes-Benz GL-class-based luxury SUV that was expected to relaunch the Lagonda brand, which he said remains in Aston’s long-term plans.

The Aston boss told The Times that the Gaydon, Warwickshire-based brand, which Ford sold to two Kuwaiti investment groups, Investment Dar and Adeem Investment, in 2007 for $US925 million ($A1.04 billion), remains profitable despite sagging sales and had self-funded the Rapide and derivatives of the DB9 and Vantage models, but would need top sell shares to the public to finance the development of future models.

The Times reports that the Kuwaitis are likely to back a stock market float, while retaining a majority stake in the group.

While first examples of the Austrian-built Rapide take place in Europe within weeks, the company’s British home base, which produces the DB9, DBS and Vantage but has laid off 600 of its peak workforce of 1800, had insufficient production capacity when the Rapide project was planned.

The Gaydon plant is now being used to produce the limited-edition $3 million 522kW One-77 supercar and the leather-lined, Toyota iQ-based Cygnet city-car, for which Aston hopes to attract 4000 buyers at a cost of £30,000 ($A52,800) each.

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