Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila
EARLIER this month, Aston Martin was named Luxury Brand of the Year at the Luxury Briefing Awards in London, touted as the “Oscars of the luxury industry” celebrating excellence and innovation. The company was lauded for executing “one of the fastest turnarounds and renaissances the luxury industry has ever seen.”
This upswing is no accident but is a product of an aggressive strategy embodied in the British car maker’s Second Century Plan, which calls for the production of seven vehicles over seven years — bankrolled by the infusion of £700 million. The end-goal is to provide sustainability and profitability for the 105-year-old company. Interestingly, the so-called “777” game plan obviously also references the brand’s timeless affinity for the fictional British Secret Service agent James Bond (known for his code number 007). In the pipeline is the return of the iconic Lagonda nameplate in 2020, the company’s first SUV in the DBX, and an all-electric vehicle called Rapide E.
Meanwhile, Aston Martin Lagonda’s second production facility is set to be commissioned by the first quarter of 2019 in St. Athan, Wales, in anticipation of the DBX, scheduled for release in the last quarter of next year. The factory is envisioned to be the company’s “Home of Electrification” when the brand’s BEVs (battery electric vehicles) enter production.
Earlier this year, the Brand Finance Auto & Tyres Report showed a big 268% jump in Aston Martin’s value to $3.6 billion — “leaping from no. 77 in the overall ranking to no. 24.” The company also registered the highest percentage growth in its history last year, “with profits growing by a quarter of a billion pounds as unit sales exceeded 5,000 for the first time since 2008.” The spike in sales was driven by demand for the DB11 and special models, including the Vanquish Zagato Coupe and the limited-production DB4 GT Continuation model.
According to company literature, the “Vantage” moniker first appeared in reference to a “high-output engine option for the DB2” in 1951, after which Aston annexed the name for a separate vehicle — highlighted by models which “include the William Towns-designed V8 Vantage, spectacular twin-supercharged V600 Le Mans and the much-loved V8 Vantage.”
Powered by a new, Mercedes-Benz-sourced 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8 delivering 503hp at 6,000rpm and 685Nm at 2,000-5,000rpm, the Vantage’s dry weight of 1530 kilograms gives it “formidable power-to-weight and torque-to-weight ratios.” One horsepower is expected to move only 16.4 kilograms.
This brutish power plant is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission — enabling the rear wheels to propel the car from a standstill to 100kph in 3.5 seconds and up to a claimed top rate of 314kph.
Inspiration has undoubtedly been drawn from the track-only, limited-edition Vulcan, Aston Martin’s two-door, two-seat car boasting a 7.0-liter, naturally aspirated V12 putting forth 820hp and 800Nm.
Visually, the Vantage echoes the Vulcan’s huge, muscular hood, and annexes the front mid-engine, rear wheel-drive configuration as well. Aston Martin says that aerodynamics play a big part in why the Vantage looks as it does. A front splitter “directs airflow underneath the car, where a system of fences channels cooling air where it is needed, and also ensures the rear diffuser is fed with clean airflow.” Through the diffuser, an area of low pressure is created while preventing rear-wheel turbulence from disrupting the flow of air exiting centrally from beneath the rear of the car. Additionally, the company stresses that the “significant level of downforce” on the Vantage is a “rarity on a production car and a first for a core production Aston Martin model.”
Inside, the aggressive design concept plays out similarly. “Sharp, focused lines [denote] the more aggressive nature of the car. A high waist interior theme and lower driving position creates a more immersive driving experience, and contributes to significant gains in occupant space and significant improvement in headroom compared with the outgoing Vantage.”
Rotary- and toggle-style controls are used, while the familiar PRND transmission buttons have been arranged in a triangular formation. There is room behind the seats for stowage, in addition to the trunk.
In an interview with BusinessWorld held on the sidelines of the Vantage launch a Pasay City hotel, Aston Martin Manila president Marc Louie Y. Tagle described the vehicle as “very aggressive, younger, more dynamic, and sprightly,” adding that the front mid-mounted engine “contributes to [the] nice handling” of the car. Overall, it is a “fun, good, value-for-money car.”
Mr. Tagle lauded Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer for making each vehicle in the portfolio unique. “They’re differentiating each model in both design and ride quality,” underscored Mr. Tagle. “This signifies a new era in Aston Martin.”
The executive revealed that the brand has been the leader in the ultra-high-end luxury automobile segment for the last two years.
Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila