Aston Martin unveiled one of the most eagerly awaited cars of the year at the 63rd Frankfurt Motor Show. The elegant Rapide, functional yet luxurious, provides space for up to four adults combined with an engaging driving experience synonymous with all Aston Martins.
As the marque’s first production four-door sports car, Rapide encapsulates core values of Power, Beauty and Soul; four ‘swan wing’ doors provide access to cosseting sports seats both front and rear bestowing occupants with ample accommodation. A 317 litre luggage compartment affords generous space for belongings for all four passengers whether they be sports bags or indeed, sets of skis, creating an Aston Martin which can be enjoyed on any occasion, anytime, anywhere.
Rapide’s rear environment has been intelligently packaged to create a space where passengers feel a part of the driving experience with clear views to the front and sides. Comfort and support is supplied in the form of two hand trimmed individual seats and a personal face-level heating and air conditioning system. Aiding the practicalities of everyday use, the luggage compartment features a movable bulkhead to permit access from the rear cabin while the rear seats fold flat at the touch of a button to create a flat loading space increasing the luggage compartment from 317 litres to 886 litres.
At the heart of every Aston Martin lies an evocative engine providing effortless power and torque: Rapide features a hand-built 6.0-litre V12 engine producing 470 bhp (477 PS / 350 kW) with peak power being delivered at 6000 rpm and 600 Nm (443 lbft) peak torque at 5000 rpm. A specifically tuned six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic transmission features as standard, allowing the driver to change gear automatically or manually via the steering column-mounted magnesium paddles.
First shown in 2006 in concept form at the Detroit Auto Show, the Rapide project received an immediate green light from Aston Martin’s new shareholders in mid-2007 following the sale of the marque by the Ford Motor Company. In a little over two years, Aston Martin’s design and engineering team have delivered a new car from the ground up. Rapide has been developed from the ‘V/H Architecture’ platform which already forms the backbone to Aston Martin’s critically acclaimed line-up: the DBS, DB9 and Vantage.
Chief Executive, Dr. Ulrich Bez said: “Rapide is the culmination of the Aston Martin range of sports cars, a car that seals the revival of a truly admired marque. 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.”
Director of Design, Marek Reichman who led the in-house design team which penned the Rapide said: “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.
“There is a real sense of proportion with this car, akin to a tailored suit; the new double grill 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.”
Instantly recognisable as an Aston Martin, the Rapide assumes its extra doors gracefully to visually remain every bit a sporting coupe as its sister models. The four ‘swan wing’ doors open up and out at 12 degrees avoiding scuffs and scratches when parked next to a raised walkway, while serving the dual purpose of allowing easier access to the front and rear cabin. The opening angle of the doors has been increased to 70 degrees to allow easy ingress and egress. Front on, the new polished alloy upper and lower grill adorn the Rapide to give it presence on the road while the new front lights house a single lens bi-xenon headlight with innovative light tube sidelights subtly distinguishing the Rapide to other road users.
Adding to the sense of proportion, Rapide’s low roof line combined with uniquely styled 20” wheels contribute to its sporting stance, and the iconic side strake, housing the side LED indicators is elongated to meet the rear doors. The pillarless side glass helps convey Rapide’s coupe lines. The front and rear window choreography has been designed to permit the absence of a visible B-pillar to unclutter the curve line of the doors from front to back creating a seamless glass to glass window frame. Contributing to Rapide’s interior comfort, the side glass will rise up further into the window seal when the car is driven at speed cancelling out wind noise and the glass is laminated to improve noise insulation.
Strong rear haunches hint at the power that lies beneath creating the classic Aston Martin sports car silhouette. The wing mirrors have been specifically designed to emerge from the door giving the driver optimum visibility through the front corner glass. At the rear, a practical tailgate provides access to the 317 litre luggage space – flexible up to 886 litres - flanked by the signature Aston Martin ‘C’ shaped tail lamps each housing 360 LEDs.
Echoing the beauty of the exterior, Rapide’s interior welcomes all occupants to a exquisitely hand crafted and spacious cabin. To the front, the familiar dashboard and controls are ergonomically designed to provide the driver with all the information needed to extract the very best from the car. The Rapide boasts a new front seat design giving a sporting feel supporting the occupant when driving spiritedly and providing high levels of comfort during more leisurely journeys. The double-edge stitch design enhances the visual impact of the seat alluding to the attention to detail and hand craftsmanship. Heated and optional cooled seats feature with two centrally-mounted rotational dials, one at the front and one at the rear offering fingertip control to all passengers.
