Automotive News, January 2019

Automotive News, January 2019

AUTOMOTIVE

There is something unmistakably Aston Martin about the new Vantage. It retains the British marque’s characteristic blend of aggression and sophistication – like a cage fighter squeezed into a Savile Row suit. However, it is in other respects quite different to cars that have gone before it and the rest of the current range.  The previous Aston Martin line-up felt a bit like a set of Russian dolls but now there is a concerted effort now to give each new model its own unique character. For the Vantage, it is intended to be the most driver-focused car in the range, the one delivering the purest sense of connection and involvement.

There remains an amount of commonality in the manufacturing process. Under the steel skin, there is a bonded extruded aluminium structure loosely based on that of the DB11. The front section of the chassis, as far back as the windscreen, is structurally identical although tuneable components, such as suspension bushes and engine mounts, are unique to the Vantage. From that point rearwards, virtually everything is bespoke. Aston Martin states circa 70% of the structure is new.

The new Vantage also marks a significant departure from the old model. The previous chassis used many straight extrusions, while the new platform relies heavily on castings that can be shaped to maximise available space. That is good news for passengers and their luggage, as at 350 litres, the boot is now larger than that of a Ford Focus also giving engineers room to accommodate things like larger wheels and a bigger fuel tank.

The new Vantage should consume less super unleaded fuel than its predecessor. Gone is the old 4.7-litre naturally aspirated V8, replaced by a 4-litre twin turbocharged unit sourced from Daimler, delivering 503bhp at 6,000rpm and with 685Nm of torque from just 2,000rpm. The power is also delivered in one vast sweep, right up to the 7,000rpm red line, with pin sharp responses and a total absence of turbo lag.

Fuel efficiency targets mean that Aston Martin has finally caved in and adopted electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) in place of the old hydraulic system.  As with most EPAS systems, however, the one area where it struggles is feeling.

When it comes to point-to-point pace, the new car deals a crushing blow to its predecessor. Even on cold, damp B-roads, the bespoke tyres do a remarkable job of handling the V8’s mammoth torque. It helps that the new structure is around 20% stiffer than the old one, while the rear sub frame is now mounted direct to the chassis (without the deformable bushes used in the DB11).

Road test reports so far from motoring journalists suggest, it is hard to find fault with the new Vantage. It is a capable and entertaining sports car. In addition, while it is unashamedly driver-focused there is still enough comfort and refinement for longer trips. More importantly, cars like the Vantage and the DB11 show Aston Martin is making good on promises to strengthen the core GT and sports car models, as well as forging on with its ambitious plans to tackle new sectors. If this car is anything to go by, the future at Aston Martin looks very bright indeed.

Honda UK has said it will shut down its Swindon factory for six days in April as part of its preparations for any disruption caused post-Brexit. The Japanese-owned car giant said the move was to ensure it could adjust to “all possible outcomes caused by logistics and border issues”.

The firm said it would help in recovering lost production if shipments of parts were held up at borders. Honda employs about 3,400 people at its Swindon plant. In a statement, the company said: “We are planning six non-production days in April 2019. This is to facilitate production recovery activity following any delays at borders on parts.

“These contingency provisions have been put in place to best mitigate the risk of disruption to production operations at the Swindon factory.” Meanwhile, Japanese car giant Toyota said it had “no contingency for no deal”.

A Toyota spokesperson said: “We need a deal. We will have peak production in March because we have a new model, the Corolla. “There is no planned production stop. No deal is not an option for us. We operate lean manufacturing and hold hours of inventory at the plant.”

The spokesperson added that the firm could “increase this by hours or perhaps a few days but there is no contingency that can offset no deal and production lines would start or stop”. Last year, the senior vice-president of Honda Europe warned that if the UK left the EU without a deal, it would cost his company tens of millions of pounds.

Ian Howells said that quitting the bloc without an agreement would affect the carmaker’s competitiveness in Europe.

He said the Japanese firm was preparing for a no-deal outcome, but had not discussed relocating its Swindon plant. The firm builds its Civic model in the UK for the global market.

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