We’re witnessing a symbolic turning point in the evolution of the automobile. In today’s world, most supercars are moving toward smaller engines which can be rated at higher efficiency. Even the manual transmission is a dying breed, as most of the European manufacturers have all gone over to dual-clutches. We’re even seeing American cars, such as the new Ford GT, following suit. This change even goes all the way down to the performance entry level, with cars such as the Ford Focus RS and VW Golf GTI coming equipped with dual-clutch or DSG transmissions.
However, Aston-Martin is inclined to “keep the faith,” as CEO Andy Palmer put it. While the manufacturer has clearly demonstrated its resolve towards towards innovation, as evidenced by their ambitions to build an electric crossover, the English company isn’t throwing tradition out the window either. Newly appointed Aston-Martin CEO Andy Palmer gave an extensive interview with Car and Driver magazine, in which he commented on the brand’s future direction, which seems to have something to offer for everyone.
The first comment of note made by Palmer is that, despite the contract between Mercedes-AMG and Aston-Martin to supply Aston-Martin with AMG V8s, Aston-Martin will be retaining the use of its V12s well into the foreseeable future. Palmer commented on the prospect of V12s by saying,
“One of the reasons for having an electric car is to allow us to continue with the V-12 for longer.
Of course, we’ve got to make it emissions compliant, and the current V-12 has to be completely renewed. But yes, we have a twelve-cylinder engine in our future. Our customers expect that.”
The V12 will not be sourced from AMG either; it will be all Aston-Martin. In fact, their newest model, the limited production Vulcan, will sport a 7.0 liter naturally aspirated V12 producing over 800 horsepower. Naturally aspirated cars will also remain a staple of their line for quite some time, in blatant defiance of industry trends, because of course, most purists love a monstrous English V12 gulping air naturally.
The company will also continue to make lightweight construction a priority, with the use of its aluminium VH architecture to continue. The method combines and aluminum structure bonded to aluminum body work. With Palmer opining on the the manufacturing process,
“That platform was definitely far ahead of its time. It should have been described as a modular architecture, like VW’s MQB or one of the other systems big manufacturers have adopted. We’re always making excuses about it being an old platform, but if you were to compare the original VH platform to today’s there’s an enormous transformation. And it’s a great way to build cars in the volumes that we do.”
Also of note, is that the company will continue the charge of offering manual transmissions, despite recent market trends. They attribute this to their ethos of making cars that are driver-centered above all else. Palmer commented on his vision for the future, boldly saying,
“I would love to be the last car manufacturer providing stick shifts in the U.S.
That’s my hope, we will keep the faith.
And even as the industry moves to twin-clutch transmissions, at the heart of each of those you still have a manual transmission. It’s only a matter of breaking it into its parts, and that’s where I started my career, as a transmission engineer.”
Owing to a huge infusion of development capital and a technical partnership with Mercedes-AMG, the company now has both funding and technology within its grasp like never before. Not only are they taking advantage of electric vehicle technology, the English manufacturer is following the likes of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Lotus by expanding beyond its traditional repertoire of models.
Aston-Martin envisions a line of sedans and crossovers based on its forthcoming Lagonda sub-brand. Of course, this naturally raises the question of whether or not we’ll see the company developing four and six cylinder engines for these new models. According to the boss himself, the answer is no, with Palmer stating,
“There’s an inevitability to having a hybrid simply because the car itself has to meet the standards as well as the total fleet. You’ve got to get every car on that line. Eventually that means some kind of hybridization, there’s an inevitability to downsizing, too.
And although I’d say a six-cylinder engine is possible—Aston has done them before—I’m not planning anything smaller than a V-8 at the moment. It’s V-8 and V-12 as far as I’m concerned.”
In regards specifically to the Lagonda brand, which Palmer hopes will further the company’s goal of ramping up production figures to 7,000 cars per year, Palmer opined,
“I see it as a serious long-term competitor to Rolls-Royce”
For those of you who haven’t heard, Rolls-Royce is also building an SUV before the end of the decade. Naturally, some may be wondering what is compelling Aston-Martin, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and possibly Lotus to build crossovers/SUVs. We’re not too sure either, but if nothing else, all of these concepts sure do look intriguing.