At the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, Aston Martin showed off two production-bound concept vehicles: The Vanquish Vision Concept and the AM-RB 003. Together, they represent Aston's bold vision for the future, and a huge departure for an automaker that, up until the Valkyrie, had exclusively built front-engine, rear-drive machines.
So what distinguishes the Vanquish from the AM-RB 003? I spoke with Simon Croft, global launch strategy manager for Aston Martin, to learn exactly the role each car will play in the future of Aston Martin.
Essentially, the Vanquish Vision Concept (and the production car that will follow) brings Aston Martin into the realm of mid-engine supercars. The AM-RB 003 plays in the hypercar stratosphere.
"Vanquish, underneath, will be an aluminum tub, whereas 003 will be a carbon tub," Croft told me. "The skin surface on Vanquish is to be determined, but we do know that 003 will have much more of a full carbon-fiber skin. From a styling point of view, Vanquish is much more the beautiful car; 003 is very much influenced by Valkyrie in terms of styling. There’s more of what our styling colleagues would call negative space. There’s more cut away on 003 than there is on Vanquish.
"They are not Russian-doll in their styling. They are not cookie-cutter in any way, shape or form," he continued. "There is a clear difference between the two in terms of look and style and feel."
That difference continues into the engine compartment. Both the Vanquish and the AM-RB 003 drivetrains will be based around Aston's upcoming twin-turbo V-6 (designed and engineered in-house), and both will feature some form of hybridization. But the AM-RB 003 will be much more powerful, with a different level of involvement from the hybrid drivetrain. Croft estimates that the 003 will do a sub-three-second 0-60 sprint, with a top speed beyond 220 mph; the Vanquish will take a little more than three seconds to reach 60, and max out at something beyond 200 mph.
As for all-wheel drive? "We’re starting to reach the limit of what rear-drive on its own can do," Croft explained. To us, it sounds like 003 could have a dedicated electric motor driving the front axle, while Vanquish could remain rear-drive with some form of hybrid engine assist. Croft clarified that neither vehicle will be offered as a pure EV.
A casual glance at both vehicles makes it clear that 003 was shaped for maximum downforce, with plenty of influence from the outrageous Valkyrie. At the rear, the 003 features Flex Foil, a new Aston Martin technology that, similar to the McLaren Speedtail, uses a flexible body surface with internal actuators to infinitely vary the angle of the rear spoiler. "It's still to be determined whether we can integrate that into Vanquish as well," Croft said.
Is a manual transmission planned for either mid-engine car? "Not at the moment," Croft said. "I know [Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer] has been very clear that there will always be a manual derivative within the Aston Martin range. We’re looking at the Vantage. We’ll certainly look to bring in a manual variant." But for the mid-engine cars, "that’s going to start getting tricky in terms of engine management systems, getting it to talk to the hybrid unit," Croft explained. "Even if we could, the market would be very limited for that kind of thing. But we want to stay true to the message that there will always be a manual within the Aston Martin range as a whole, rather than every single product within that range."
Perhaps the best way to contextualize the AM-RB 003 and the Vanquish is by pricing. Croft explained that the 003 will be limited to 500 units, commanding roughly £1 million each (approximately $1.3 million at current exchange rates). The Vanquish, by comparison, would not be nearly as limited in number, with pricing to compete with the Ferrari F8.