As if the Valkyrie hypercar wasn’t enough to be getting on with, Aston Martin has revealed concepts of its next two mid-engined models in the form of the AM-RB 003 and the Vanquish Vision Concept
‘ MAY I SIT IN IT, PLEASE?’ IT’S A question I seem to have been asking for most of my life. Though it might seem like a small favour to the car’s custodian, it usually means a lot to the person allowed to swing the door open and perch behind the wheel, because you can learn so much just from looking through a windscreen. Take the Aston Martin AM-RB 003 concept for example. I can only guess at the strength of the sensations that might be conveyed in corners by the huge aerodynamic downforce this hypercar will generate – the squeezing of a ribcage into a seat bolster, the slight or perhaps huge heaviness in the limbs. Similarly, I can only try to imagine what the sound of its all-new turbocharged V6 will be like as it exhausts through the two top-exit pipes. Angry? Muffled? Something like the weekend cars of Verstappen and Gasly? And I can only surmise that acceleration for the 003, aided by a P4 electric motor driving the front wheels, might be in the low two-second region.
The name may be tantalising, too: RB referring, of course, to the involvement of Red Bull Advanced Technologies, who are also playing a major role in the development of Aston’s imminent 1160bhp V12-hybrid Valkyrie hypercar. (The ‘ 003’, meanwhile, denotes that this is Aston’s third mid-engined model, after the Valkyrie and the track-only Valkyrie AMR Pro.) But it all means very little until someone can drive it – something that won’t happen until 2021. Only then will you know if it feels dramatic or uneventful, fast or slow, fun or frightening.
However, if you can just sit in a car… Well now, that really can bring it alive. Bending down, sliding over the small sill and sitting in the lightly-padded fixed driver’s seat of the 003 is an
experience. For a start you’re not really sitting, because you’re so reclined that your weight is supported by your back almost as much as your bum. Aston has designed the cockpit around what it is calling Apex Ergonomics so that your spine, the steering wheel and the pedals are all in perfect alignment. Your feet aren’t the lowest part of your body when you’re in the 003 either. It’s not quite as extreme as sitting in the bath with your feet on the taps, but it still feels like a comfortably alien position in a car.
The materials around you are a mixture of 3D-printed carbonfibre, ‘normal’ carbon, a few dashes of leather and, covering the seat pads, some ballistic nylon. If it sounds cluttered or messy then rest assured it’s not. In fact the overarching ambiance of the cabin is one of light and space. It feels remarkably roomy. All the speakers and air vents (fed by the NACA duct on the nose; the small nostrils either side run all the way back through the car to feed the engine) are hidden in the single horseshoe-shaped band running round under the windscreen, while buttons are almost entirely restricted to the steering wheel, keeping your peripheral vision clear of distractions.
There are four screens: a small instrument display behind the steering wheel, a digital rear-view mirror, a thin bar on the steering wheel that looks like the touch bar on the latest MacBook Pro and may well show biometric information about the driver, and, finally, a mobile phone. This last item is in place of any fixed in-car infotainment or satnav and Aston is keen to gauge reaction. In some ways (or should that be Waze?) it seems entirely sensible and, like many of the other features, could well be the future of Aston interiors.
However, the most striking thing about sitting in the 003 is the view out. The A-pillars initially appear to be positioned quite a long way forward but, as Miles Nurnberger, Aston Martin’s director of design, explains, while you would normally bring the A-pillars back and out to maximise vision, this also increases
YOU CAN SEE WHY THE AM- RB 003 IS KNOWN INTERNALLY AS SON OF VALKYRIE
frontal area. In the 003 the A-pillar nearest to you perfectly bisects the front wheelarch. This might sound distracting, but it isn’t, and the end result is not only improved aerodynamics but a truly widescreen feeling for the driver, with a sense that you will be able to place the front of the car with amazing accuracy.
And what of the rest of the package? Well, details of the engine are light, to say the least, but the twin-turbocharged V6 will be designed entirely in-house by Aston Martin. This is the first time this will have happened with an Aston engine since the Tadek Marek era back in the ’50s and ’60s. There will also be a significant hybrid element to the powertrain, including an electric motor driving the front wheels. It will be interesting to eventually compare this turbocharged V6 hybrid system with the one in Mercedes-AMG’s Project One.
