It could be argued that Aston Martin is about to enter not only its most comprehensive transitional period, but also it most vital. The next few years will see the firm from Gaydon completely reinvent its product range, with a little help from Mercedes and possibly hybrid technology.
In the run up to 2020 and beyond, we’ll see a whole host of new models from Aston Martin, including a DB9 replacement, a reinvigorated V8 Vantage and even a hybrid crossover. The future of Aston Martin, then, looks to be a busy one and one that we have looked into with a bit of detail.
How that partnership with Mercedes will work
Following ample rumours, a partnership with Mercedes was confirmed by Aston Martin in 2014, with the Stuttgart-based manufacturer gaining a five per cent stake in Aston as a result and will supply the iconic British marque with both engine components and electrical architecture.
In regards to engines, both Mercedes-AMG’s V12 and V8 units will be built especially for Aston’s use in its future models, but will be designed in a way that will distance them from the more common Mercedes versions to give Astons of the future a more bespoke aural capacity and power delivery.
Those who are keen followers of AMG products will know that that turbochargers have made their way under the bonnet on a wide scale, and the same philosophy will continue with the engines coming Aston’s way. In this day and age, with restrictions on emissions as they are, it was inevitable that Aston would soon make this jump from naturally aspirated powertrains to forced induction, not only to appease those calling the shots but also the needs of the modern customer.
Mercedes’ electrical knowledge and development facilities will also benefit Aston in this deal, and the British firm has been developing its next generation aluminium VH architecture to accommodate Mercedes’ electrical components. Its new chassis will also be far more versatile than the platform currently in use that almost forces Aston’s cars to have very similar designs, with the flexibility to change between various wheelbase lengths and expand the range of models easier.
The DB9 replacement
A key element and the first comprehensive change in the Aston line-up is a replacement for the now 13-year-old DB9 that has been dubbed the DB11 (James Bond is getting the dibs on the DB10 name for Spectre). It will also be the first to incorporate the technology being developed with Mercedes, including new turbocharged engines.
It will be a shame to see Aston depart from natural aspiration, but as we’ve seen with models such as the new AMG-GT S and S-Class S63 AMG Coupe, the new batch of turbocharged Mercedes engines are as visceral and characterful as ever. It is understood that the DB11 will make use of both V12 and V8 powertrains in the same way that Bentley offers on its Continental GT line and give the model a bit of versatility in the market.
The latest spy pictures of the DB11 testing have also revealed Mercedes switchgear within the cabin that seems to have been taken from the S-Class, giving the impression that the DB9 replacement will get electronics direct from Mercedes’ flagship model. That’s not to say the design for the cabin will be straight from the German firm, with Aston likely to bastardise (or Astonise) the buttons and switches into their own form.
Hefty weight-saving is also expected from the DB11, with Aston increasing its knowledge of how to implement carbon fibre on its cars thanks to projects such as the One-77, Vulcan and Vantage GT12.
It’s likely we’ll see the new DB11 early in 2016 at March’s Geneva motor show, with a full release either later that year or in early 2017.
Aston’s DBX concept and hybrid technology
Revealed somewhat out of the blue at the 2015 Geneva motor show, Aston gave is the DBX crossover, a car which new CEO Andy Palmer announced could be one day be a fully electric vehicle and has subsequently touted the idea of “a 4x4, 1,000bhp silent Rapide”.
The DBX has since been confirmed for production, with not much else known about it apart from the fact that it’s a separate from the Lagonda SUV project that has now been canned from future plans.
Aston currently produces around 7,000 vehicles a year, which Palmer admits “doesn’t work as a business model”, with an SUV crossover model a possible road to upped production levels, a move proven by Porsche to have immense potential.
Working with Mercedes will certainly help this cause and can call upon not only its experience with the ML/GL ranges, but also its latest GLE Coupe that could well prove to be a useful starting point for the DBX. Its hybrid tech from the S-Class could also play to Aston’s advantage.