Aston Martin’s new business plan is set to culminate in the company producing a V8-powered mid-engined supercar, company executives have revealed to Autocar.
Aston’s ‘second century plan’, colloquially described as “s*** or bust” by ebullient Aston CEO Andy Palmer, will result in the company releasing one new model every year until 2022, when the range will be complete and model replacement will begin anew.
The Aston Martin-badged mid-engined supercar is likely to generate the most interest among enthusiasts when it arrives in 2022 as the final car in the company’s plan.
Aston design boss Marek Reichman says the midengined car will be “more mainstream” than the limited-edition AM-RB 001 hypercar currently being developed jointly by Aston and Adrian Newey, Red Bull Racing’s chief technical officer. It is understood that the car will sit above the Ferrari 488 GTB — or its contemporary equivalent — when it goes on sale.
“We do projects to learn from them,” said Reichman of the AM-RB 001, although the newly developed, electrically assisted 900bhp-plus V12 that will feature in the hypercar won’t make its way into the ‘mainstream’ supercar. That will instead be powered by a V8.
“All car designers want to design a mid-engined supercar,” said Reichmann. “It’s why you become a designer.” A smaller frontal area, lower nose and shorter overhangs, plus smaller wheels than those on Aston’s frontengined models, will all feature on the standout model.
AM-RB 001 aside, Aston Martin last showed an interest in mid-engined cars in 2014, when it unveiled the DP-100 Vision Gran Turismo at Goodwood. The conceptual 800bhp mid-engined GT racer was created for the hugely popular Gran Turismo 6 computer game, with a crack Aston Martin design team spending six months creating the radical machine. The theoretical twin-turbo V12 was downloadable for gamers. As well as the virtual car, Aston Martin created a full-size 3D display model to emphasise that the DP-100 was far from being a frivolous project.
At the time, Reichman, who led the project, said: “Many of the design cues visible on DP-100 could feed into future sports cars we’ll launch in the offline world.”
The car’s styling referred clearly to the Aston Martin One-77 supercar, to the CC100 anniversary car and even to Aston’s revolutionary midengined Bulldog concept of the early 1980s. The Bulldog was designed by the late William Towns and had the same sort of radically ‘waisted’ bodystyle.
With the AM-RB 001 project now firmly under way, the company will have the engineering and design know-how to extrapolate knowledge for its mid-engined supercar, which will also no doubt have some aesthetic similarities to both the AM-RB 001 and the DP-100 concept.
Ahead of that model’s arrival, the first car on the cards is the imminent DB11, a V12 grand tourer, which Palmer describes in Churchillian style as “the end of the beginning”. It will be followed next year by a new Vantage sports car, based on the same new aluminium architecture as the DB11 but shortened, and will use a Mercedes-AMG-sourced V8 engine. AMG’s parent company, Daimler, owns 5% of Aston Martin and contributes electrical and multimedia systems to the new DB11.
The DB11 and Vantage will be followed in 2019 by another familiar model name in the form of a new Vanquish. Like the DB11, it will be powered by a twin turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 engine, but it’s expected to pump out something approaching 800bhp and compete directly with the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta as Aston attempts to put more differentiation between its coupés in both design and purpose. Hitherto, its models have been accused of looking — and feeling — too similar.
The Vanquish, Vantage and DB11 will all be constructed at Aston Martin’s Gaydon headquarters, but the DBX SUV that will follow these, in late 2018 or early 2019, will be built at a new factory in St Athan, south Wales.
The next two cars launched after the DBX will both be Lagondas. First, in 2020, will be replacement for the slowselling Rapide saloon, which, along with internal combustion engines, will be offered with an electric powertrain sufficiently clean that Aston Martin will be able to continue to offer large capacity V12s.
“EVs are our compensation for V12s,” said Palmer. In the interim, a Rapide EV will become available and be used to develop the technology for the Lagonda saloon.
Another Lagonda — likely an SUV — will follow in 2021, ahead of the mid-engined supercar arriving in 2022.
Too often in its 103-year history, Aston has failed to return a profit, but Palmer intends to change that and propel the company into Ferrari-rivalling territory in terms of revenue, sales and, eventually, company value. Palmer has been encouraged by the response to Aston’s limited-edition ‘specials’, which it will continue to release at a rate of two or three per year. The Vulcan, Vantage GT8 and GT12 and Vanquish Zagato were all sold out by the time they were announced, and there are 400 buyers-inwaiting for the AM-RB 001 — a number far in excess of the 150 cars set to be made.
“I can only think of one other company that can [sell out special models] like that,” said Palmer, “and I think you know who I mean.”
Palmer says the plans are “raising the tempo” of new model development. “By early 2022 we’ll have seven cars, all with seven-year life spans,” he said. “And we’ll launch an all-new car every year: copy, repeat, copy, repeat. And you start to straighten out history. It’s not rocket science.”