Back in 1961, entrepreneur David Brown owned the revitalized Aston Martin. Having already brought Aston back from the grave, he turned his attention to another car company he owned, Lagonda, by signing off on a new car - the four-door Rapide. Fewer than sixty cars were built before the Rapide name disappeared into the history books, where it lay dormant until 2006, when Aston unveiled its Rapide concept at the Detroit auto show. Rumor has it that Aston CEO Ulrich Bez knew that his old employer, Porsche, was planning the four-door Panamera and that he wanted to beat the Germans to the production punch.
Like all present Aston Martins, the four-door Rapide uses the company's VH platform. Conveniently, the styling of the Rapide show car closely resembles what it truly is: a stretched DB9. We expect the finished car to be fitted with either its smaller sibling's 450-hp V-12 or the 510-hp version of that engine used in Aston's 190-mph DBS. A paddleshifted, six-speed automatic transmission will most likely be the standard gearbox.
Inside, the four-seat Rapide will be much closer in theme to a Mercedes-Benz CLS than to a Mercedes S-class. Four adults should fit comfortably beneath the transparent roof panel - but with little room to spare - and the rear seats will fold individually so you can juggle your passenger- and cargo-hauling needs. In addition, luggage loading will be easy; like the V8 Vantage, the Rapide sports a rear hatch instead of a conventional trunk.
Still, the biggest news surrounding the Rapide is where the new sedan will be built. Aston has partnered with Magna Steyr in Austria and plans to open a dedicated new facility in the city of Graz. Production of the four-door will begin in late 2009, with a planned run of about 2000 cars annually.
BEZ WINS, PORSCHE LOSES, WE DROOL A BIT: Aston's four-door baby was the star of the 2006 Detroit show, and from what we've seen so far, it should be a heck of a lot better-looking than the Porsche Panamera. As an added bonus, you can now share that fabulous V-12 with three other people. Bring your friends.