Wagonistas the world over got a little hot under the collar at the 2017 Geneva motor show, as both Mercedes-AMG and Porsche took the covers off two super-brisk, super-practical estates – the E63 S Estate and Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo. But alas, British sports car brand Aston Martin says it is unlikely to enter that particular fray.
Speaking to CarAdvice at the 2017 Geneva motor show, Aston Martin Special Operations vice president David King said, although one-off specials are part and parcel of what Aston Martin do, a performance wagon is not currently on the table.
“I think for us, the DBX – the SUV we’re working on – is our step into that sort of vehicle, in terms of practicality and space,” King said.
“I don’t think we’ve got an estate car on the drawing board. I think if you came to me with a commission to make one for you, we’d take a look at it. But for us, the big step is going into that luxury SUV market with the DBX in a few years time. Then we’ll see if we can make an AMR version – we’re only speculating here...”
At the pointy end of a team tasked with creating Aston Martin specials, King said with support from committed shareholders and its new-since-2014 chief executive – Andy Palmer – he and his team are thoroughly encouraged to work with the design department in dreaming up ideas.
“The GT12 that we launched a couple of years ago, came from within my team – something we’d always wanted to do to the Vantage. And we’ve now got licence to go out and do that. And with each success builds the confidence that we can deliver.
“By being careful in the limited numbers that we commit to sell, we generate demand, and people know, with confidence, they can buy a special edition Aston, and they’ll sell out, they have to get in early, and they’ll get something that’s a long-term investment.
“But we’ll keep making real, proper, credible cars that excite our customers, because we love doing it really.”
King highlighted that realities such as legislation and safety targets must always be met, however, “The beauty of the special editions is that we can take a slightly different approach to the investment-versus-cost equations.”
“So we’ve been encouraged to really push the edges on what we can do,” King said.
“Since the [Lagonda Taraf of 2014/2015] we’ve done a number of one-off commissions – we showed a GT12 Roadster last year at Goodwood for example. So, if you look at the Q range, including Aston Martin’s new Q Collection models, we then move from that to Q Commission, which can be anything you like – from bespoke leathers and paints, to an entirely new design of a car.
“And then on top of that now, we’ve got our AMR sub-brand, which allows similar levels of customisation, but in a more harcore way. It’s not just about colour or trim or materials, it’s about hardcore performance attributes as well.”
Speaking of hardcore, King told CarAdvice the V12-powered Aston Martin Vulcan supercar was born out of a desire from his team to step into the world of track-day exotics.
“We came up with the idea of Vulcan, and it was created entirely within my team,” a team that over the last five years has grown from a dozen staff to 60 or 70 people. “And that gave us the confidence to take on something much more ambitious, which is Valkyrie,” King said.
“We knew that there was a market for these high-priced cars if we get them right. Valkyrie’s slightly different in that it’s a major collaboration with Red Bull Advanced Technologies and with Adrian Newey in particular, but my team still has the role of delivering that car, taking it through to launch, supporting Adrian’s vision, choosing all the suppliers, managing the program, and working with Marek Reitman’s design team.
“To be fair, this is Adrian Newey’s vision that he’s always had… So, in that sense, we’re more the facilitators of Adrian’s dream, rather than creators of the idea, which brings its own challenges.
“Everything is new, everything is extreme, everything is optimised to within half a per cent as you would do in Formula 1, so there’s an obsession to detail. Balancing that with a need to meet some sort of timing targets and usability targets is fascinating. And the art of any great car is in the trade-offs you make in the balance of the compromises you make to achieve the balance of attributes. So it’s going to be extraordinary."
“Those cars didn’t sell overnight, they were slow burners, it took some time to fill the order books – the fact that we were in the middle of a recession didn’t help. But overtime, we’ve seen prices for those cars go up. People know that limited edition Aston Martins are collectable, long-term investments, and they’re great cars as well.
“So, we’re now at a stage where we announce the car with a volume. We’re not greedy on the volume, things just sell out. And that’s a delicate balance. I’d hate to think we’d ever push the volume too high. There should always be one less car then there are customers.”
Powered by a Cosworth-sourced 6.5-litre V12, the Aston Martin Valkyrie – formerly known as the AM-RB 001 – is “pretty complete in the virtual world”, with the first physical prototypes expected to start testing in early 2018.