The Aston Martin Rapide | Part Four

Design Ethos - Interior

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.

Aston Martin has always been about truth to materials: wood is valued for its structural properties and appearance, as are aluminium, glass and leather, while carbon fibre is utilized for its strength and weight-saving abilities and not just a showy finish. A transparent polycarbonate roof brings an increased sense of spatial awareness, opening up the passengers' vistas beyond the driver’s focus on the road ahead. This ultra-light transparent material is a first for the company. The Rapide has dual climate zones, and the luxuriously appointed rear seats come with their own DVD screens and controls for the audio system and environmental system.

The dashboard is very driver-focused, the three passengers can also be as engaged and involved in the journey. For example, the satellite navigation system is fully accessible to all passengers, with a handheld Bluetooth unit that allows rear seat passengers to add their input to the route ahead. It’s this level of involvement that characterises the Aston Martin experience, and it is vital that both driver and passengers can share it.

The generous rear luggage compartment is accessed via a hatchback, a practical feature shared with the Vantage and the pioneering DB2/4 of 1952. In addition, each rear seat folds down individually, allowing for myriad interior options, be it three players plus three sets of golf clubs, or four people and their skis, which slot neatly above the central console. To give the concept a real sense of occasion, the feeling that every journey ends in an event, the interiors team have incorporated a chiller cabinet in the boot, perfectly shaped to hold a single Magnum of Jacquesson champagne, along with four elegant flutes.

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.

continues... | Part Five
Published 11 January 2006 Melanie Carter

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