We're set to record Autoblog Podcast #379 this evening.Check out the topics below, or drop us your questions and comments via our Q&A module. And don't forget to subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven't already done so. To take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.
Discussion Topics for Autoblog Podcast Episode #379
New Aston Martin platform
25th Anniversary of Acura NSX
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Aston Martin is embarking on a brave new future. After thirteen years basing the bulk of its lineup on the VH architecture, Aston is developing a new platform, and is partnering with Mercedes-AMG to develop a new V8 engine and electronic systems. But what will happen to the old platform and engines once the new ones arrive?
You might think that they'd be retired, but that won't necessarily be the case. At least as far as the AM11 V12 engine goes. The 6.0-liter engine was developed by Cosworth, based on a Ford block, and first appeared on the DB7 Vantage way back in 1999, but still powers everything Aston offers, save the V8 Vantage. It's evolved heavily over the past decade and a half, rising in output from 420 horsepower to 565, but Aston is one of the only British automakers still offering a V12 these days (Jaguar no longer does, Bentley's is actually a W12 and while Rolls-Royce does, its vehicles are mostly of a decidedly more sedate nature), and will surely want to carry on that legacy.
That's why Aston spokesman Matthew Clarke revealed in correspondence with Autoblog, "Our 6.0-liter V12 engine will remain, with ongoing development, at the heart of a number of our flagship models for the foreseeable future," long after the new engine being developed with Mercedes arrives. Just which models will receive the new eight-cylinder engine and which will keep the twelve remains to be seen, but we get the feeling Aston's eight-cylinder range will broaden to include more than just the Vantage.
As for the VH architecture, you can expect it to sail off into the proverbial sunset once the new platform is ready, though we wouldn't be surprised to see it phased out more gradually than abruptly. A 13-year tradition doesn't end overnight, after all.
It's been thirteen years since Aston Martin introduced the original V12 Vanquish. The model was effectively been replaced twice over by the time it reached its Bar Mitzvah, but its underlying platform is still around. And not just around, either: it underpins everything Aston makes and has made ever since it came on the scene, save for the Cygnet and the One-77 supercar. That includes the V8 and V12 Vantage, the short-lived Virage, the new Vanquish, the DB9, DBS, V12 Zagato and even the four-door Rapide. But while it may seem like forever that Aston's been using the VH platform, it won't be around forever more.
In announcing its positive financial results for 2013, Aston Martin CFO Hanno Kirner confirmed: "We are engineering a completely new architecture and technologies to ensure that our next generation of sports cars is at the forefront of design, performance and technology." The new platform is expected to underpin the next generation of Astons Martin, and will be powered by a new V8 engine being developed by Mercedes-AMG, similar to the arrangement that sees V12s furnished to Pagani for the Huayra.
Whether an AMG-developed V12 is also in the cards for Aston Martin remains to be seen - the company ran on V8 power alone from the mid 70s (when its six-cylinder engine was retired) until the Ford-developed DB7 brought six- and then twelve-cylinder power. That aging but glorious 6.0-liter engine, by the way, still powers the vast majority of the company's lineup.
The platform and associated technologies are being funded by the influx of capital from shareholders Investindustrial, Primewagon and Adeem Investment and by a 13-percent increase in revenue due to the launch of the new Vanquish Volante and V12 Vantage S, as well as the company's expansion into new markets like Mexico and Thailand.
It wasn't long ago that upon spending a week with the company's Vanquish coupe that we fell just short of love, wondering aloud how long Aston could weather its uncertain financial picture while still relying heavily on elderly technology and drivetrains cradled in elderly platforms. We now appear to have our answer, and we like what we're hearing.
Continue reading Aston Martin confirms new platform under development
There's been talk of late about the technical partnership between Aston Martin and the AMG division of Mercedes-Benz going beyond engines to include Mercedes sports car and SUV platforms for the English brand, perhaps as a way to kickstart the development of a Lagonda SUV. But AMG CEO Tobias Moers, speaking to Top Gear, said that's effectively out of the question because, "No one has the time to discuss any more involvement than that for now."
Moers believes Aston Martin will be so busy "for the next two to three years" integrating its AMG-sourced engine and electronics that it won't have the resources to devote to working out a platform-sharing deal; Daimler sources have already said that Aston Martin's development budget "just isn't enough" to even consider a whole new model, and that greater cooperation would require something like a larger ownership stake in the boutique sports car maker.
