Designing Aston’s sleek new superathletes
Mark Smyth catches up with Marek Reichman, the man who oversees every aspect of Aston Martin design
It’s all going on at Aston Martin nowadays. Just a few years ago it was being criticised for launching models that had looked the same for years, albeit in a classic, acceptably Aston kind of way.
Then the DB11 came along, followed quickly by the new Vantage, and they just keep on coming.
The man who has overseen this dramatic change is the same man who stuck with the company through the years of tweaked designs. Marek Reichman, Aston’s chief creative officer, has seen many changes at the company and has been frustrated that some have not come fast enough in the past. We caught up with him recently to talk about the new energy in the brand.
Reichman told us that he always knew the potential and so he “hung in”. He says there was always a “pent-up desire to show capability but there wasn’t much wind in the sails”. It’s all changed now under boss Andy Palmer he says. “We have a heartbeat, we are now a trained athlete.”
The company maximised that heartbeat at the recent Geneva International Motor Show by showing three new models and the Lagonda luxury SUV.
“We need to have concepts, visions,” says Reichman, but it is the way those concepts and visions are becoming reality that is impressive. The RB-003, a joint collaboration with Aston’s F1 partner, Red Bull Racing, is 95% of what the final product will be, says Reichman. The RB, with the Valkyrie, could have been showstoppers in their own right, but from nowhere the company pulled out the Vanquish concept, which Reichman says is 85% of the production version.
“You can see connections to Vantage and RB-003,” he says, although it is a very different Vanquish to the recent generations, which were based more on the DB models. However, he points out that the original Vanquish was not based on a DB which is much more GT than the new concept sports car.
“The GT in reality is the DB, even the Vantage is not a GT, it’s a 2+0 front-engined sports car,” he says. The concept is all about the new overarching umbrella of beauty in design.
“Not since the Lamborghini Miura has there been a really beautiful mid-engined car,” he says. “Lamborghini has its own beauty, while Ferrari has its technology.” Reichman believes that in the Vanquish concept, Aston can bring beauty and technology together in its own way.
Reichman has much more scope to work with nowadays too. The company has built its second design studio alongside Red Bull Racing in Milton Keynes, UK. Forty people are working on new mid-engined models in what is called the Advanced Operations Design Centre.
Elsewhere development of the company’s first SUV is in its final stages. Mules seen in pictures show a fake body, although he says the aerodynamics are correct and it sits on the real platform. That platform is brand new, something not all rivals have been able to do.
“Bentley had to use the Volkswagen platform [for the Bentayga]. We created our own platform.”
Originally expected to be a crossover, the DBX is now being billed as a proper SUV, but Reichman says it can’t really be labelled as either, saying it is a product fitted to its customers.
Internally those customers are being referred to as Charlotte, a proxy for the buyer Aston is expecting for the DBX. Charlotte is a managing director and also a mum. The DB11 doesn’t work for her because she needs to throw kids’ stuff in and so she’ll go for the DBX instead. Charlotte might be the target but we suspect Charlie might be interested too.
But what about the Rapide, wasn’t that also created for executives with children? True, says Reichman, but the Rapide is at the end of its life and will be replaced by the DBX. The current Rapide AMR and upcoming Rapide E, the company’s first battery-electric car, will be the swansong versions for the Aston with the swan doors.
Regardless of whether it’s a GT, a supercar or an SUV, Reichman is adamant that design has to stay the most important focus within Aston Martin.
It is clear he is a man on a mission, let off the leash to create some of the designs he has always wanted to proudly put his name to. It’s exciting times for him and for Aston.