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Aston Martin DB9 leads revamp

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Aston Martin DB9 leads revamp

Friday, June 11, 2010

Aston Martin will revamp its DB9 flagship and Vantage two-seater in 2013/14, as the firm strives to refresh its range without going to the expense of engineering all-new models.

A plan for a more fundamental revamp of the cars, together with a shift further upmarket, has been shelved due to the impact of the global financial crisis.

See Autocar's artist's impression of the new Aston DB9

Instead, Aston is focusing on a detailed engineering overhaul of the DB9/Vantage's current bonded aluminium structure, which will be clothed in new body panels and fitted out with revamped interiors.

Our artist's impression gives a feel for how the reskin will look, although the final styling still has to be signed off.

Inspiration for the new DB9 will come from Aston's limited-run One-77 supercar, although the styling will be toned down for the bigger-selling model.

A key new detail is understood to be a distinctive bodyside feature line that flows out of the hallmark air vent on each front wing. The Vantage has a similar feature, and it has migrated to the four-door Rapide.

Otherwise the styling will be a crisper version of today's handsome car. Aston is also understood to be experimenting with versions of the wide, deep front grille from the One-77, a theme first seen on the DB7 Zagato, although insiders suggest that any future production version of that grille needs to be more subtle on the DB9.

While these styling changes will freshen the DB9 in its second generation, key dimensions such as the wheelbase, width, height and front/rear overhangs will be largely unchanged, as Aston's engineers concentrate on improving the technology they already have at their disposal.

"We're not going to start from scratch again when we already have experience with excellent cutting-edge technology," an Aston source revealed.

A major focus of projects VH500 (DB9) and VH600 (Vantage) is to get weight down through the detailed redesign of the individual extrusions and pressings that make up the car's alloy tub. "There's plenty more yet to come from the VH platform," said one insider.

Some sources suggest Aston is searching for a 10 per cent weight reduction, a target that would push the DB9 below 1500kg.

Despite being constructed from lightweight aluminium, neither the DB9 nor Vantage is a featherweight. The DB9, for example, tips the scales at 1760kg, around 130kg heavier than the Ferrari California, despite the fact that the Italian car has a folding metal roof. And even the larger Ferrari 599 is lighter than the DB9, undercutting it by up to 70kg.

As well as focusing on improving the underlying structure of the two supercars, Aston is looking at exotic materials for some body parts. Leaning on its experience with the One-77, that could mean composite and possibly carbonfibre exterior body panels, although the latter option may yet prove too expensive for Aston¹s volume models.

Power for the DB9 and Vantage will continue to come from the current V12 and V8 powerplants, although much modified. Aston believes both engines are capable of further detailed development and will be re-engineered into more powerful, more fuel-efficient next-gen versions.

Aston chairman David Richards recently confirmed that the V12 has a long-term future. "Our V12 has still got another generation to go," he told Autocar.

Tweaks for the next-gen V12 are likely to include lessons learned on Aston's GT race version of the engine. "There's a lot of potential crossover from the race V12 to the production engine," said Richards.

However, the improvements are unlikely to include a switch to the racing V12’s direct injection fuel system. The complexity and engineering expense of fitting it to Aston’s road cars aren¹t justified by any potential fuel consumption and emissions savings.

Other improvements might increase power and torque from today's 470bhp/442lb ft, but the main gains will be to lift economy above 18mpg while pushing CO2 emissions down from 345g/km. Getting close to 300g/km must be a target for Aston. The California, for example, records 306g/km, although it features a V8 powerplant rather than a V12.

Such a move will have to be handled in conjunction with EU legislators, who have given low-volume car makers two potential routes to cut CO2 emissions while volume car makers work towards a fleet average of 130g/km by 2015.

Because Aston produces fewer than 10,000 cars a year, it will be able to negotiate its own path to CO2 reduction.



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