In production: January 2010 – date
Chassis numbers: F00001 – onwards
Historically when AML built a 4 door car, it displayed a Lagonda badge. In every case those cars (1960s Lagonda Rapide, 1970s V8 Lagonda and 1970s and 1980s Lagonda ‘wedge’) were best described as sporting saloons. The Aston Martin Rapide, however, is not a sporting saloon and it is not a Lagonda - believe the publicity, the Rapide is a 4 door Aston Martin sportscar.
The Rapide Concept was first shown at the Detroit Motor Show on the 9th January 2006 to universal acclaim. Initially, a long wheel base DB9 with better rear accommodation had been considered but by the time sufficient extension was added to the VH chassis it became obvious that a second set of doors would greatly improve rear seat access. Under the new Director of Design, Marek Reichman, the Rapide Concept evolved from a series of sketches in the summer of 2005 to a fully finished, fully functioning prototype, the first built in-house at Gaydon. Despite initially being seen as ‘just’ a stretched DB9, the Rapide Concept shared only 25% of materials from the DB9 and had a hatchback as well. At 5m in length, the Concept was 30 cm longer than a DB9 but only 140kg heavier, although the additional weight was offset by an uprated 480bhp Cologne built V12.
The Rapide Concept was also a showcase for a number of new features such as a transparent polycarbonate roof, adaptive LED headlamps, carbon ceramic brakes and an upmarket centre console – not all of which have yet been seen in production cars.
Before any commitment to production, AML used the concept to gauge public reaction to a four door model in the range. The press and public were very enthusiastic and the car was developed for production over the next three and a half years. Initially the Rapide was intended to be built at Gaydon but with capacity for only 8000 cars per annum, demand for the broadening range was so great that in March 2008, AML entered into an agreement with Magna Steyr, to build the Rapide in a specialist facility in Graz, Austria known as the Aston Martin Rapide Plant (AMRP).
By the time that the production ready Rapide was first seen in public on the 15th September 2009 at the 63rd Frankfurt Motor Show, the car, whist extremely faithful to the concept had evolved from the elongated DB9 concept to something more individual. The Rapide gained a crease extending from the side strake as seen on the V8 Vantage, a new front bumper and single bi-xenon headlamps with integrated LED side lights and direction indicators. Sadly the transparent polycarbonate roof, fully LED headlights and carbon ceramic brakes as previewed on the concept have not as yet reached production.
Like all Aston Martins, the Rapide underwent the marque’s strict and rigorous testing programme to ensure the required levels of quality, durability, performance and dynamics were 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 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 8,000km on the Nordschleife to test all components, pushing them to the very limits.
The use of lightweight materials resulted in the production Rapide’s projected weight gaining only 230kg over its DB9 sibling delivering a target kerb weight of 1990kg. Despite the Rapide being 309 mm longer than DB9, the structure would require 28,000Nm of force to be twisted through 1 degree.
In line with the specification of the late model DB9 and DBS, the Rapide also features Adaptive Damping System (ADS) which use 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.
Despite the rear doors, the Rapide visually remained every bit a sporting coupe as its sister models. The four ‘swan wing’ doors opened 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 was been increased to 70 degrees to allow easy ingress and egress. All of the Rapide’s body panels were new and not shared with the DB9. The front wings were formed from composite while all four doors and the roof were pressed aluminium and the rear quarter panels, steel.
The rear of the Rapide contained a pair of individual seats with clear views to the front and sides so that passengers feel a part of the driving experience. Rear passengers could benefit from the optional Aston Martin rear entertainment system with two LCD screens seamlessly integrated into the back of the front seat headrests. A six DVD multi-changer was integrated into the boot compartment and sound being delivered via wireless headphones or through the standard Bang & Olufsen Besound Rapide audio system. The rear seats could fold flat to create the largest load space ever in an Aston (with the obvious exception of a shooting brake) with access via a fully opening tailgate.
The Rapide was equipped with the same 5.9 litre V12 engine producing 470bhp as used in the DB9 linked to the Touchtronic 2 automatic transmission with steering column-mounted magnesium paddles. The Rapide has, to date, no manual transmission option.
For the first time on an Aston Martin, the Rapide featured a dual cast brake system. The discs were made from two materials, cast iron and aluminium. The new technology provided 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.
The Rapide’s brake system featured a new braking module delivering more discreet interventions and provided improved functionality for existing features as well as the new Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA), which provided assistance in emergency braking situations. The Hydraulic Brake Assist function identified when the driver needed maximum braking performance, from the speed at which the brake pedal is depressed, and automatically boosted the brake pressure up to the ABS control threshold for as long as the driver kept the brake pedal pressed down. As a result, stopping distances could be substantially reduced.
The Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system was specifically tuned for the Rapide with emphasis on its sporting characteristics. A three-stage DSC system allowed the driver to tailor the level of electronic intervention according to the type of driving. In default mode, the system limits any tyre slip in difficult conditions, and provides the maximum amount of security possible with out being intrusive. Holding the DSC button for five seconds engages ‘Track Mode’ which delays the electronic intervention further, creating a safe yet purer experience. Depressing the button for a further five seconds disengages the system completely.
The first customers for the Rapide received their cars by the spring of 2010.