The model plan is the brainchild of boss Andy Palmer, who joined the firm in 2014 after a stellar career at Nissan.
The DB11 is the first car in the new model plan and the second, the Vantage, will arrive next year. The new Vantage is tipped to be revealed in autumn 2017 and on sale by year’s end.
Palmer, speaking to Autocar at the Geneva show, said the design had been fixed and described its styling as the “love child of DB10 and DBX”. Palmer has told design chief Marek Reichman to make each Aston design more distinctive, to “create different personalities for the cars”. As a result, the Vantage will be made considerably sportier for its second generation.
“We’re not cookie cutting now,” he said. “The brief is to make each model look like an Aston, but next to each other my 77-year-old mother must be able to tell them apart. The DB11 is a GT. You do long distances in it and it has a comfortable ride. The Vantage is our race car. It’s the weekend warrior. It’s the track car - much edgier.”
Reichman said the Vantage would be “completely different from the DB11, with not a panel in common. In design terms, it owes more to 007’s DB10”. Indeed, the original design sketch the Bond producers were drawn to when discussing the DB10 was an early one of the new Vantage.
One Aston insider also said: “While the DB11 makes you want to stop and look at it, the Vantage’s shape is so sporting that it makes you just want to get in and drive.”
The new Vantage will be built at Aston’s Gaydon HQ on a shortened version of the DB11’s new bonded and riveted aluminium architecture. It’s likely to follow the template of the DB11 in being slightly longer, wider and lower than the model it replaces, with a longer wheelbase. Expect the DB11’s interior technology to carry over in a much sportier cabin.
The Vantage is expected to usher Mercedes-AMG-sourced turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engines into the Aston range. It’s likely to be offered in two states of tune: around 400bhp in the base model and 450bhp in the Vantage S, although these are conservative estimates. The DB11’s all-new twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12 should also make it into the Vantage to create a range-topping model.
There’s more of a question mark over the V8 being offered in the DB11, but this is likely to come for more CO2-conscious markets.
“The Vantage is the perfect car for the V8,” said Palmer. “The DB11 will be first introduced as a V12.”
So keen will Aston be to push the rear-wheel-drive Vantage as its sporty model that it could be sold with a six-speed manual gearbox only. The DB11 has an eight-speed automatic as an option. Palmer is not a fan of dual-clutch automatic gearboxes.
The Vantage will also be used to underpin Aston’s next Le Mans racer, expected around 2018-2019.
Following the Vantage in 2018 will be an all-new Vanquish. Palmer is still deciding whether it should be a much-enhanced GT version of the DB11 or a full-blown supercar.
Whatever is decided, the next Vanquish is likely to offer a hugely more powerful version of the DB11’s new V12 engine. Ferrari F12tdf levels of power north of 750bhp are possible. However, outright power is not the chief target for the Vanquish and its ultimate potential could even be capped by the torque capabilities of the gearbox.
Around the same time as the Vanquish, Aston will put its electric version of the Rapide, the RapidE, into production.
Aston has teamed up with Chinese technology firm Letv to develop the RapidE’s technology in-house, rather than buy it in from Mercedes or elsewhere.
“We’re doing it ourselves to learn about batteries and electric motors and it gives us the choice,” said Palmer.
The technology will be used to influence future hybrid Astons, which Palmer confirmed as being “inevitable” to meet future clean air regulations, particularly in California.
The Rapide sports saloon line-up will be electric-only in due course but still built on the old VH architecture. When RapidE production ends, the model will not be replaced. The role of an Aston saloon will be filled by the reborn Lagonda.
Once Aston’s core range of GT and sports cars is in place - including convertible versions of the DB11, Vantage and Vanquish, which Palmer has confirmed - the firm will switch its attention to launching the DBX in 2018-2019. This will be built at a new facility in Wales and underpinned by a new Aston architecture derived from but not the same as the DB11’s. There had been speculation that Aston would source the DBX’s architecture from elsewhere due to its crossover bodystyle.
“We made a decision on the DBX to use the aluminium bonding technique,” said Palmer. “It’s not this platform [the DB11’s] but uses the same technology in the architecture. The DB11 and DBX are significant cars for the company. The DB11 is punch one for the sports cars and the DBX is punch two for the new models. Punch three is the Lagonda saloon.”
Aston brought back the Lagonda name last year on the Taraf saloon. It is limited to 200 units and in production until the end of 2017 at the latest.
The Lagonda Taraf was originally due to be launched in the Middle East only, but Palmer made it a global model to reintroduce the Lagonda name to the market ahead of an all-new Lagonda saloon due in 2020, or 2021 at the latest.
It will also be built on a new DB11-derived architecture, giving Aston three distinct platforms. “It’s not a new kit for one [model],” said Palmer. “We can carry over and forward. It’s three platforms and two Meccano boxes.”
On the launch of the Taraf, Palmer said: “It’s seeding the brand in anticipation of 2020-2021, when we relaunch it. We want to define it. If Rolls-Royce makes the first-class cabin of a Boeing 777, we want to create Concorde. It will be a different car in the luxury segment, a substantial car.
“If I launched the next-gen car tomorrow, I’d have an awareness problem. We’re now planting that seed.”
The new factory in Wales is likely to build the Lagonda saloon as well as the DBX, Autocar understands.
DOUBLING THE VOLUME
With those six models, Aston plans to sell around 7000 cars a year, double its 2015 total. Palmer is wary of going any higher because he believes this would undermine the brand.
“In volume terms, we will remain a luxury, exclusive brand,” he said. “If a lot of people want it, there will be a long waiting list.
“You could add volume, but no one really knows what the limit is for too many: 9000, 10,000, 15,000? Make too many and you wake up one day making luxury premium cars rather than luxury luxury cars.”
As well as its core models, Aston will launch ‘specials’. “We will do two specials a year,” said Palmer. “We have signed off two for this year. Limited editions are what become collectable. The GT12 and Vulcan were last year’s.
“This year’s are both road cars, a mixture of old and new architecture. They will gradually [be derived from] the new architecture in the future.”