Dynamic advantages of modern design
Mark Smyth spoke to Sam Holgate, exterior designer of the new Aston Martin Vantage
We’ve driven the new Aston Vantage and it is a very different car to the various generations of Vantage that preceded it.
That’s all I can tell you because we are subject to an international embargo on our impressions of the drive in Portugal a couple of weeks ago until 1.01am on April 11. So be sure to get Motor News on April 12 for our full story. It will be worth the read, especially if this is the Aston you’ve been waiting for.
What we can tell you, though, is that we had a long chat with the strategic design manager for the exterior of the latest Vantage, Sam Holgate, and it’s a story that partly began with the DB10 that was created initially for the James Bond movie Spectre. Twenty models were produced, making them instant collectors’ items but it is the design of the DB10 that really stands out for heralding a new era for the British marque.
The new Vantage was already in the design phase with the early product code CC100, with the first clay model having been produced. Holgate says that the producers of Spectre came into the design studio at the Aston Martin head office in Gaydon, UK and saw one of his early sketches for the Vantage and said "build that" for the movie.
They did and so essentially the DB10 was the first concept of the new Vantage. Since then the new DB11 has also gone on sale, also showing a number of design cues from the movie car.
And the new Vantage stays true to the movie concept. "Everyone wants to make cars that look like concept cars," says Holgate. "We still try to challenge wherever possible."
The latest generation marks a dramatic change in direction from the traditional design of the Vantage. There remain a few elements of heritage such as the horseshoe curve in the bonnet, but most of it is radically different to the point of polarising opinion among Aston fans.
It is wider and longer than the last generation, but "one of few cars where it appears to be smaller than it is", says Holgate. The wheels have been pushed way out to each corner with taut flares around the arches in a nod to the old car. It is all about maintaining that traditional Aston stance and DNA.
The dramatic facade takes the shark nose idea from the DB10 but adds more visual appeal inspired by the Vulcan supercar and it features narrow headlights to give it even more attitude. Up front in particular the team had to be aware of all the pieces of global legislation, particularly when it comes to pedestrian impact, but Holgate says the design team understands the legislative and engineering constraints and worked as a wider team within the firm.
Engineering constraints are also something that can often be seen in the shutlines between panels, but Holgate says the team is continuously pushing for super-tight gaps around the car. One area where they have achieved it is at the rear courtesy of what the design team calls the "infinity gap". Essentially the gap between the boot and the integrated bumper panel almost disappears beneath an overlap, providing a more discreet gap. It adds to the clean rear lines that are emphasised even further by the subtle "duck tail" spoiler and the curved LED lamps that run the width of the car.
Then there is the massive diffuser; undoubtedly one of the most dramatic pieces of design on the Vantage but also one of the most controversial.
In certain colour combinations it can look terrible, in others, such as black on black or grey, it is less extrovert.
We asked Holgate if he had a design without the diffuser, perhaps for a more executive GT version like McLaren has done with the 570GT. He could not answer, but he did say that most of the aerodynamics are beneath the car so I can see a future model with a more elegant look for those who want slightly less aggressive looks. Does it all work? Again, embargo, so you will have to wait to find out.
Holgate was not in charge of the interior but as part of the design team he was involved to an extent. He says the key thing was to move away from the traditional "waterfall" design of the centre console while creating lines that flow across the cabin rather than down.
The tie-up with Mercedes-AMG means there are components that come from Affalterbach, but the Aston design team have added their own touches.
What we can definitely say, though, is that from a design perspective, Holgate and the team under design director Marek Reichman have created a vehicle that on looks alone appears to be very dynamic.