STUTTGART – Aston Martin will begin building its four-door, four-seat Rapide coupe in the summer of 2007, suppliers say.
The quick launch will give the British sports car maker a two-year lead on Porsche in creating a new niche atop its lineup. Porsches Panamera four-door, four-seat coupe is expected in early 2010.
Aston Martin unveiled the Rapide as a concept car at the Detroit auto show last month. Aston Martin called it production-ready, but few expected it to arrive so quickly.
Start of production of the Rapide is scheduled for August 2007 and customer deliveries will begin shortly after, a supplier told Automotive News Europe.
A second supplier confirmed the start date.
The first source said Aston Martin is planning to build 3,000 to 3,500 Rapides a year. Porsche is planning at least 20,000 Panameras a year.
Porsche approved the Panamera project last July, but has just started its development.
Porsche takes four years to make a new car, so the Panamera will be on the market no sooner than 2010, the supplier said.
Last summer, Porsche had said the Panamera was coming in 2009.
The Rapide and Panamera have similar mechanical layouts – front longitudinally mounted engine driving the rear wheels – and bodies that are coupe-style four-doors.
But the two high-end models have radically different approaches to construction.
The Rapide has an all-aluminum structure, based on the Aston Martin VH (vertical-horizontal) architecture used on the DB9.
But the Porsche Panamera is expected to have a steel unibody, similar to the structure of the Porsche Cayenne and 911.
The Rapides 2990mm wheelbase is 220mm longer than the DB9 coupe and at 5000mm, it is 290mm longer than its sibling.
Unlike the Maserati Quattroporte, which is a sedan, [the Rapide] is a four-door sports car, Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez told ANE. There is nothing else like it.
– Wim Oude Weernink contributed