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Aston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GT
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Aston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GT

Granted, it was a quick drive, but an informative one

December 6, 2017

Comically outdated with its retro-looking caution sticker, the massive front-mounted battery box where the Aston Martin Rapide’s V12 normally goes looks straight out of a Roger Moore-era Bond movie. All that’s missing is Jaws and his million-dollar metal mouth grinning near it. But Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer’s plans to implement electrification into the company's entire product line are anything but old school.

“By the middle of the 2020s, we’ll have the option of a hybrid or an electric on everything,” says Palmer, the outspoken champion of the British luxury brand. Her Majesty’s government recently mandated that by 2040 all new cars made must be electric, putting Aston Martin safely in front of the edict with Palmer’s estimated rollout.

Aston Martin looks to fill the empty space above Tesla. “The luxury EV market doesn’t currently exist. Customers aren’t constrained by cash, but by offer,” says Palmer, claiming no luxury brand has yet to penetrate the EV market.

He emphasizes that to Aston Martin customers, speed, even in EV models, is important, but he also takes aim at current technology that doesn’t support speed and range simultaneously. “(Customers) would also like to get around the full circuit of the Nordschleife.” Palmer proffers this challenge to his engineers.

Comically outdated with its retro-looking caution sticker, the massive front-mounted battery box where the Aston Martin Rapide’s V12 normally goes looks straight out of a Roger Moore-era Bond movie. All that’s missing is Jaws and his million-dollar metal mouth grinning near it. But Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer’s plans to implement electrification into the company's entire product line are anything but old school.

“By the middle of the 2020s, we’ll have the option of a hybrid or an electric on everything,” says Palmer, the outspoken champion of the British luxury brand. Her Majesty’s government recently mandated that by 2040 all new cars made must be electric, putting Aston Martin safely in front of the edict with Palmer’s estimated rollout.

Aston Martin looks to fill the empty space above Tesla. “The luxury EV market doesn’t currently exist. Customers aren’t constrained by cash, but by offer,” says Palmer, claiming no luxury brand has yet to penetrate the EV market.

He emphasizes that to Aston Martin customers, speed, even in EV models, is important, but he also takes aim at current technology that doesn’t support speed and range simultaneously. “(Customers) would also like to get around the full circuit of the Nordschleife.” Palmer proffers this challenge to his engineers.

Aston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GTAston Martin Rapid-E prototype first drive: Luxur-E GT

The RapidE is a proof of concept in the prototype stage only, though production is slated for some time in 2019. Never initially slated for electrification, the Rapide’s almost 118-inch wheelbase and 197.6-inch length, as well as its four-door luxury cruiser status and urban target customer, make it Aston Martin’s best initial candidate in the electrification space.

The motor is rear-mounted, so with the battery up front Aston Martin claims weight distribution remains 50/50, the same as the gas-powered Rapide. Final numbers for both production weight and power production output are unknown at the time of this reporting.

Goals for the RapidE are lofty, with a target range of 250 miles and a top speed of 155 mph. Incidentally, that number, 155, is how many of this limited first run will be made.

The bespoke carmaker teamed up with Williams Grand Prix Engineering in Oxfordshire, England, to collaborate on the prototype. Williams owns a storied four-decade history of success in Formula 1 racing, including 16 FIA championship titles. More importantly, it has extensive expertise in Formula E, having been the first battery provider for the electric-only-powered race cars.

Battery technology -- specifically, the retention of power -- is at the fore of Williams’ involvement. Everything is currently on the table, from a sodium-ion battery that’s far more economical than its lithium-ion counterpart due to the abundance of sodium, to solid-state lithium-ion technology that replaces the liquid electrolyte in batteries with solid material. The latter would allow for smaller, lighter batteries, but the current issue is finding materials conductive enough for use in batteries large enough to power a car. If Williams and Aston Martin thought 10,000 Energizer D-cells lining the chassis of the Rapide would work, they’d consider it.

The RapidE is a proof of concept in the prototype stage only, though production is slated for some time in 2019. Never initially slated for electrification, the Rapide’s almost 118-inch wheelbase and 197.6-inch length, as well as its four-door luxury cruiser status and urban target customer, make it Aston Martin’s best initial candidate in the electrification space.

The motor is rear-mounted, so with the battery up front Aston Martin claims weight distribution remains 50/50, the same as the gas-powered Rapide. Final numbers for both production weight and power production output are unknown at the time of this reporting.

