PH Footnote: Mid-Engined Aston Martins

Even if CEO Andy Palmer hadn't confirmed as much back in October, we could be pretty sure from its recruitment activity that Aston Martin was in the midst of developing a mid-engined performance car. We know the £2.5m Valkyrie is on its way, of course, high-revving V12 motor mounted mid-ships, but Gaydon is bringing a mainstream mid-engined supercar to market, too.

Palmer has already said that the new vehicle, due to arrive in 2021, will be a rival for the Ferrari 488 GTB, the car he considers to be the benchmark in the sector.

Since day one, though, Aston Martin has built front-engined cars. It's as ingrained within the fibre of the brand as four-wheel drive is at Audi. To navigate the somewhat significant issue of not actually knowing how to build a mid-engined car, Aston Martin has been on an aggressive recruitment drive. It's been hiring left, right and centre (or should that be middle?) In fact, if you've spent any meaningful length of time developing such cars, there's a pretty good chance Palmer will be phoning you up sometime soon.

A little over a year ago Aston poached Max Szwaj from Ferrari, where he was Head of Innovation and Body Engineering. He now holds the illustrious post of Chief Technical Officer at Aston Martin. Around the same time Gaydon also recruited Matt Becker from Lotus, hoping, one suspects, that he would sprinkle the same ride and handling magic dust over Warwickshire as he did over Norfolk. Coming from Ferrari and Lotus respectively, Szwaj and Becker will, of course, be very well versed in the ways of the mid-engined performance car. Perhaps the most surprising appointment of all, though, was that of Chris Goodwin from McLaren. Surprising because, very new though the road car business is, Goodwin just seemed like a McLaren man through and through.

There have been plenty of behind the scenes appointments, too, all of which mean Aston Martin now has a wealth of mid-engined experience within its ranks. This tells us one very encouraging thing; Aston Martin is not moving into this sector lightly. I spoke recently to the marque's Chief Marketing Officer Simon Sproule, who pointed out that the high performance market is heading in only one direction. Wealthy performance car buyers, he says, increasingly want the harder-edged dynamics, exoticism and visual theatre of a mid-engined car.

All of which leaves us to ponder, for the next three years at least, exactly what a mid-engined Aston Martin might be like. Me? I think it'll be unlike anything we've seen from Aston before, and not just because the engine will have been dropped in behind the cabin. I reckon Aston Martin will depart from its century-old grand touring background entirely, not get bogged down in making it any more useable or comfortable than it needs to be and deliver a genuine, focussed alternative to the 488 GTB and McLaren 720S. It will not in any way be a mid-engined GT car. (We can revisit this piece in 2021 and consider just how wildly inaccurate my prediction was.)

There are no further details out there just yet. We don't know what the car's underpinnings will be - carbon fibre tub? - nor do we know how it'll be powered. Palmer has promised, though, that the car will not be styled so much by airflow as by the eye. It will bring beauty to the sector, apparently.

It's tremendous news, no doubt, but you can't help but wonder just how many £200,000 (or thereabouts) supercars the market can support. It's getting very crowded in there. The rich keep on getting richer, though, and Aston Martin certainly has the brand kudos to stand toe-to-toe with the established proponents of mid-engined architecture. Given that the car will be straying away from almost 110 years of Aston Martin heritage, perhaps it could be called the Vagabond.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (53) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Mantis1964 13 Jan 2018

    It would worry me that Andy Palmer considers the 488 to be the benchmark. It's some way behind the benchmark now.

  • Mantis1964 13 Jan 2018

    It would worry me that Andy Palmer considers the 488 to be the benchmark. It's some way behind the benchmark now.

  • je777 13 Jan 2018

    The worst thing they could do, styling-wise, is insist it 'looks like an Aston' and thus end up with the sort of monstrosity pictured or, as an example, the Porsche Panamera.
    Your cars don't all have to look the same. Why do manufacturers think that's an advantage? (And aren't people who spend £100k on a car irked that it looks like the £30k car?)

  • macdeb 13 Jan 2018

    Aston Martin arte going from strength to strength and I wish them all the very best with it.

  • GingerPixel 13 Jan 2018

    Won't the 488 be getting a little long in the tooth to be a benchmark by the time 2021 comes around?

    Having a mid engine GT must be somewhat motivated by going racing.

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