Aston Martin Rapide at the Ring (2009)

Published: 01 April 2008

CAR Online has snapped the best photos yet of the Aston Martin Rapide, revealing the final shape of the new sporting limo and unusual details such as the panoramic glass roof. This will be the most practical Aston ever – discounting the bespoke shooting brake models – as you’d expect from a stretched DB9 with four doors and a tailgate.

The Rapide will stretch the tape measure to around five metres long, making it 30cm longer than the DB9, whose VH aluminium architecture it shares. Aston is targeting buyers who need practicality and is promising a lift-up tailgate to swallow luggage, fold-down rear seats to extend the boot and ‘swan-lift’ doors on all four apertures that glide upwards and out, easing access. It ain’t no Range Rover, but it’ll be very practical compared with the current Astons.

Aston Martin Rapide: sporting luxury

Don’t get too carried away with all that luxury, though. This is an Aston, remember, and our spy photographer lurking in the bushes timed this early prototype lapping the Nurburgring in less than nine minutes. That’s not especially fast (it’s a similar time to a Ford Focus RS on the limit) but this is an early prototype and it didn’t look like the engineers were on a hot lap.

Why are we expecting great performance from the Rapide? It uses the familiar VH platform and 6.0-litre V12 from the DBS. So we’re looking at around 510bhp and 420lb ft, although we hear that Aston is trying to massage more torque from the engine to cope with the Rapide’s extra weight. Even with its aluminium construction, this is a big car likely to clock in at around two tonnes.

Click ‘Next’ to read more detail on the RapideSo how much will the Rapide cost?

Ah yes, the cost. Sadly, the price of the Rapide is set to climb from the £130,000 we wrote in our last scoop. The latest in Gaydon is that the four-door sports car will retail at nearer £150,000, moving the Aston further away from the humdrum Merc S-classes and Audi A8s that populate the mainstream market.

The Rapide’s real rivals are more likely to be the forthcoming Porsche Panamera and the Maserati Quattroporte. Wealthy businessmen have never had it so good.

And what about that glass roof?

The panoramic roof is clear to see in our spyshots for the first time. It’s impressively big – stretching all the way from the windscreen header rail to the tailgate and bathes the cabin in daylight. Although difficult to peer inside this fast-moving prototype, close inspection of the photos reveals a roomy cabin and we hear that the concept car’s infotainment system with multimedia screens in the headrests is likely to survive into production.

We’ll have to wait a while longer to see the finished Rapide; Aston insiders vow they won’t show any more teasers or concept cars before the car’s show debut in autumn 2009. Customer cars will arrive by the beginning of 2010.

Click ‘Next’ to discover why the Rapide is being developed at the ‘Ring
Rapide development at the Nurburgring

As our spyshots prove, Aston is now doing mileage and endurance testing at the Nurburgring. There are four early prototypes pounding around the ‘Ring, now that winter testing has finished. The next stage is confirmation prototypes, more of which will be built.

Aston does most of its high-speed testing at the ‘Ring, which is why we often catch their cars there. In May 2008, it will open a new engineering centre at the track, next to Jaguar’s facility. It will house Aston’s full-time R&D team but there are plans afoot to use it for customer experience days and for gentlemen racers who compete in their N24s or DBRS9s at the ‘Ring.

Aston Martin Rapide: the business case

As we revealed at Geneva, Aston is contracting out build of the Rapide to Magna Steyr in Austria. There is simply no room at Gaydon to build the four-door and CEO Ulrich Bez has farmed out construction to the specialist contractor. It’s not the first time Astons have been built abroad, but it is the first time a volume model has been made overseas.

No more than 2000 will be built a year, but Aston dealers are adamant there is strong demand for the Rapide. Currently they have to turn away customers who like the DB9 but want more space.

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet