Exotic four seater sportscars have not exactly been plentiful in the history of automotive evolution, though there's a definite trend towards four berths in recent times with the Maserati Quattroporte, Porsche Panamera and now Aston Martin has shown a 4-seat concept car at the 2006 Detroit Motorshow. To be known as the Rapide, the 6.0-liter V12, 480 hp coupe is the work of Aston Martin Design Director Marek Reichman, in conjunction with CEO Dr Ulrich Bez. P The Aston Martin Rapide concept is a four-door, high performance coupé of remarkable grace and poise. Based on Aston Martin's unique VH (Vertical/Horizontal) architecture, the Rapide combines the company's commitment to power, beauty and soul with space and practicality for every eventuality. It stands for stylistic excellence, market innovation and flexible manufacturing. The Rapide is the epitome of Aston Martin's low-volume, high-technology approach, the synergy of modern methods and materials with traditional skills to create a new form of craftsmanship for the 21st century.
DESIGN ETHOS: EXTERIOR
The visual language of Aston Martin is highly distinctive. Across a range of three cars, the company's design team, led by Design Director Marek Reichman, fulfils Aston Martin's core values – power, beauty and soul – with bodywork that is taut, poised and muscular. "The brand is about the driving experience," says Reichman, explaining how the concept is intended to provide everything customers have to come to expect from an Aston Martin, and more. "We wanted to make the most beautiful four-door car in the world," he says, as he traces the Rapide's development from a series of exploratory sketches in the Summer of 2005 to the finished, fully-functioning prototype. In the process, Reichman and his team explored the way the Rapide might be used, where and when it would be driven, even who would be driving. The four-door body was a natural way of providing access to the Rapide's increased interior space, part of Aston Martin's commitment to design usability. "If there's a space then you should also offer accessibility, otherwise you're not being honest," explains Dr. Bez.
The Rapide continues Aston Martin's reputation for highly-tailored, individual cockpits. The trademark glass starter button is a small element of theatre that is also beautiful and tactile, the perfect first point of contact with the car. Providing sporty accommodation for four passengers in such a low and beautiful coupé presents a formidable packaging challenge.
Sitting low to the ground, just four centimetres higher than a DB9, the interior is an exquisite leather-swathed package, with custom-embossed shagreen hide specially sourced for the Rapide. "It's very cosseting," admits Reichman, "it's about creating a personal experience of the journey." Like a set of exquisite hand-tooled luggage, the interior is compact yet also surprisingly spacious, with great attention to detail, like the extensive map and accessory storage and the mood lighting that maximises the feeling of volume.
The clock is an integral part of the Rapide's elegant dashboard. For this element, Aston Martin turned to their existing partners Jaeger-LeCoultre, world leaders in fine timekeeping and original manufacturers of dials in Aston Martins as far back as the 1929 1.5 Litre First Series. The Swiss watchmaker, which dates back to 1833, also created the exclusive AMVOX collection of understated gentlemen's timepieces. Aston Martin's engineers and designers collaborated with Jaeger-LeCoultre on the design of the Rapide concept's timekeeper, which takes on the characteristic traits of the AMVOX watches. The 270 degree sweep of numerals, dark grey dial with circular brushed surface, hands, numerals and raised sapphire crystal combine to make a beautifully refined object at the heart of the car, a series of sophisticated volumes created by the layers of the dials.
Every journey in an Aston Martin is an occasion, proving that the most enjoyable way of getting between two points isn't always a straight line. The Vanquish S, DB9 Coupé, DB9 Volante and Vantage are all designed to sharpen the senses, extracting every grain of texture from the road surface, with high levels of driver feedback and involvement. Yet when conditions preclude making progress or spirited driving, an Aston Martin adopts a relaxing, restrained character, with the massive reserves of torque and power combining with the uniquely cosseting interior to envelop the driver and their passengers in the Aston Martin experience.
The Rapide continues this tradition - a fast, cross-country machine that excels in any driving conditions. The Aston Martin customer doesn't need to have their choice dissected in minute detail: these are cars which appeal primarily to the heart, strong emotional design that is also subtle and discrete. The Rapide is a uniquely personal machine, its interior representing the very best of the company's immensely skilled workforce, demonstrating how each Aston Martin is still tailored to a customer's precise requirements. It also represents the high degree of personalisation offered by ultra-modern production facilities and a model line-up underpinned by a flexible architecture - a new model that could broaden the range to cater for every requirement.