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Aston Martin rolls out Rapide

Going rapidly: Aston Martin fans can catch a look at the four-door V12 Rapide at the Australian grand prix in Melbourne.

Cache gives us the edge with four-door Rapide, says Aston Martin

Aston Martin logo19 Feb 2010

ASTON Martin says brand exclusivity will be its trump card over rival Porsche when it pitches its new $366,280 four-door Rapide onto the Australian market in June against the German marque’s similarly-conceived but cheaper Panamera, which tops out at $364,900 in top-of-the-line Turbo PDK form.

And, of course, there’s Rapide’s styling, which Aston says resulted from a simple brief: to design “the most beautiful four-door car on the planet” – a claim that car fans will be able to verify in the metal for themselves when Aston’s first four-door goes on public display at the Australian Formula One grand prix in Melbourne next month.

Speaking with GoAuto at the first Australian hands-on press preview of the Rapide in Melbourne today, Aston Martin’s regional operations manager Marcel Fabris said the company was happy with its pricing for Australia, which he said had been helped by a strong Australian dollar.

“We have managed to price the car extremely competitively, so there is literally only about $2500 difference between this and a Panamera Turbo,” he said.

Asked if the company was concerned that it would be asking a price premium over the Panamera, Mr Fabris replied: “Not in the slightest. This is an Aston Martin and the level of exclusivity that Aston Martin carries is far greater than Porsche.

“The Porsche will be built in far higher numbers. We are limiting production of this car to 2000 globally a year, which will see in Australia somewhere in the vicinity of 30 to 40 cars.”

44 center imageAbout 20 of the Australia-bound Rapides have already attracted deposits, and several more are expected to be snapped up by prospective customers during a national preview roadshow of a prototype fresh from duties at the Frankfurt motor show’s global debut last September. The company was even flying in 17 New Zealand customers and prospects to run their hands over the car in Melbourne on Saturday night.

Apart from dealer demonstrators – five of which are destined for Australia, arriving in June – all Rapides will be built to customer order, with cars heading off from contract builder Magna Steyr’s Austrian factory to all major markets simultaneously. First customer cars are scheduled to hit the wharfs in Australia in July.

Powered by the same 350kW/600Nm V12 as the Aston Martin DB9, driving through a rear-mounted ZF six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic transmission, the Rapide is built on a stretched version of the DB9’s platform, growing 254mm in overall length to eke out more interior room to accommodate the two rear-seat passengers.

Slim-line seats also contribute to the gains, while headroom is enhanced with a roofline that’s 63.5mm taller than that of the DB9 coupe.

A priority of Rapide designers was to retain the same coupe-like silhouette of all Astons – a nicety largely dispensed with by Porsche designers who went for greater rear-seat practicality in the Panamera.

While the Rapide might lack the Panamera’s limo-like spaciousness, it can still accommodate two 185cm adults in reasonable comfort without compressing their spines or forcing the front seats into the dash.

A 190cm-tall man at today’s launch could fit in the back seat, but his head was rubbing on the roof lining.

Shoulder room is ample for full-grown Aussies, despite a bulky console/armrest soaking up space, separating the two rear seats.

Toe room under the front seats has been kept to a bare minimum – no doubt to maximise headroom for the front-seat occupants – and the door openings are not exactly cavernous, although the rear doors open wide to aid entry and egress.

All four seats have a fist-sized porthole in the backrests to help alleviate claustrophobia for back-seat passengers.

Overall, the rear seat accommodation qualifies the Rapide to be called a four-seater, rather than a 2+2.

Mr Fabris was at pains to point out the Rapide is a four-door sportscar, not a sports sedan, saying would-be customers who expect BMW 7 Series-style space when they open the rear doors or boot will be disappointed.

The liftback hatch opens to reveal an adequate rather than generous cargo area, with a space-soaking step-up in the boot floor, seemingly to accommodate the rear suspension.

However, a cargo barrier can be removed to expand the luggage space to take at least one big suitcase and a brace of hold-alls – your optional Aston Martin branded sort, of course – or a couple of golf club bags.

Further, the rear seat-backs can be folded forward, either individually or together, for that IKEA flat-pack, skis or similar awkward item. A special protective mat apparently is available to protect the leather seats from scratching.

Also available for those who want the whole kit and caboodle is an optional Rapide-branded Jaeger-LeCoultre wristwatch, complete with inbuilt transponder to unlock the doors. This bit of James Bond-style trickery – also available with the DB9 – will set you back about $45,000.

Today’s invitation-only customer preview in Melbourne will be followed by similar shows in Sydney on February 25, Brisbane on March 9, the Gold Coast on March 11 and Adelaide on March 23.

The car’s first public outing at the AGP will be accompanied by displays of other current Aston models in ‘Auto Avenue’ at the Albert Park grand prix circuit.

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