Aston Martin rapidly develops four-door

  • 07-Oct-2009 04:50 EDT
FfurtAston 9-09 front 1.jpg

Aston Martin's new V12 Rapide is a four-seat hatchback able to reach 303 km/h (188 mph).

Production of the four-door Aston Martin Rapide starts in the first quarter of 2010, and the company presented a near-production version of it at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. Aston has gone for a four-seat but close-coupled design that is very much a compact sports sedan.

Based on the DB9 and partly on the DBS coupes, but with an almost totally new aluminum body structure and a raft of mechanical changes, the Rapide has a 6.0-L V12 engine producing 350 kW (469 hp) and 600 N·m (443 lb·ft) at 5000 rpm. The transmission is a rear-mid mounted six-speed ZF automatic with shift-by-wire control, but an eight-speed looks a likely development during the production program. Front-rear weight balance is 51:49.

The car is an interesting example of how a concept (seen at the Detroit Auto Show in 2006) can quickly become a series reality, developed from Aston’s extruded and bonded aluminum V/H architecture, which forms the basis of the DB9, DBS, and V8 and V12 Vantage models.

The body is of aluminum, magnesium alloy, and composites, with extruded aluminum door side-impact beams. It has a new welded aluminum, fully isolated rear subframe that has been lowered compared to that of the DB9 to increase load space. It is straddled by the fuel tank. The only steel used is for the understructure. Torsional rigidity is 28,000 N per degree of twist.

With a curb mass of 1950 kg (4300 lb), the Rapide is about 190 kg (419 lb) heavier than an equivalent-specification DB9, said Ian Minards, Aston’s Director Product Development: “The wheelbase is about 250 mm longer—overall length is up 309 mm to 5019 mm. The car has bigger dual cast (aluminum inner, cast-iron outer) Brembo brakes, which marks a first for Aston Martin, with a new braking module delivering more discreet interventions, and uprated suspension to take the increased weight."

Suspension comprises double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar, and Bilstein monotube adaptive dampers front and rear with Normal and Sport settings. The rear suspension also has anti-squat and -dive geometry. “We are constantly developing new systems,” said Minards. “Weight has been saved wherever possible; the 20-in wheels are 12 kg, which is as light as those of the DBS.”

The big challenge, though, was the upper body, said Minards, particularly the four superformed, pressed aluminum doors that had to meet upcoming U.S. side-impact legislation. Side-impact loads travel through the B-pillar, understructure, and seats.

Also very difficult was the front and rear glass design. There is a B-pillar, but the glass sits in front of it to give a one-piece, pillarless impression.

“No one else does that, and we have some innovative sealing features; when the car reaches 8 km/h, the glass is driven up into the seal (supplied by German company Meteor) by about 4 mm to get a very tight engagement," said Minards. "The opening sequence of the glass, which includes a quarterlight, has to be carefully controlled; we spent a lot of time getting it right and have established a choreography of glass dropping. The car has also been engineered for a non-opening glass roof; we are waiting for electrochromic technology to reach a satisfactory level for us.”

Front occupant headroom in the Rapide is 20 mm (0.8 in) more than that of the DB9, which makes the windshield look shallow. Vehicle height is 1360 mm (53.5 in).

The Rapide has four individual seats separated by a high center console running from the dashboard to the rear seats, which Aston Martin describes as “cosseting.” They certainly are, and entry and egress to the rear is tight for taller adults. Doors are “swan wing” types, opening out and up by 70° and 12° front and rear, respectively.

Performance figures for the Rapide include a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of 5.3 s and top speed of 303 km/h (188 mph).

Fifty Rapide prototypes have been built. Testing has included work at the Nardo proving ground in Italy and at the Nurburgring in Germany, where cars were run for 8000 km (4970 mi).

The Rapide is built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, and its engine at a dedicated facility at Ford’s Cologne, Germany, plant.

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