Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer is one of the good ones. He's not just another talking head spouting the company line in rehearsed statements. He says more of substance than most CEOs, and he's intensely interesting and opinionated. He also doesn't hold back when it comes to information on the future of where the brand is heading.
That approach is working. Aston is resurgent, , and . It's an impressive run for an independent automaker from England that was on the brink not too many years ago.
And now the company has some intensely interesting products in the pipeline. One of which is a mid-engine supercar to rival the Ferrari 488 and Lamborghini Huracan. In an interview that wasn't at the Geneva Motor Show, but long before at the debut of the DB11 Volante, and for some reason I forgot to write up, Palmer provided insight into what we can expect from the company's first mid-engined model.
Right now, Aston has a multi-tiered engine strategy. Twin-turbo V12s built in house sit at the top of the lineup (the 5.9 liter NA unit will die when this Vanquish dies, Palmer says) and battery-electric tech will begin to work its way in with the DBX and other variants to help meet emissions regulations. Everything in between can be bought through a partnership with AMG, which includes the 4.0 liter V8s and possibly AMG's new straight-sixes.
But what about the mid-engine car? The V12 likely wouldn't fit and AMG doesn't build any mid-engine cars other than the Project One hypercar and supplying V12s to Pagani. What will Aston do? The company did make a substantial investment to develop its own V12, so it would make sense that perhaps a V6 version of that engine would find its home in the mid-engine car. Here's Palmer's take on what will power the car:
We're still looking at the concept of the mid-engine car, so it's still too early to say what we do. But it's true that if you think about a mid-engine car, the heart of that car is in the company, so normally you want to be able have fairly close definition over the engineering. Whether you ultimately source bits of it from a third party or keep it all in-house, that's to be determined. But the way I think I would define it, you need to have a lot of autonomy in terms of what you can do with the engine.
As for the gearbox? Well, it's logical that it'll have something with paddles, but could it have a manual? Palmer gave us hope, particularly after saying it wouldn't work in the DB11 because it's not that sort of car:
The Vantage is the most logical car to have a manual transmission–it might not be the only car to have a manual transmission, I'll leave that hanging there–but it's the car that will always have a manual transmission.
Now, Palmer said that he'd leave that hanging there. I didn't want to leave that hanging there. So I specifically asked about the case of the upcoming mid-engine car and its transmission options, particularly because the McLaren 720S, Lamborghini Huracan, Ferrari 488, and Porsche 911 Turbo, cars it'd directly compete with, don't offer a manual.
It's a really interesting debate. It'd be wrong of me to tell you one way or the other. There is an argument for it. Penetration is probably quite small. We have to decide whether were going to put a manual in there or not. But, at the same time, we haven't decided not to, either.
Now, that is far from a guarantee that there will be a manual, and remember, this interview is a few months old, but there is hope that the new car could be the only premium mid-engine model around with a real manual. And likely one with a dogleg.