Both rear passengers are treated to their own individual heating and air conditioning operated independently from the front system. Controlled by a singular rotary dial in front of a digital display, two directional air vents channel air to the upper body serving to heat or cool occupants quickly and effectively while air is also channelled separately to the foot wells. The rear heating and air conditioning can also be controlled via the rotary dial located between the front seats giving the driver full control.
Aston Martin engineers chose to integrate an electronic park brake into Rapide saving space to the side of the seat and creating an uncluttered centre console. A revised Bluetooth™ microphone is located above the driver’s and front passenger’s head improving sound pick-up to give crystal clear conversations.
The long swooping front centre console continues all the way through to the rear seamlessly linking the front environment to the rear, thus creating a sense of involvement for the rear passengers. Large storage binnacles set between both the front and rear seats provide ample space to store CDs, games and keep valuables from view.
Two individually appointed sports seats form the rear environment of the Rapide. Aston Martin’s design and engineering team paid special attention to creating a space that is cosseting giving both passengers an equally sporting feel to that of the driver while also providing passengers as much forward and side visibility as possible. Forward visibility has been optimised through intelligent profiling of the B-pillar and front seats to give occupants a clear view of the road ahead. Despite the low sleek coupe appearance, adequate leg and head room accommodates adults and children in comfort.
Rear passengers can benefit from the optional Aston Martin rear entertainment system; two LCD screens are seamlessly integrated into the back of the front seat headrests optimally positioned at eye level. A six DVD multi-changer, integrated into the boot compartment, provides hours of entertainment with sound being delivered via wireless headphones or through the standard Bang & Olufsen Besound Rapide audio system, so however long the journey, passengers will be treated to a rich audio-visual experience. Should the passengers have different taste in entertainment whether it be a DVD, a games device or simply listening to an MP3 player; the screens can be operated independently combined with wireless headphones. A infra-red remote control is supplied to control the video and sound from the comfort of the seat.
Continuing the successful brand partnership between Bang & Olufsen and Aston Martin who share similar values in design and craftsmanship; Rapide is fitted as standard with the 1000 W BeoSound Rapide - a bespoke sound system tailored to the Rapide. 15 speakers have been optimally located throughout the cabin to deliver the finest sound quality naturally associated with Bang & Olufsen. The famous Danish audio specialist’s skilled Tonmeisters worked closely with Aston Martin’s acoustic engineers during the entire development of Rapide to create a soundstage that cannot be localised to any particular speaker and delivering notes that are precise to the instrument played or the vocal sung.
Turning on the BeoSound Rapide, the occupants are greeted with a sense of theatre as the two Acoustic Lenses rise silently from the dashboard. Acoustic Lens Technology (ALT) enables a wide (180 degrees) horizontal dispersion of high frequencies. The technology prevents the loss of critical sound and gives listeners an improved sense of space. ALT allows sound to be focused within the car depending on who is inside. In Auto mode, Beosound Rapide uses sensors on the seatbelts to determine how many people are in the car and their location and will adjust the soundstage for the optimum sound experience. Manual override options feature for: Driver, (focus sound solely on the driver) Front (focus on two front passengers), Rear (two rear passengers) and All Round (all four passengers).
The speaker grills are formed from a single piece of aluminium and integrate seamlessly into Rapide’s interior dispersing sound equally to all passengers. A microphone located behind the rear-view mirror continually monitors ambient noise to adjust volume settings to compensate. The result of this leading technology creates an unparalleled automotive audio experience.
The two rear seat-backs effortlessly fold flat at the touch of a button to produce an increased luggage area creating 886 litres of boot space. Well appointed, the boot space is hand-trimmed with a carpet floor and four iridium anodised runners and tread plates. Increasing the versatility of the rear luggage compartment a divider can be raised or lowered to create a separate area accessible from the back seats should rear passengers require access to their luggage during the journey.
For customers with young children, ISOFIX™ attachment points feature as standard and Aston Martin will be offering approved child seats specifically for the Rapide.
