One must usually be careful not to declare English car manufacturers ‘on a roll’ because their tendency to fall off pedestals is rivalled only by the nation’s football, rugby and cricket teams - but it’s hard not to consider the idiom appropriate to Aston Martin at the moment. Not so long ago, we declared the DBX707 the best (very) fast SUV you could buy. Even more recently, the new DB12 was good enough at launch to suggest it might very well be the class-leading Grand Tourer of its generation. Now it has launched this, the Valour, a ‘gloriously unapologetic’ V12-powered attempt to appeal to anyone who still thinks the Vantage of the ‘80s and ‘90s looked cool. Which is everyone reading this.
Aston calls it ‘the last of an era’ without pausing to define exactly what era it’s talking about (although certainly the 5.2-litre V12 is now on the last vestiges of life support) but the main reasoning appears to be a celebration of its maker’s 110 years of rich history, with regard to its front-engined sports cars in particular. And who could argue with that when over a century of (often precarious) production has brought us to this: a limited-edition model that sends 715hp to its rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox (and a mechanical limited-slip diff) and looks like something Bruce Wayne would drive to the gym.
Of course, if you said: ‘well, it looks like a Victor’, you would not be far wrong. Somewhat oddly, Aston chooses not to cite its one-off commission as inspiration for the Valour despite the striking resemblance, but it does mention many of the same reference points in passing - not least the original Vantage and the infamous (Vantage-based) RHAM/1 ‘Muncher’ Le Mans racer from 1980. Perhaps that’s because underneath the cars are very different: the Victor was based on a prototype One-77 carbon tub and shared its bonkers Cosworth-fettled 7.3-litre V12, whereas the Valour is built on the more familiar bonded aluminium platform that underpins both the Vantage and DB11, and gets the same twin-turbocharged 5.2-litre motor.
Happily, its slightly less exotic underpinnings mean Aston has the capacity to build 110 units globally rather than the single example of the Victor it delivered to a Belgian collector back in 2021. Not enough to have the vast majority of us pondering a deposit perhaps, but sufficiently numerous for a few at least to avoid the ignominy of a largely static private collection and actually be driven somewhere in anger. Which is good because it seems Aston has not twinned its outgoing V12 with a clutch pedal just for show.
“Inspired by the iconic, muscle cars from our past, we have endowed Valour with an abundance of power and torque, while using modern technology and engineering to make that performance more exploitable and enjoyable,” commented Simon Newton, Aston Martin’s Director of Vehicle Performance. “A big part of honouring that driver-pleasing character was mating our fabulous V12 engine to a manual transmission. It was a unique part of the brief and the end result is something truly unforgettable; a state-of-the-art driver’s car that thrives on being pushed to its limits and has the true heart and soul of a timeless analogue classic.”
Sounds pretty good, right? Well, as ever, the proof will be in the pudding - lest we forget, Aston has tried both a manual gearbox in the Vantage, and, just last year, a 700hp version of the V12; neither were considered quite the full ticket. But recent evidence suggests the firm is well on top of its development process at the moment, and beyond a ‘unique powertrain calibration’ it is promising bespoke suspension for the Valour, including adaptive dampers, springs and anti-roll bars honed specifically for the purpose, as well as dedicated camber, castor and toe settings.
All the more encouragingly, Aston has indicated that the Valour is a road car first and foremost, and stressed that while its mechanical diff is about enhancing a ‘direct analogue connection’ between car and driver - and despite labelling its drive models Sport, Sport+ and Track - it has been setup with sufficient compliance ‘to shine on great driving roads’. Elsewhere it notes that improved torsional and lateral stiffness courtesy of a rear suspension strut brace and additional fuel tank bracing has been targeted specifically to help increase rolling refinement.
Moreover, while the manufacturer did not share many technical or performance details ahead of the car’s online reveal, the Valour ought to deliver notable weight savings courtesy not only of standard-fit carbon ceramic brakes and a super-thin lightweight steel exhaust but also a body made entirely of carbon fibre. Speaking to the dramatic styling, Aston Martin’s Director of Design, Miles Nurnberger, said: “The raw physicality of the shape should tell you all you need to know about the ferocious performance and analogue thrills of taming a 715PS manual transmission sports car.”
The echoes of present and past continue inside where there’s a choice of machined aluminium, titanium, carbon fibre or even walnut for the gearknob, and an exposed shift mechanism beneath. The eagle-eyed will no doubt spot the architectural similarities to the Vantage’s layout, but otherwise exposed carbon fibre weave is the overriding theme - not least where it meets the traditional woollen tweed on the seats, the latter inspired by the coverings of Aston’s 1959 Le Mans-winning DBR1. Little wonder it’s billed as ‘a precious collector’s piece that demands to be driven’. Production is due to kick off in Q3 ahead of first deliveries in Q4. No word on price or availability yet, although if its maker hasn’t already called you about buying one, probably best to assume you’re out of luck.
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