AMG, in the meantime, is busy with the recent launch of the GLA45 AMG, the coming C63 AMG and its rumored 4.0-liter V8, the Mercedes-AMG GT and its assault on the Porsche 911 among who-knows-what other skunkworks projects. Moers said the technical partnership is about profit for AMG, clear and simple, and, "All these rumors about platform sharing are nice but no one at Aston or Mercedes has the time to discuss them."
The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is a monster of a sports coupe. At the front, those color-matched fangs and open mouth look like Dracula ready to take a bite. And underneath the hood, the 6.0-liter V12 sounds like the Wolf Man growling whenever the driver gets on the throttle. In a recent video, XCAR got its hands on this wonderful behemoth and showed its brilliant brutality.
The smartest move that the producers made was letting the car speak for itself. Several times during the video, the host shuts up, and the only sound is the bellow from the exhaust of the Aston Martin. The cinematography is pretty darn nice, too. If you don't have time to watch the whole video, skip about 10 minutes into it when XCAR just lets the diabolical V12 thunder. It's definitely one of the highlights. Scroll down to watch - and listen - for yourself.
Continue reading 2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S drives angry with XCAR
If you were intrigued by the chance to buy a new Aston Martin Vantage GT for $99,900, it might be best not to wait too long. There is a slim chance that the Vantage and DB9 may not have much life left in the US because they don't meet new crash standards. Aston Martin has filed documents with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking that the new pole and moving barrier crash safety requirements - internally referred to as FMVSS 214 - be waived for the two models. The company is claiming "substantial economic hardship" and says that it can't afford to bring the vehicles into compliance.
We aren't talking about a huge number of vehicles here. The Rapide and Vanquish comply with the new rules, and Aston Martin predicts that it would import 670 Vantage and DB9 models into the States between September 1, 2014 and August 31, 2017. The automaker estimates it would cost around $30 million to make them compliant.
The company has indeed been in rough shape in the not-too-distant past. According to the documents, sales volume decreased by about 48 percent from a high of 7,281 units in 2007 to 3,786 vehicles in 2012. The automaker had planned to have new models ready in time so that it wouldn't need an exemption, but the global economic crisis delayed it. Interestingly, the paperwork reveals that Aston currently plans to launch a replacement for the DB9 between September 2016 and August 2017.
Aston Martin doesn't have very long for NHTSA to deliberate. The new rules go into effect for them on September 1, 2014 for hardtops, and September 1, 2015 for convertibles. While it would still be able to sell its other models here, it would certainly be a shock if it had to pull the the Vantage and DB9. Both documents are available in PDF format to download and read.
Aston Martin shocked us when it announced at the 2014 New York Auto Show that 2015 V8 Vantage GT (pictured above) was priced at $99,900. While hardly inexpensive, a sub-$100k Aston seemed like a bargain. It was joined by the unveiling of the DB9 Carbon Edition that mixed sport and luxury in the brand's traditional style.
The Vantage GT is available as a coupe, or for a little bit more money, as a convertible. Regardless of body, buyers get a 4.7-liter V8 with 430 horsepower and 361 pound-feet of torque, and that power is routed through a seven-speed automated manual with magnesium paddle shifters or a traditional six-speed manual. Even for a 'cheap' Aston, the GT still offers luxury features like Alcantara trim, carbon fiber doorsill plates and seats from the V12 Vantage S. The one on display in New York wears one of the optional motorsports-inspired graphics packs that add contrasting paint around the grille, mirror caps, rear diffuser blade and roof pillar.
The $199,995 DB9 Carbon Edition packs a 6.0-liter V12 rated at 510 hp and 457 lb-ft and a six-speed automatic transmission. Available as Carbon Black or Carbon White, the package adds carbon fiber side strakes and taillight trim. Buyers who want even more can add a carbon fiber front splitter, rear diffuser and mirror caps. Black leather covers the interior, and the shade of the contrasting stitching comes from that of the brake calipers. Deliveries for both models start in the third quarter. Scroll down to get the full scoop on them.
Continue reading Aston Martin shows what it does best with V8 Vantage GT, DB9 Carbon Edition
Aston Martin has never been touted for the affordability of its cars, but with its new V8 Vantage GT, it's at least taking a stab at the concept. Priced at $99,900, the company probably feels like it's giving them away.