Protecting passengers in the event of an accident, a total of eight airbags are strategically located throughout the cabin giving peace of mind to all passengers in all driving conditions. Restraint sensors around the vehicle help Rapide decide not only which airbag to deploy but also how aggressively depending on the severity of impact. Seatbelt pretensioners are fitted to both front and rear seats and rear passengers are protected with individual head protection airbags ensuring that Rapide is one of the safest sports cars on the road.
The Rapide is built in a new state-of–the-art 23,000 sq. metre Aston Martin Rapide Plant (AMRP) manufacturing facility in Graz, Austria. Utilising the same modern technology as the global headquarters in Gaydon, England and combining hand-craftsmanship; the Rapide is hand built to Aston Martin’s usual exacting standards. Customers will be able to visit the AMRP as part of the Aston Martin experience where specialists are able to guide and help customers specify their Rapide with over 2.5 million different combinations of paint, options and finishes available from Aston Martin’s core options list.
Like all Aston Martins, the Rapide has undergone the marque’s strict and rigorous testing programme to ensure the required levels of quality, durability, performance and dynamics are met. Around 50 prototypes were built all designed to be subjected to the very toughest tests. For example, hot weather testing took place in Death Valley, USA and Kuwait, Middle East exposing the car to temperatures in excess of 50 degrees Celsius, while cold weather assessments in Sweden and in a cold testing chamber saw prototypes subjected to –40 degrees Celsius. High speed testing was conducted at the famous Nardo proving ground in Italy, while dynamics were honed at the Nürburgring, Germany where prototypes were relentlessly run for 8,000 km on the Nordschleife to test all components pushing them to the very limits.
The Rapide is a sports car – a thoroughbred which can be enjoyed by four people in unison. Aston Martin engineers have spent thousands of hours tuning suspension, throttle maps, tyres, brakes and steering to create a car that, while practical, also provides a dynamically engaging drive. Despite the extra versatility, the low roof line, and therefore low centre of gravity, makes Rapide feel like an agile coupe.
Ian Minards, Product Development Director said: “We have learned so much with the development of the current Aston Martin range, and Rapide has really benefited from this knowledge. Our prototypes have been so close to production specification that we are able to really understand the car from very early on in the development process.
“Rapide is about the journey, and we always intended to combine the ethos of the DB9 and package it for up to four people in comfort but preserve the excitement of driving an Aston Martin sports car.”
The front mid-mounted 6.0 litre V12 engine which sits at the heart of Rapide produces 470 bhp (477 PS / 350 kW) with peak power being delivered at 6000 rpm and 600 Nm (443 lbft) and peak torque at 5000 rpm. The resultant 0-60 mph time is 5.0 seconds. The engine designed and developed by Aston Martin engineers at Gaydon, England is hand built in a dedicated facility in Köln, Germany.
The use of lightweight materials has resulted in the Rapide’s projected weight gaining only 230kg over its DB9 sibling delivering a target kerb weight of 1990kg. This figure is achieved through the use of Aston Martin’s Vertical / Horizontal (V/H) architecture – a platform technology derived from the aerospace industry employing aluminium which is bonded rather than welded to create a lightweight and ultra-stiff chassis. Despite the Rapide being 309 mm longer than DB9, it was a key objective to maximise the structural rigidity accounting for the increased length in wheelbase. The Rapide’s structure would require 28,000 Nm of force to be twisted through 1 degree. This torsional rigidity is a key element in delivering the excellent dynamic feel by optimising wheel to road contact and minimising vehicle shake and vibration.
All of Rapide’s body panels are new. The front wings are formed from composite while all four doors and roof are pressed aluminium and the rear quarter panels are steel.
Ian Minards said: “Dynamically the Rapide feels every bit as agile as the DB9, I have personally experienced the car being driven at high speed on the Nürburgring, and was enormously impressed with its capabilities.”
The standard six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic transmission has been calibrated to ensure that the additional weight of Rapide has had a minimal impact on fuel economy, emissions and performance.
Derived from the same transaxle unit that was developed for the DB9, the system has been substantially re-tuned to accommodate driving and handling characteristics of the Rapide with a final drive ratio of 3.46:1.