Goals for the RapidE are lofty, with a target range of 250 miles and a top speed of 155 mph. Incidentally, that number, 155, is how many of this limited first run will be made.

The bespoke carmaker teamed up with Williams Grand Prix Engineering in Oxfordshire, England, to collaborate on the prototype. Williams owns a storied four-decade history of success in Formula 1 racing, including 16 FIA championship titles. More importantly, it has extensive expertise in Formula E, having been the first battery provider for the electric-only-powered race cars.

Battery technology -- specifically, the retention of power -- is at the fore of Williams’ involvement. Everything is currently on the table, from a sodium-ion battery that’s far more economical than its lithium-ion counterpart due to the abundance of sodium, to solid-state lithium-ion technology that replaces the liquid electrolyte in batteries with solid material. The latter would allow for smaller, lighter batteries, but the current issue is finding materials conductive enough for use in batteries large enough to power a car. If Williams and Aston Martin thought 10,000 Energizer D-cells lining the chassis of the Rapide would work, they’d consider it.

Visibly, the exterior of the RapidE is virtually the same as its gas-powered sibling, only with telltale blue E accents that announce its electrified heart. The only major point of differentiation on the interior is the instrument panel, where battery life and regen indicators replace gauges such as the one for gas consumption.

There are no planned changes in ground clearance or suspension for either this prototype or for the production version. The RapidE also currently lacks finishing such as stability-control software and whatever cooling package will replace the standard radiator. Aston Martin admits preventing the battery from overheating is one of the largest issues to address.

As the motor is rear-mounted, the need for the torque tube through which power gets to the rear wheels is gone, though the tube remains in place, as it’s crucial for the structural integrity of the car. For obvious reasons, there will be no exhaust outlets on the RapidE, either.

Visibly, the exterior of the RapidE is virtually the same as its gas-powered sibling, only with telltale blue E accents that announce its electrified heart. The only major point of differentiation on the interior is the instrument panel, where battery life and regen indicators replace gauges such as the one for gas consumption.

There are no planned changes in ground clearance or suspension for either this prototype or for the production version. The RapidE also currently lacks finishing such as stability-control software and whatever cooling package will replace the standard radiator. Aston Martin admits preventing the battery from overheating is one of the largest issues to address.

As the motor is rear-mounted, the need for the torque tube through which power gets to the rear wheels is gone, though the tube remains in place, as it’s crucial for the structural integrity of the car. For obvious reasons, there will be no exhaust outlets on the RapidE, either.

As of now, the driving range on the concept car is minimal. Testers have only used it for short spurts on the track, with the current battery taking a full three to four hours to recharge.

We had the opportunity to drive the prototype in Williams’ parking lot, and the best we can say at this stage is that it moves. It’s as comfortable as the Rapide, though not quick, yet. We accelerated to about 50 mph in the limited space available.

Currently, the steering feels cumbersome and heavy, like turning a 4x4 truck in low gear. Refinements of these rougher details will be worked out as the technology develops, according to the automaker.

Any defined solutions for battery regeneration or power retention have yet to be shared with the media, and there are currently no specifics on pricing or targeted delivery dates.

As for the mini-fridge-size battery pack up front, we’re reserving judgment. Remember what cellphones looked like back when Roger Moore was a spy who loved? Technology is a fast-moving luxury vehicle. So, rest assured, by the time the RapidE makes its debut in 2019, we’ll be looking at a completely different EV landscape, which sounds pretty electrifying.

As of now, the driving range on the concept car is minimal. Testers have only used it for short spurts on the track, with the current battery taking a full three to four hours to recharge.

We had the opportunity to drive the prototype in Williams’ parking lot, and the best we can say at this stage is that it moves. It’s as comfortable as the Rapide, though not quick, yet. We accelerated to about 50 mph in the limited space available.

Currently, the steering feels cumbersome and heavy, like turning a 4x4 truck in low gear. Refinements of these rougher details will be worked out as the technology develops, according to the automaker.

Any defined solutions for battery regeneration or power retention have yet to be shared with the media, and there are currently no specifics on pricing or targeted delivery dates.

As for the mini-fridge-size battery pack up front, we’re reserving judgment. Remember what cellphones looked like back when Roger Moore was a spy who loved? Technology is a fast-moving luxury vehicle. So, rest assured, by the time the RapidE makes its debut in 2019, we’ll be looking at a completely different EV landscape, which sounds pretty electrifying.

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