There was a time when I thought the Ulrich Bez-driven revolution at Aston Martin, though remarkable, might have run its course.
That was a year or two ago, when we started noticing how easily people could confuse a DB9 with a Vanquish and a Vantage V8, and when early claims of Aston quality to match a Swiss watch started being torpedoed by reports – though nothing like the monstrous Aston quality issues of yesteryear — from owners reporting less-than-perfect reliability.
It seemed that Bez might, understandably, be running out of puff.
Then, in the middle of the recession, he defiantly launched the Aston One-77, the £1.2 million pound Aston supercar which claims new success at combining tomorrow’s technology with yesterday’s craftsmanship.
At first, it seemed a suspect idea: Aston has previously reserved launches of its most eye-wateringly expensive cars for moments when it was in the deepest financial doo-doo. But then they showed us the actual car, first at Geneva this March and just the other day outside the impressive new Gaydon design studio.
When you see the car in the flesh it takes only a second (but can occupy a subsequent, absorbing half hour) to appreciate how brilliantly Bez and his head of design, Marek Reichman, have taken a collection of well-recognised Aston design cues an re-expressed them in a modern, magical and totally distinctive shape.
I never thought I’d say this, but the car’s look — inside and out — is fundamentally successful at conveying how special it is, even with that enormous price attached. If we take this design success as an indicator of how well the One-77’s performance and driving qualities will be developed (and remember, every owner will have unprecedented input into stuff like seat shapes, control locations and effort-levels, suspension rates and handling bias) then this is going to be a machine that truly breaks new ground for supercars.
It is the nature of all progress, however, that while he’s enjoying the plaudits, Bez, who turns 65 this year, must face up to a tough question. After One-77, what on earth does he do next?