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


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


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. ⌧


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’)

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