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At the moment, the much-discussed SUV remains on Aston’s wish list rather than in the product plan. The company’s new injection of investment money has been earmarked for the reinvention of the sports car family.
The next-generation VH architecture, which is currently being engineered, is said to have been created by Lotus Engineering when Aston was under Ford ownership. It is based on the same principles as the current VH platform
but is being completely reworked to accommodate Mercedes’ engines and technology. Aston’s current V8 and V12 engines are built by Ford under contract at its Cologne plant. This deal ends in 2016, just as the new AMG engines come on stream.
The VH structure, which is claimed to be especially light and stiff, is made up of fairly small-scale components made from either stamped, cast or extruded aluminium. This approach is cost-effective because tooling costs are kept low and is ideally suited to small-scale production (Aston sold just 4200 cars last year).
Components such as the front suspension strut towers are made from cast aluminium, while the windscreen surround is made from pressed and formed aluminium. These can then be shared across the various models. The floor and centre tunnel construction is also common across today’s sports car models.
The new-generation VH architecture will use the same principle but will be more of a clean-sheet design able to accommodate a more diverse range of body styles and styling. While today’s Astons are hampered by having to share a core structure, which results in a similar appearance, the new VH construction is likely to be much more flexible.
The front and rear crash structures will be common, as will the main floor structure. It is understood that the new architecture will be able to offer two track widths and two wheelbases, along with a new rear bulkhead design that can be switched between the demands of saloon, cabrio and liftback body styles, while the mounting height of the windscreen surround is expected to be adjustable. Aston’s engineers will also have to give thought to accommodating a battery
pack on certain models.
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As well as developing this new VH architecture, Aston is currently working on integrating an electrical architecture supplied by Mercedes. This is not only to allow the use of AMG engines and transmissions, but is also the key to future Aston models being able to feature the latest in-car multimedia systems and electronic driver aids.
It would be difficult, although not impossible, for Aston to incorporate technology such as stereo cameras in the windscreen (for future intelligent traffic management) or stop-start technology into the current VH set-up, but direct integration of Mercedes’ technology into the new VH architecture will be hugely beneficial. Indeed, Daimler, Mercedes’ parent company, said it was going to spend a massive £8.8 billion on research and development across 2013 and 2014.
That Aston’s future models will be able to tap into much of Mercedes’ parts bin is a huge step forward for the company. Components such as braking systems, already thoroughly tested by Mercedes’ own engineers, are a perfect starting point for Aston.
The core of the technical co-operation is, of course, the supply of engines from the AMG division. The core Aston powerplant will become a version of AMG’s upcoming twin-turbocharged V8, its 4.0-litre capacity crucial to tapping into lower tax brackets in markets including China. Autocar understands that a V12 engine, based on AMG’s twin-turbo 6.0-litre unit, will also live on in Aston’s future range, although possibly without forced induction.