The Italian Junkyard

Thoughts, ideas, criticism about cars. Interesting news and facts from the world of the automobile. Events in Italy and Modena. What you can find elsewhere, filtered through the eyes of a discerning enthusiast. Design, style, everything on the chopping block. Nobody is safe anymore.

Monday, March 30, 2009

1.6 Bond needs more Astons

The last example I would like to talk about, despite much more are available, is Aston Martin.
It's one of my favorite brands at the moment, it's not a secret.
But it's out of any doubt that all of its cars look very similar. Even the new One-77 is carrying on the same design language, with muscular fenders, a wide tail, and the characteristic grille being the main ingredients. The difference in this case, apart from the external details, is what's under the skin.

As mentioned before, all Astons are based on the same aluminum chassis made out of modular parts, but this, the One-77, is a completely new car, with a bespoke new carbon fiber chassis, and a 7 liter unit developed from the present V12 , but heavily modified by AM with partner Cosworth, resulting in basically a new engine, with a weight reduction of about 25% and more than 700 hp of power. We could appreciate this at last Geneva autoshow, together with other more controversial cars.

Without discussing specifically of Astons' looks, two other new cars were present at Geneva too, while a third was missing, despite the attendance. Respectively, the DBS Volante, the V12 Vantage and the Rapide.
With the DBS Volante being an obvious expansion of the DBS line, even in a much more sensed way of a 430 Scuderia spinning off the Spider 16M variant, the V12 Vantage received quite some critics, basically in the same way the DBS did in first place. The third, the Rapide, wasn't there, but thanks to a lot of spy shots emerging from the web, it raised his part of critics too.

The point is, they all look the same. If the differences between a V12 Vanquish and a DB9 were sufficient, with the first V8 Vantage, people start wondering who asked a short wheelbase DB9, even if some others liked the V8 the most.
Then the DBS came, and people hoping for a really performing DB9 found themselves disappointed. No wonder, I don't know how to expect a track day car from Aston Martin in first place. Maybe out of curiosity, they, AM, decided to check this possibility too. The V12 Vantage RS concept was born, and it was also excellently welcomed, for what I can remember. I honestly found myself wondering what was the point of the car. I got it when I saw the shots from the Paul Ricard circuit. Basically, it was the track oriented car people were asking for. I wasn't, but I wasn't in the market for an Aston either, and even now, by the way.
Using the Vantage as the base model makes sense, since it's smaller and lighter than a DB9, so more agile, even if adopting a bigger and heavier engine and therefore a longer wheelbase, despite being more powerful, somehow killed the idea. For the record, the V12 weights only 50 kg more than the V8, but only 30 less then the DB9. Actually it's 80 kg lighter than the restyled DB9.
Considering Aston already tried the card of a basically only-chassis-tuned car with the N400 version, which went somehow unnoticed, and since they probably got the idea you can't beat Porsche in the GT3 (RS) territory, they decided to go for more power.

Here is the result, maybe aesthetically debatable, but even more important, it seems now a lot of people isn't interested anymore, like, they never meant it for real. So the car became a long base version, with a V12, of the V8 and short wheelbase version of the DB9. Well, yes, it is so, but it's how saying an Aston Martin is just an expensive way of commuting in first place.
What they have in the line up now is basically the main car, the DB9, a smaller and cheaper version, the Vantage, a faster grand touring version, the DBS, and the performance oriented car, the V12.

Now let's introduce the Rapide, the comfier version, especially for four people.
I'm the first to be disappointed to see the sedan looking exactly like a stretched DB9, with just some minor details changing. I actually liked the concept back 3 years ago, but this seems higher, and with a rounder rear end which simply doesn't fit the car.

At the same time, I'm happy with such a small company being so active, releasing something new almost every year. On a second thought, I'm pretty sure with a more evidently different style for each of their models, not only it would have been more successful (something Aston isn't short of), but also it would have been better welcomed by enthusiasts and journalists.

photos sources: One-77 chassis, V12 Vantage, Rapide teaser, DBS Volante

post header source: Rapide Concept

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