Aston Martin may well be associated with soulful V8s and thumping V12s these days - even if it no longer produces the former itself - but there was a time when buyers of the British marque's machines expected to find a rather different layout beneath the bonnet. From the DB2 of 1950 right up until production of the DBS ended in 1972, Astons were sold with the suck, squeeze, bang and blow of six cylinders.
That shouldn't have been the case, of course; the DBS was intended purely as a V8 and, from 1969 was sold as such alongside the straight-six. From then on, though, the company never looked back, its engines continuing to grow in size and output, right up to the naturally-aspirated 6.5-litre V12 found in its upcoming Valkyrie hypercar.
Sitting beneath that in the mid-engined pecking order of the future, though, will be the Valhalla and, while just 150 Valkyries will ever be made, up to 500 Valhallas are expected to find owners once production begins. More significantly, the engine used in the Valhalla's hybrid powertrain is set to be found in Aston's first ever mid-engined series-production car, the new Vanquish, when it arrives later this decade.
That engine is a six-cylinder unit. Not a straight-six as in years gone by, but a 3.0-litre V6 which, when paired with the rest of the hybrid tech designed for the Valhalla's powertrain will make it the most powerful set-up in the Aston Martin range. Development of the company's in-house system is well underway, and now Gaydon has revealed the first details of what we can expect.
Codenamed the TM01 - in honor of Tadek Marek, the legendary Aston engineer who developed the firm's Lagonda straight-six and V8 engines - the unit is said to have already undergone an extensive series of dyno tests, though its final power and torque figures are yet to be determined.
Many lessons learnt from the development of the Valkyrie have been applied to its design though, all of which will surely benefit the finished product. For starters, the engine has been developed with a 'hot V' layout, not only keeping its proportions compact but allowing it to weigh less than 200kg. The promise of "higher engine speeds" meanwhile, in combination with the benefits of electrification, are said to offer "an extreme level" of performance while remaining Euro 7 compliant.
Joerg Ross, Powertrain Chief Engineer said of the motor: "This project has been a great challenge from the start. Putting a team together to deliver what is going to be the future power of Aston Martin has been an honour. From the very beginning, we have had the freedom to explore and innovate in a way that we have not been able to do so in a very long time. Most importantly, we wanted to create something that is befitting of the TM01 nameplate and create something that would have impressed our predecessor and pioneering engineer, Tadek Marek".
Aston CEO, Andy Palmer, added: "Investing in your own powertrains is a tall order, but our team have risen to the challenge. Moving forward, this power unit will be integral to a lot of what we do and the first signs of what this engine will achieve are incredibly promising."
With the current financial difficulties Aston is facing, the uncertainty surrounding the economic impact of Covid-19 and the emissions regulations to which all manufacturers will have to adhere in the near future, the TM01 could well be the marque's most important ever engine. It's important it gets it right, then, and the return to six-cylinders looks to be as good a bet as any.