Aston Martin says its Vantage GT is inspired by its long history in motorsports. Available as either a coupe or convertible (at extra cost), the GT packs the automaker's 4.7-liter V8 pumping out 430 horsepower and 361 pound-feet of torque capable of getting it to 60 miles per hour in 4.6 seconds and to a top speed of 190 miles per hour. Buyers can choose between either a seven-speed automated manual with magnesium paddle shifters or a traditional six-speed manual.
Despite the stripped-down price, buyers aren't going to be missing many amenities in the GT. It comes standard with graphite-painted alloy wheels and black trim around the headlights side windows, exhausts and taillights. An optional graphics pack recalls Aston Martin's 24 Hours of Le Mans success with contrasting colors on the grille, mirror caps, rear diffuser and - on coupes - the A-pillar. The interior gets carbon-fiber sill plates, Alcantara door panels and sport seats from the V12 Vantage S. North American sales begin in the third quarter.
The other new Aston slated for reveal at this week's New York Auto Show is the DB9 Carbon Edition, which is aimed at carbon fiber lovers. It adds loads of the stuff inside and out in a traditional mix of luxury and high performance. It begins as a standard DB9 with a 6.0-liter V12 rated at 510 hp and 457 lb-ft and a six-speed automatic transmission. The big engine cruises to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and to a top speed of 183 mph.
The Carbon Edition is actually separated into two different editions. Carbon Black models come in Carbon Black II exterior paint, and Carbon White models use Stratus White. Both come with a wide variety of carbon trim, including on the side strakes and taillight trim, with a black mesh grille and window trim accentuating the look. Buyers can also add an optional carbon fiber front splitter rear diffuser and mirror caps. Prices start at $199,995 and deliveries begin in the third quarter. Scroll down to get all of the details on the new Astons, and to see a Bloomberg video with Julian Jenkins, Aston Martin's president of the Americas, talking up his company's new entry-level baby.
Continue reading Aston to show $99k V8 Vantage GT, special editions in NY [w/video]
Aston Martin markets itself as offering the classy alternative to hardcore sports cars. Its vehicles are certainly capable, but they are also sold as offering an extra dose of luxury to go along with their power. The company is leaning hard into that image in a new short film called The Art of Vanquish.
Over the grumble of the coupe's V12, the announcer reads a poem about the metaphor of life's journey, and it positions the Vanquish as a symbol of progress. The film is interspersed with shots of luxury goods like thickly upholstered leather chairs and products from sound system maker Bang & Olufsen, men's clothier Hackett London and Swiss watchmaker Jaeger Le Coultre. The production team True Motion Pictures created the short and has also done projects for Audi and Sony, among other companies.
Of course, the idea that Aston Martins and other luxury goods are a symbol of life's adventure is a little contrived. It's still just a car after all - albeit an absolutely gorgeous one. Still, the film is an opportunity for a closer look at the Vanquish, and its wonderful growl is featured throughout. Scroll down to watch the video and be swathed in its poetic concept of luxury.
Continue reading Aston Martin waxes poetic about the good life with The Art of Vanquish
The Aston Martin Lagonda SUV concept revealed at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show didn't earn the plaudits the company is used to when it reveals new models, and it has lived an uncertain life ever since. Thought to have been scrapped along with the entire revival of the Lagonda brand, then thought to have been resurrected due to Chinese, Middle Eastern and Russian demand, another year passed before we heard more definitive talk about an Aston Martin expansion when AutoCar reported that the Lagonda could be built on one of Mercedes-Benz's AMG SUV platforms.
A report in Automotive News Europe indicates plans have gotten serious, its unnamed sources saying that the English carmaker is talking to Daimler "to extend their cooperation to building an SUV." Neither Daimler, Aston Martin nor Investindustrial, the managing partner among Aston Martin's ownership consortium, would comment. But with Investindustrial having pledged to expand the range, competitors like Bentley, Maserati and Lamborghini getting into the SUV racket and clear demand from current and future customers, it's easy to believe Aston Martin is working hard to put the pieces together.
One further potential bump on the road to an Aston SUV is the company's search for a new CEO. Ulrich Bez relinquished to top spot at the company at the end of 2013, and Aston reportedly will not finalize its model strategy without a new CEO in place.
The Lagonda SUV that we're expected to see in three years won't look like the 2009 concept. As happened with Bentley, that first design was sent back to its original owners for a refund and a completely new design has been ordered.