You want to drive James Bond's latest car, have an Aston Martin DB10 of your own in the driveway? We've got good news, and bad: you can't, but you can have one better.
The new DB11 from Aston Martin will debut early next year, replacing the DB9 as the brand's flagship grand-tourer. The DB10, like the spy who drove it, is a purely fictional thing.
We'll get a first look of the DB11 at one of the European auto shows – likely Geneva, in early March – so it could be on the road by late 2016. We don't know much about it, except that it'll look a lot like Bond's DB10 and will benefit from Mercedes-Benz electronics. The engine could be an AMG twin-turbo V-8, or a further evolution of Aston's V-12.
The DB11 isn't just important for Bond fantasists, but for the survival of this century-old British car maker.
The car will be a first glimpse at a new era for Aston Martin, one that's overdue. If Aston is to survive as an independent auto maker competing with Porsche, Bentley and Ferrari, it needs to do some catching up.
Ferrari and other rivals all have parent companies, while Aston Martin is but a small independent firm. Like so many British car companies, it has struggled to stay afloat. It's gone bankrupt twice in its 102-year history.
"The next step is to get away from the boom/bust Aston history," says company spokesman Matt Clarke. "To do that, you've got to become self-sustaining, and we know we'll need a broader product portfolio and more differentiation between products."
Andy Palmer, Aston's new CEO, has said that by the end of the decade the company will have an all-new lineup, including the DB11, the DBX crossover shown in Geneva this year, and an all-electric sedan.
We've been burned before. We got our hopes up about a barrage of new cars from Lotus, when it unveiled six new concepts at the 2010 Paris auto show. None ever made it to the road. And the rebirth of TVR? (The latest one.) Haven't heard much about that recently. But we hope, because we love cars – beautiful, weird, brilliant, fast cars.
Aston's situation is unique, of course. Unlike the previous two examples, Aston has an enviable international brand image.
Coolness alone is not enough though. Catching up with Porsche and others will take money, and lots of it. Aston has posted a loss since 2011, according to a report from Automotive News. In October, the company warned it would need to cut 300 jobs as it restructured.
But Aston Martin has three big things going for it.
The first is new investment that will help fund expansion plans, including a new factory for the DBX crossover. A couple of years ago, private equity fund Investindustrial announced a 37.5 per cent stake in Aston Martin for €150-million. The same fund was responsible for turning around Ducati's fortunes and selling it to Audi.
The second, is new leadership. Palmer left a top position at Renault-Nissan to take the CEO job at Aston, vacant since Ulrich Bez stepped aside. The company has also lured Matt Becker from Lotus, where he was one of the chassis-tuning engineers responsible for giving those cars sublime, industry-leading handling.
And third is a partnership with AMG through parent company Daimler. The deal means Aston will be able to use Mercedes electronics and AMG V-8 engines and gearboxes. All the technology should be under the hood, in the background, says John Caress, chief program engineer at Aston Martin.
"It has to be bespoke for Aston. I don't think they'd want our cars to sound like an AMG GTS for instance, and we definitely don't – because it doesn't sound like an Aston Martin should."
The company looks poised to do big things, but the stakes couldn't be higher. The DB11 needs to be brilliant, right out of the box. Will it launch a new era for Aston, a new lineup of cars unlike the company has ever built before: sports cars alongside SUVs and electric sedans? Will it set the company up for the long-term? We'll be watching.
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
Add us to your circles
Sign up for our weekly newsletter