A Company Shaken and Stirred
A new CEO, a new future-proof plan, a new Aston Martin
Whether we like it or not, Aston Martin is entering an era of transformation. Under the leadership of former AMG boss Tobias Moers, Aston is increasing development in mid-engined and EV platforms. Aston is also applying the use of AMG and Mercedes-developed drivetrain and infotainment systems due to Mercedes upping their ownership in the Gaydon firm up to 20%. Fans of Aston Martin like myself, who love the roar of the V12s and V8s of the past are disappointed by the fact that Aston is starting to become less and less of an independent company and more a branch of Daimler. Gone are the days of Aston Martin promising to be the last manufacturer to offer a manual gearbox, now Herr Moers is only keeping it in the Aston lineup until 2022 and even going as far as claiming the stick-shift “makes no sense” and that “you don’t need it anymore.” Doesn’t sound like the Aston of old, does it? Speaking of sound, the Aston trademark will also be ‘reimagined as not existing going forwards’ as the W1A narrator David Tennant used to say.
The manual gearbox of the V8 Vantage AMR (Picture courtesy of autocar.co.uk).
What was wonderful about Aston Martin was that they always did things a little bit different than their counterparts. They always produced the more traditional-recipe sports car with large and loud front-mounted engines with manual gearboxes and sleek, subdued, and sophisticated styling that would make the likes of Sean Connery envious. No wonder it is Agent 007’s choice of wheels. While manufacturers as Porsche, Ferrari, and Lamborghini were off revolutionizing the motor industry with mid-engined designs, automated manual sequential gearboxes, and uber-responsive turbocharged engines; Aston stuck with making the suave purist’s machines, until EV’s came into the equation…
Sean Connery as Bond pictured near the gadget-equipped DB5 (Picture courtesy of the Coventry Telegraph).
Perhaps the best cars that describe this recipe are the V12 Vantage and the S variant. The story of the V12 Vantage, as with all great cars, began as an insane idea; take Aston’s smallest car: the V8 Vantage, and supply it with Aston’s biggest engine: the 6.0 V12 that had at that point resided in the engine bays of the DBS, DB9, and MK1 Vanquish. The madness continued, with an old-fashioned and out of date manual gearbox at a time when Ferrari introduced their double-clutch gearboxes in the California and 458, as well as Porsche who had just launched their new PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, or Porsche double-clutch gearbox). This recipe was really the culmination of all that was great with the VH (Vertical-Horizontal) platform. During this time, regulations on safety and the impact that combustion-engined cars have on the environment had basically eradicated the pure driver’s car, with naturally aspirated engines and manual gearboxes too loud and polluting, sporty tires that have “too big of an environmental footprint,” and the idea of a reasonably-sized car being too small a concept for the Euro NCAP and NHTSA boffins to wrap their heads around. As with all great Astons and driver’s cars in general, don’t expect the V12 Vantage/V12 S to be a quick-and-done machine-made weak and dull in taste coffee, expect a carefully-crafted strong double espresso that you savour and that also stimulates your senses.
The V12 Vantage's last hurrah in the form of the V12 Vantage V600 (Photo courtesy of Matt Howell and evo.co.uk).
There was also a great sense that, during the eras of Dr. Ulrich Bez and even Andy Palmer, Aston road cars were pseudo-homologation specials due to their final developmental tests being the grueling Nürburgring 24 Hours (N24) race. This even led to the production of the infamously hot V8 Vantage N24 “road” car. The N24 was an absolute bargain due to its similar price tag to a standard V8 Vantage, especially when considering the fact that it was basically a race car, as proven by Top Gear’s Greatest Driving Road test…. Imagine that, a naturally-aspirated V8 racing car draped in one of the best car designs of the 21st century, for the same price as a standard road car. Even Porsche, purveyors of the best ultra track-focused sports cars had a price difference of 55489 GBP between the 991.2 Carrera S and the 991.2 GT3 RS. And it’s not like the GT3 RS gives racing car performance on-track, as proven by Sir Chris Hoy’s “Dream Jobs” series with a track-comparison test between a standard road tire 991.2 GT3 RS and a 991.2 GT3 Cup car on slicks, with the difference between the two machines being exactly 20 seconds.
The V8 Vantage N24: One of the only proper race cars for the road. (Image courtesy of media.evo.co.uk)
Simply put, the Astons of old would never be the quickest in a track test or in a straight line as a Ferrari, would never get the most stares or photo flashes as a Lamborghini, and would definitely never be as efficient or practical as the equivalent Porsche. But, the Aston would complete missions for Her Majesty’s Secret Service with as much style, panache, and vigor as 007 himself.
Please comment below what is your favorite Aston from the VH platform era, and what sort of car would you like to see Aston making in the future?