Breaking ground: Aston Martin’s mid engine attack

Aston Martin AM RB 003
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Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin Vision Vanquish
Aston Martin Vision Vanquish
Aston Martin Vision Vanquish
Aston Martin Vision Vanquish
Aston Martin Vision Vanquish
Aston Martin Vision Vanquish
Aston Martin Vision Vanquish
Aston Martin Vision Vanquish

An Aston Martin made engined car? Two? Unthinkable even a few years ago, even despite the arrival of a Red Bull collaboration resulting in the million pound, Adrian Newey designed, Cosworth powered Valkyrie. Now we have the 003 (in white) and the Vanquish Vision concept.

Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin Vision Vanquish

Is this on brand for Aston Martin? Weren’t they always about GT cars? If you look at the automotive landscape it’s almost essential for any manufacturer to chase different segments, niches within niches in order to survive. It’s why Porsche have the Cayenne, Alfa the Stelvio, and Lamborghini the Urus.

Where would Aston Martin go with their portfolio of cars? The DB range of cars is a given, the Lagonda name is revived as a zero emission sub brand taking on SUV and electric innovation all at once, and they already have a four door model to take on the likes of the Panamera in the Rapide AMR although it’s surely on its last legs.

Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin AM RB 003

What about an Aston at a lower price point? Well, we all know how the Cygnet turned out although that was more for emissions compliance than a well thought out product line, besides Aston Martin is a luxury brand and has to be careful not to undermine its brand equity with cheap cash grabs.

Declining sports car sales mean the only way to get make a business case and get them signed off by finance teams is to offset the cost against higher volume models, like SUVs and ‘attainable’ entry level models. While sports cars usually lead the brand stories it’s those work horses in the background who are really making it happen. Or in Aston Martin’s case, maybe not. The 003 is expected to cost around the £1m mark pitching it against the likes of the McLaren Senna, with only 500 seeing the light of day (or sadly, the insides of a collectors garage)

Aston Martin AM RB 003

The obvious choice for segment expansion is one step away, a ‘simple’ repositioning of engine location, giving designers and engineers a clean slate to deliver a more focused, mid engined sports car to take on the likes of McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and a whole shipload of new hypercar entrants. A mid-engined car fits in with the performance aspect of Aston Martin, ties in nicely to their work with Red Bull on the Valkyrie and their association with Formula 1. Timely too, while the hype around the Valkyrie is high, and the mind of Adrian Newey available. This will indeed be the third Red Bull / Aston Martin vehicle, hence AM RB 003.

Aston Martin AM RB 003

I wasn’t entirely convinced of the styling of the current Vantage, even less so of the DB11, with aero gains seemingly trumping pure form, surely a more relevant factor for a GT car which isn’t chasing outright speed. The new 003 and the more mainstream Vanquish Vision clearly have a new design language confirmed by Director of Design at Aston Martin, Miles Nurnberger recently stating that the Valkyrie has informed the design language of their two new concept cars.

So radical was the design of the Valkyrie, so odd at first sight it challenged convention of what a hypercar should look like. Newey has shown that aero optimisation can also be beautiful, that even when function leads form it need not diminish visual appeal.

Aston Martin AM RB 003

Perhaps some of that thinking made its way into the 003, perhaps it primed Miles when he put pen to paper (or pen to tablet). Regardless, the result is not just another sports car with more vents and gimmicks, but a whole new design language that immediately makes everything else released at Geneva recently, seem rather obsolete.

The cars challenge the status quo without cynicism, functional features appear to have been thought through out of necessity not idealism or fantasy. The silhouettes look refreshing yet familiar.

Driving the 003 will be a Turbo V6 with a level of hybridisation that will go into a number of AM cars in the future, but no doubt it will be a monster.

Aston Martin AM RB 003
Aston Martin AM RB 003

Today, like the Pininfarina Battista and Koenigsegg Jesko, most manufacturers are on a persistent path for ever more speed, faster 0-100kph times, faster 0-200kph times, higher top speeds etc. but something tells me with Matt Becker engineering his magic into the mix, these new Aston cars will be so much more than cheap headline grabbing numbers. Matt is an ex-Lotus engineer which really should say enough. At Lotus he was responsible for creating that wonderful connection between driver, car, and road the brand is so well known for, promising much of the same at Aston Martin.

They have also developed a technology (essentially for the aerospace industry) called ‘Flexfoil’ that is said to be a morphing aero surface that can bend or reprofile itself to increase or lesson the amount of downforce, as engineered into the wing on the concept, as well as other select places on the car to aid cooling or increase or redirect airflow.

Aston Martin AM RB 003

The innovation isn’t limited to the outside however. On the inside, things like hiding the air vents to be in tune with what Miles calls ‘apex ergonomics’, is aimed at drawing focus back to the steering wheel area and view beyond.

The rear vision mirror utilises a camera set up (nothing new) which cleverly responds to lane changes, but what I really like is the complete lack of infotainment screens. Where you would usually see a big iPad (or larger) screen dominating the centre console, Aston Martin are suggesting your own personal device is really the only device you need to bring and can serve you far better than an antiquated touch screen which needs to be constantly updated and sinc’d.

Aston Martin Vision Vanquish

Despite Aston Martin wanting to develop a new interpretation for luxurious materials by minimising what we traditional perceive as luxurious, chiefly leather, has resulted in a cabin that is filled with technologically advanced materials. While they may be impressive and serve a function by being light weight, it has resulted in a cabin that doesn’t quite fit with Aston’s luxurious image. This is where they could show McLaren a thing or two in how to be sporting yet still feel luxurious to create a strong point of differentiation.

Whatever the case Aston Martin are clearly leading the way for makers of hypercars and super cars. The 003 showing what the future holds and the Vanquish Vision where Aston see their sporting intent for the long term. Perhaps it’s time for some new posters to go up on the garage wall.

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