Aston Martin’s New Future: From Fresh Parents to Fresh Wheels

Written by Kimatni D. Rawlins

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Aston Martin has much to look ahead to. The British sports performance brand -- made famous by James Bond -- is finally coming back home. After a 20-year adoption by Ford Motor Company, Aston Martin has been purchased by a UK-led consortium piloted by Dave Richards, owner of the motorsports company Prodrive. The $924 million deal still leaves Ford with a 16.5% share and will allow Aston Martin to continue building cars at its technology laden plant in Gaydon. And the most stellar news is the impending launch of the DBS and Aston Martin’s four-door sports car, the Rapide.

As “the UK’s coolest brand” in 2006, Aston Martin is ready to achieve the same honors around the world. But it’s a high expectation when you have Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche, Lamborghini and many others. Yet, Aston Martin seems up to the challenge. The Rapide, basically a 4-door DB9, has been given the signal to fire. It will battle head on like rams with Porsche’s Panamera. Production is scheduled for 2010. “In terms of elegance the Rapide is adding value to the DB9’s undisputed elegance and subtle understatement,” said Dr. Ulrich Bez, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin. “Our cars must look beautiful from all angles, and the four-door is very well balanced.” On the other end the DBS will hit the roads in March 2008. First seen in James Bond’s Casino Royale, the DBS is linked to both the DB9 and DBR9 racecar and will be offered in coupe and volante form.

For the moment at hand Aston Martin has let loose two baby newcomers to the stable. Both rolling off the line with V8 engines, welcome the $125,000 V8 Vantage Roadster and the $115,000 V8 Vantage Coupé. Automotive Rhythms had the opportunity to evaluate both vehicles recently in California. And I must say, even though the Vantage is entry level for Aston Martin, it still sparks interest wherever you go. As with all Astons, the Vantages are hand-built and hand-crafted, a trade as rare as a blue moon. Aston Martin believes the Vantage fits well in the lineup and that it will have no problem against Porsche’s 911 and Audi’s R8. Designed side by the side, the Roadster is not just a topless variant of the Coupé.

When deciding over the two, we like the Roadster much more. So let’s take advantage of Aston Martin’s 14th convertible since 1950. And that’s exactly what we did in Los Angeles during a few Red Carpet events. Our powder blue drop with 19” seven-spoke alloy rims drew attention. Power is provided by a hand-built 4.3-liter 380-horsepower alloy V8 with 302 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard while the quick-shifting Sportshift automated manual is optional. Top speed is set at 175 mph and 0-60 time is had in 4.9 seconds. Though the vehicle maintains poise and grace on the roads, and great acceleration from low speeds, it loses power as it enters higher gears. The power band is not set for high rev driving. I was highly embarrassed when a 2008 BMW 5 Series took full advantage of me on the Hollywood Freeway. Damn is all I can remember thinking.

Still, the Vantage is strikingly beautiful. It’s a perfectly balanced composition of lines and curves. Especially the aggressive rear wheel arches which flare out like shoulder muscles. The front grille is a true metal mesh and not plastic, the twin exhaust tips are embedded comfortably within the rear fender, and the soft top’s silhouette mimics the coupe’s stately outline.

Open the super light doors, which sway upward to allow for easier entry. The aluminum center stack, hand-stitched leather seats, piano black wood trim, and the glass starter button are all organic. The top will unveil daylight within 18 seconds. Yet, the cabin is very tight and narrow. I could not get comfortable at all. Only the accolades from pedestrians kept me at bay. You also don’t get modern day technologies like MP3 integration, Bluetooth, or music hard drives. So to me this vehicle will not be your only road runner. But it’s perfect for short drives to hot destinations.

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