System functionality is consistent with that on the DB9, with ‘Park’, ‘Reverse’, ‘Neutral’ and ‘Drive’ modes selected via facia mounted controls.
When in ‘Drive’ mode, pulling either of the leather-trimmed magnesium alloy paddles mounted on the steering column will activate Touchtronic mode, enabling the driver to control gear shifts via the paddles. Touchtronic mode is also accessible directly on engine start-up. Alternatively, the ‘Drive’ mode can be selected at any time by pressing the ‘D’ control on the centre console, engaging a fully automatic mode which will select the most appropriate gear for the speed and driving conditions automatically.
The system also includes a ‘Sport’ mode - activated by a button on the centre console – which engages a more aggressive gear shift strategy as gear changes feel sharper and more forceful, engine speed matching on downshifts is more aggressive and in full automatic mode, upshifts occur at higher speeds.
A new saddle-design fuel tank has been integrated to hold 90.5 litres enabling Rapide to deliver a range of over 300 miles without reducing the car’s sporting dynamics and serves the dual purpose of a flat loading space in the luggage compartment.
As the culmination of the Aston Martin range, Aston Martin’s engineers have gained much experience and learning from the development of the DBS, DB9 and Vantage range of sports cars – this wealth and breadth of experience has all been channelled into Rapide to produce a four door with unrivalled sports car characteristics. The basic ingredients have already been proven: the powerful engine, the lightweight yet stiff understructure, the honing in the toughest environments around the world and the exhaust note which is always evocative no matter which model. Applying these characteristics to Rapide alongside a car which is a practical four-door, was the engineers’ greatest challenge to date. The result is a car that feels every bit a sports car as its siblings, yet provides versatility in a beautiful package.
With the six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic gearbox mounted to the rear of the car on the transaxle, the Rapide’s weight balance is near perfect at: 49:51, contributing to its outstanding dynamics. This provides the driver with an engaging drive on twisty roads, and a refined, relaxed and effortless drive on motorways and main roads. The 20” wheels are clad with Bridgestone Potenza S001 (Front: 245/40 R20, Rear: 295/35 R20) but specifically for Rapide feature a taller side wall to help dial out vibration and contribute to a quieter cabin.
For the first time on an Aston Martin, Rapide features a dual cast brake system. The discs are made from two materials, cast iron and aluminium. The new technology provides dynamic advantages in the form of reduced unsprung mass with a brake that is 15-20% lighter than a standard cast iron brake. Using both cast iron and aluminium takes advantage of the heat resistance provided by cast iron and the weight saving properties of aluminium. In addition, greater braking performance, reduced corrosion, and less wear are all benefits associated with the Rapide dual cast brake system.
Rapide’s brake system features a new braking module delivering more discreet interventions and provides improved functionality for existing features as well as the new Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA), which provides assistance in emergency braking situations. The Hydraulic Brake Assist function identifies when the driver requires maximum braking performance, from the speed at which the brake pedal is depressed, and automatically boosts the brake pressure up to the ABS control threshold for as long as the driver keeps the brake pedal pressed down. As a result, stopping distances can be substantially reduced.
To take full advantage of its extremely rigid platform, the Rapide features Adaptive Damping System (ADS) first seen on the DBS which uses two separate valves to set the dampers to five different positions, allowing instant adjustment of the car’s ride and handling characteristics. The ADS automatically alters the suspension settings to ensure the driver has high levels of control at all times, with the ability to respond instantly to different road conditions and driver inputs.
The Rapide’s Adaptive Damping System perfectly captures the car’s sporting character, ensuring that stiffer dampers are available for better handling and control when the car is being driven enthusiastically, without compromising ride comfort during ‘normal’ driving conditions. A designated ‘Sport’ mode automatically sets all dampers to their firmest positions, making it ideal for spirited driving.
The Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system has been specifically tuned for Rapide with emphasis on its sporting characteristics. A three-stage DSC system allows the driver to tailor the level of electronic intervention according to the type of driving. In default mode, the system is set to ‘on’ which will limit any tyre slip in difficult conditions, and provide the maximum amount of security possible with out being intrusive. Holding the DSC button for five seconds will engage ‘Track Mode’ which delays the electronic intervention further, creating a safe yet purer experience. Depressing the button for a further five seconds will disengage the system completely.