Ford’s Premier Auto Group, of which Aston Martin
is a key player, is really pushing the Aston brand world-wide. With
the DB9, the Vanquish and now the “baby” Vantage V8, the marque is
looking strong again. But it has not always been that way, despite its
strong and lengthy heritage.
Saved from extinction in 1933 by a titled
gentleman, Sir Arthur Sutherland KBE, and again in 1947 by wealthy
industrialist David Brown (who gave the Aston Martins their ‘DB’
model insignia), the company was later saved from disappearing by the
Ford Motor Company, who had also picked up Jaguar, Volvo and Land
Rover, to then put all these brands together under the Premier
Automotive Group (PAG) umbrella.
The man at the helm for Aston Martin is German, CEO
engineer Dr. Ulrich Bez, and it is he who has been pushing through the
development of the DB9, an all new vehicle, despite its many styling
cues pointing towards an Aston Martin heritage.
The DB9 is built on an all-new VH platform with
twice the rigidity of the old model. VH stands for Vertical
Horizontal, and this platform is exclusive to Aston Martin since Bez
was unhappy at the idea of sharing components with other Ford
The DB9 features a bonded aluminium frame, on to
which the body panels and everything else is bolted. Almost a return
to classical body and chassis concept, though this time the
‘chassis’ is vertical, as well as being horizontal. Since the body
panels are no longer needed to give rigidity to the vehicle’s
structure, it become easy to make styling changes for different
variations on the DB9 theme – even an open topped model, the DB9
The DB9’s bodywork, which is also in aluminium
and some composite materials, was predominantly the work of DB7 and
Vanquish stylist Ian Callum, but following Callum’s move within PAG
to Jaguar, some modifications have been made by Henrik Fisker, his
replacement at Aston Martin, who in turn has gone on to found his own
styling company in America called Fisker Coachbuild.
Martin V8 Vantage
For my money, this DB9 is probably the most
beautiful design in current automobiles. No wings and air dams
appearing as carbon-fibre add-ons. Just pure symmetry of line. In the
words of veteran motor-noter Peter Robinson, “It’s achingly
beautiful. Aston found no reason to start a styling revolution. The
DB9, like the Vanquish, DB7, and V-8 Vantage, relies on classic
proportions, long-established Aston styling cues, big 19-inch wheels,
and simple sculptured forms to achieve its gorgeous looks. Less
visually aggressive and more elegant than the US$235,600 460 hp
Vanquish, (Aston Martin) will launch the US$155,000 coupe, and a
couple of months later, the US$170,000 Volante convertible will
Enginewise, the DB9 sports a six litre V12 which
is, as tradition would demand, up front, but brought as far back as
possible to end up with a 50/50 weight distribution between front and
rear axles. This is Aston Martin’s own engine, but has been
re-engineered for the DB9, with a new crankshaft, cams, manifold, and
engine-management system for more midrange torque. For a relatively
light car, coming through the extensive use of aluminium, the torque
figure of 567 Nm is more than enough to keep a push in your back
through to its top whack of a smidgin under 300 kph.
Whilst Aston Martin will continue to be an
exclusive brand, the new “baby” Aston Martin, the V8 Vantage is
the most (relatively) affordable in the line up which includes the V12
DB9 and the Vanquish.
When the baby Aston was shown in Geneva this year,
it was a show stopper, and one that the company hopes will lure buyers
away from the Porsche 911. In photographs, the V8 Vantage is also just
sensational, and Dr. Ulrich Bez has been taking the car to shows all
over the world to promote the name, the exclusivity and, with the
Vantage, the price.
However, this is still no bargain basement sports
car, retailing at A$235,000 (around seven million baht on a straight
currency exchange, and I would guess that the retail figure here would
be around 20 million baht).
GoAuto reviewed the V8 Vantage after the Geneva
show and was very enthusiastic about the new vehicle.
“The production version of Aston Martin’s third
model, the Porsche 911-rivalling V8 Vantage, was one of the
showstoppers in Geneva last week.
“First shown in concept form at the Detroit auto
show in 2003, the ‘baby Aston’ starts its international rollout
from Aston’s British (Gaydon, Warwickshire) production plant in the
Martin V8 Vantage
“The striking Henrik Fisker-designed exterior
stems from a low, sleek body, long bonnet, short front and rear
overhangs, two-seater cabin and, unusual for a sports car of this
type, a rather practical rear hatchback providing access to the
300-litre luggage compartment.
“At 4380mm long, the compact hatch is also the
smallest model in the Aston range. Said to have endured the most
extensive testing and development program in the company’s 91 year
history, the V8 Vantage uses Aston’s unique VH (vertical horizontal)
architecture, a bonded-aluminium structure with aluminium alloy,
steel, composite and magnesium alloy body. Kerb weight is 1570kg.
“An all-new (and unique to Aston, for now)
283kW/410Nm 4.3 litre, 32 valve quad-cam V8 is used in a transaxle
configuration, whereby the front mid-mounted engine is connected to
the rear mid-mounted transmission via a cast-aluminium torque tube and
carbon fibre propshaft. This layout provides the rear-drive car with a
49:51 weight distribution.
“Aston has also adopted a dry-sump lubrication
system for the V8 Vantage, allowing the engine to sit low in the body,
lowering the centre of gravity and in turn improving handling and
overall balance and stability. For the time being, the sole gearbox
available is a six-speed ‘Graziano’ manual.
“Bottom line in performance terms is a 0-100 km/h
time of 5.0 seconds and a 280 km/h maximum speed. The brakes comprise
355/330mm front/rear ventilated grooved steel discs with
radial-mounted four-piston Brembo monobloc callipers.
“Wheels are 10 spoke alloys measuring 8.5J x 18
at the front and 9.5J x 18 at the rear, with 18 inch Bridgestone
Potenza tyres (235/45 front, 275/40 rear). A 19 inch wheel/tyre
package is also available.
“Standard equipment includes ABS brakes with
brake assist, traction control, stability control and positive torque
control (PTC). Interior features run to ‘technical grain’ leather,
alloy finished console fascia, anthracite interior fittings, 10-way
electrically adjustable seats, automatic climate control, battery
disconnect switch, trip computer, dual-stage driver and passenger
airbags, side airbags and an alarm.”
For me, while the smaller Aston is a good looking vehicle, nothing
beats the DB9. For my pocket, both are totally unaffordable, but it is
always fun to look!