Aston Martin goes mid-engine mad at Geneva
Aston Martin has hit the Geneva show running, with two mid-engined reveals. It's resurrecting an iconic name in the new Vanquish Vision Concept as a series production supercar concept, plus solidifying its relationship with Red Bull Racing through the re-introduction of the Project 003 supercar as the AM-RB 003.
The company's mid-engine push is spearheaded by new Chief Technical Officer Max Szwaj, who joined Aston in 2016 and became CTO in late 2017. Szwaj earned his chops at mid-engine powerhouses like Ferrari and Maserati.
Vanquish Vision Concept
Probably the name most associated with Aston Martin is "Vanquish." Aston Martin may have made its most public persona through its heritage association with James Bond, but it was undoubtedly the 2001 debut of the Vanquish that really created the 21st Century image for the British automaker. The Vanquish, also featured in a Bond movie, ran for two generations, ending production in 2018.
Now, for 2019, Aston Martin is bringing the Vanquish into new territory with the Vanquish Vision Concept. The Vanquish will become the company's first series production mid-engined supercar, creating a new vision for the company as it sheds the front-engined saloons most associated with its past, and pushes towards upper-end supercar territory with midships designs.
The Vanquish Vision Concept is not production-ready, but is, Aston Martin promises, close to the planned production vehicle. Design cues are unusual, and include a clamshell front fender and a classical, if elongated, look. Its surfaces are less function-driven than are those of the Valkyrie and the also-unveiled AM-RB 003 models, which are clearly track-focused vehicles. The Vanquish will be a road-going tourer instead.
The upcoming Vanquish, planned for a 2022 release, will be built on a bonded aluminum chassis, an Aston Martin specialty. There will be more details as it nears production.
The Project 003 car, introduced after the Valkyrie models, came in February 2019 as a tease for another hypercar offering from Aston Martin. Now fully unveiled, we can see that the Project 003 (now the AM-RB 003) is indeed very similar to the Valkyries, in terms of its aero-focus, but far different in that it steps away from the Formula 1 looks of the Valkyrie and focuses on more street appeal.
The AM-RB 003 is a collaboration with Red Bull Advanced Technologies, a part of Red Bull Racing. Like the other collaborations with RBAT, the AM-RB 003 is a mid-engined car designed to compete in the supercar arena against fellow British make McLaren and Italian offerings from Ferrari and Maserati.
Aston Martin says that the AM-RB 003 will include trickle-down technologies from F1, but will be limited to only 500 coupes globally. That, obviously, leaves open the idea for a topless model (spider, convertible?) down the line.
Design for the AM-RB 003 is based on a variable airfoil, which encompasses the entire rear wing in technology pulled from aircraft tech. This removes the need for an active wing, Aston Martin claims, while improving efficiency and wind noise without losing downforce at speed. The technology is called FlexFoil and it's been on the aerospace market since 2014. This differentiates the AM-RB 003 from the Valkyrie.
Aside from that addition, the AM-RB 003 is very much like a mid-engined Ferrari model in its looks – especially at the front end, where the wedge-like nose and La Mans-style headlamps accent rounded fenders. The aggressive side scoops and body moulding are all Aston Martin, however, and the hidden A-frame to create a one-piece window-to-roof design is beautifully unique.
Aston Martin says the coupe design of the AM-RB 003 meant that several changes from the Valkyrie models were in order. These included a larger cockpit for greater road-usability, and accommodation for luggage space behind the seats.
That interior design seen at Geneva remains function-driven, we see, with an austere motif that doesn't skimp on materials quality. Aston Martin states that the interior's design is focused on "Apex Ergonomics," which centers on alignment of the driver's back with the rest of the controls layout and elements.
Also noted in the new AM-RB 003's cockpit is the dividing line created by the wraparound band of the dashboard. Positioned to appear level with the bottom of the windscreen when seated in the car, the edge of the dash creates a dividing line between the visual upper portion of the car and the functional lower portion. Venting and lighting is tucked into the dashboard's lower end in order to avoid breaking that line.
Aston Martin says the full technical details of the AM-RB 003 will be released at a future date, but that many elements of the car's lightweighting were accomplished through aggressive use of carbon fiber, 3D-printing processes, and other measures. Its structure is largely carbon fiber, as is its bodywork. It appears that the AM-RB 003 shares its chassis with the Valkyrie models.