The huge tunnels at the rear of the car show that, as with the Valkyrie, the majority of the downforce will be generated by the air passing under the car. I also notice a few vortex generators (seen most clearly on the outer edges of the front splitter and on the floor just in front of the rear wheels) that are clearly an Adrian Newey influence, pushing the air out around the wheels. Also like the Valkyrie, the 003 will get active suspension, but something the Valkyrie doesn’t have is the 003’s deformable surfaces (see right), which are claimed to be a first in the automotive industry.
Lightness is a key element of the 003 and this is exemplified in the methods of illumination. Calling them light lights could get confusing, but that’s what they are. Again using learning, if not all the materials, from the Valkyrie (you can see why 003 is known internally as Son of Valkyrie) all the lamps, front and rear combined, weigh less than one DBS headlamp.
One number we do have is 500. That’s the number of coupes Nurnberger says will be made, costing around ` 9.1 crore (excluding Indian taxes and duties) each. Coupes. I wonder what an open-top version would be like…?
And so to the other car you can see on these pages: the Vanquish Vision Concept. This one is another year further away from production reality, so details are even more scant. (There’s not even an interior to sit in.) It’s a supercar rather than a hypercar, though, so best to look at the gorgeous photos and imagine how it might stack up against whatever developments
THE VANQUISH WILL HAVE A VERSION OF THE 003’ S V6 AND BE REAR-WHEEL DRIVE ONLY
of the Ferrari F8 Tributo, McLaren 720S and Lamborghini Huracán Evo have been cooked up in three years’ time.
When its pronounced arches do roll out onto the roads around Gaydon, this Vanquish will have a version of the 003’s turbo V6, but with much milder hybrid elements and rear drive only. The chassis will be a mixture of aluminium and carbonfibre, as opposed to the 003 and Valkyrie’s sole use of the woven black fabric. Usability will be a higher priority and performance more accessible. The handling will perhaps focus a little more on fun rather than an outright aero-augmented lap time, although the Vanquish will no doubt still be impressive against the clock.
And that is really all that we know. At the moment this is more a statement of intent. A beautiful design study to get everyone excited. And it really is very pretty – more so than the Valkyrie or 003, because it isn’t beholden to the demands of a wind tunnel in quite the same way. The new family face is still there, but at the back there is a hint of 720S, albeit with a recognisably Aston shape to the flicked-up tail’s trailing edge.This more pronounced Aston design language perhaps reflects that while the 003, and to a lesser extent the Vanquish, will feature extensive input from Red Bull Advanced Technologies, both of these cars have sprung from Aston Martin, unlike the Valkyrie which came initially entirely from Newey. However, Nurnberger says that since working with the Formula 1 design genius, he and plenty of others within Aston have found themselves constantly questioning and pushing their designs to a much greater extent. Valkyrie has changed them.
Before seeing it, I thought there was a danger that in Aston Martin’s new brood of mid-engined models, the AM-RB 003 would suffer from Middle Child Syndrome. The first to arrive – the eldest, the Valkyrie – is clearly the privileged high-achiever. Meanwhile the youngster – the more approachable, more fun new Vanquish – will be the one that everyone can realistically dream of owning or at least seeing one day. However, endowed with four-wheel drive, the sci-fi FlexFoil technology and one of the most extraordinary cockpits I have ever sat in, the 003 feels like it has managed to be very much its own person. And there's little doubt that it could even prove to be the most interesting member of the family. ⌧
THESE CARS HAVE SPRUNG FROM ASTON MARTIN, UNLIKE THE VALKYRIE WHICH CAME FROM NEWEY
Below: AM-RB 003 features a turbocharged V6 hybrid powertrain with an electric motor driving the front wheels. Right: Driver takes up a reclined position
Above: Although a clear relative of the 003 hypercar, the Vanquish supercar will be more affordable and approachable. Right: …and look more like a McLaren 720S from the rear
Below: Top-exit exhausts will be a feature of the production AM-RB 003, which will also gain a proper Aston ‘V’ name (we’re betting on ‘Valiant’)