A new 550bhp Aston Martin DBS replacement will spearhead the most significant revamp of the company’s model range since the relaunch of the iconic British sports car maker in 2003.
Seen here in Autocar’s exclusive artist’s impression, the more powerful, part-carbonfibre-bodied DBS successor seeks to recreate the muscle car magic of the late 1990s Vanquish.
The basic formula of the new DBS will remain unchanged. It will have a front-mounted 6.0-litre V12 engine, a transaxle gearbox and wishbone suspension, all underpinned by the ‘VH’ bonded and riveted alloy frame.
Despite the carried-over platform, a significant share of the unseen parts and most of the visible and tactile details of project VH310, as the car is known internally, are new.
To reinforce the message that the car is new, Aston is considering ditching the DBS name in favour of a new moniker.
The outer panels have all been retooled to give more aggressive looks, inspired by the £1.2 million One-77. There’s more carbonfibre and the cabin is higher in quality. The aim is to create more differentiation between it and the £150k Virage, introduced last year.
It will break the visual link with the DB9 by having a unique body, rather than relying on detailing add-ons and body kits, which is a criticism of the current model.
The rear wings are said to be fashioned from carbonfibre, like the front wings, bonnet and bootlid of today’s DBS.
Aston’s hallmark grille remains as a key styling feature, but the wider shape adds visual substance to the DBS’s stance. Another notable change is a more curvaceous bonnet, which bulges over the engine.
All the V12-engined model VH platform models will feature the raised bonnet line, which is needed to comply with the latest pedestrian protection rules. They demand more clearance above the tall V12, so the DB9 (project VH113), Virage and Rapide will feature it, too.
The Vantage family (VH200) is understood to be unaffected, largely because its dry-sump V8 is mounted lower, which leaves sufficient room above the engine.
In fact, all the V12 models, which make up about three-quarters of Aston’s 4000 annual production, will get the same underskin improvements to the VH platform.
This 2013-model-year range is vital for Aston. It has to keep Aston’s range fresh and exciting until global financial markets recover and finances can be topped up to fund a new alloy platform for the next generation of cars — codenamed VH500 (V12 cars) and VH600 (V8 cars) and known internally as the ‘alloy evolution’ models — towards the end of the decade.
With updates like this, the VH has been thoroughly re-engineered with many new parts, based on the lessons learned in the decade since the platform was first created.
The design and production have been simplified by combining multiple panels and brackets into single parts, stiffening the chassis and improving refinement.
The dynamics of the new DBS are understood to be broadly similar to those of the current car. There are detail improvements to the steering, grip and handling, partly because the new car has about 40bhp more power. The current car’s reasonable balance of ride and handling will be retained, according to sources, largely through the use of a revised version of today’s driver-adjustable adaptive dampers.
A similar degree of attention to detail has gone into the new DBS/DB9/Rapide cabin. Although the basic dashboard architecture retains its characteristic deep and curvaceous shape, the material used is of a higher quality and the details are all improved.
The Nürburgring prototype scooped by Autocar retains the existing dashboard as disguise. But insiders insist that the production model will be noticeably improved, with new switchgear, instrument binnacle, interior trim and seats, which are said to improve the driving position considerably.
Purists are unlikely to welcome the deletion of the DBS’s six-speed manual gearbox. The DBS/DB9/Rapide family is one of the few remaining supercars still to offer this option.
However, very few customers specify a manual ’box, so the new DBS will feature a ZF automatic as standard.
Initially Aston is expected to retain the existing six-speed auto, before upgrading to a latest-spec eight-speed unit at a later date.
Aston is also beefing up the output of the venerable Cosworth-designed 6.0-litre V12, which in the DBS will be boosted up to 550bhp — the same as the mid-1990s Vantage delivered from its blown V8, and 100bhp more than the original Vanquish did in 2000.
The V12 remains naturally aspirated, so the extra power comes from improved internal components and a reprogrammed engine controller, which liberate about a seven per cent power hike on today’s 510bhp output.
Critics will say that this is insufficient to match the astonishing 730bhp Ferrari F12, but the DBS revamp is focused largely on the 3500 or so existing owners. They value the restraint of the Aston Martin brand, which means that the DBS has to be right for them more than it needs to entice Ferrari or AMG owners.
Nonetheless, Aston is hoping for better sales from the DBS. One source has suggested 1000 cars a year. At its peak in 2010, the DBS recorded 824 sales for both coupé and convertible body styles, so aiming for 1000 units from the new car in 2014-2015, when the new convertible is on sale, is not unreasonable.
Despite China’s lack of interest in supercars, Aston is also aiming to sell more new DBSs there.
Production of the new DBS is scheduled to start in the summer, although the market launch is tipped for later in the year. The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August and the Paris motor show a month later are pencilled in for the new DBS’s show debuts.
Prices are expected to rise from today’s £179,000 for the automatic coupé to around £185,000.