Aston Martin is still going to take the fight to Ferrari but not with the Vanquish name and not with the car we expectedby Robert Moore, on LISTEN 05:48
Aston Martin showcased three cars at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show – the Valhalla, the Valkyrie, and the AM9 aka the Vanquish. Two of the three models have surfaced with the V-12 Valkyrie already living and the V-8 Valhalla aimed at the 2024 model year. A lot has changed since these three cars were revealed, the company has practically reinvented itself, and that was showcased in full with the evolution of the Valhalla. The AM9 Vanquish is set to be the third car in Aston’s mid-engined sports car lineup, and it will be a direct competitor to the Ferrari 296 GTB,but the concept we originally saw won’t be the final product. In fact, it probably won’t even wear the Vanquish name. Everything has changed now, and it’s probably for the better.
Evolution of the Aston Martin AM9 – Don’t Call it a Vanquish
According to Lawrence Stroll, Aston Martin Chairman, the AM9 will likely ditch the Vanquish name by the time it makes it to the production line, but that won’t be the only change. The most important change will be in the powertrain department. While the concept was showcased with Aston’s own V-6 engine, the production version of the AM9 will feature a 4.0-liter, twin-turbo, V-8 that’s borrowed from majority shareholder Mercedes-AMG. The engine will also be paired with an electric drive unit that will be the main component of a plug-in hybrid system, and together they will be so potent that they’ll rival that of the most powerful supercars on the road today.
The Valhalla is powered by AMG’s M178 V-8 from the AMG GT Black Series with a flat-plane crank and a 7,200 rpm redline, but the AM9 is meant to be an entry-level car – a term I use lightly as we’re still talking about a $300,000 entry price. Because of this, it won’t feature the same state of tune. Instead, the engine and tune will be taken straight from the AMG GT 63, which means the combustion-only output will hover right around 630 ponies. Hybridization is a guarantee for anything with an Aston Martin badge by 2025, and the PHEV version of the GT63 will probably loan its 201-horsepower electric motor for a combined output of 831 ponies, a figure that will place it perfectly between the Aston Martin DBS and the Valhalla in terms of power.
Here’s the real kicker, though. The original AM9 concept won’t just be willing to accept a new and larger V-8 engine. And there’s no way Aston can go back to the V-6 as its development was shut down some time ago. As such, Aston Martin has to completely rework the AM9 concept to accommodate the larger but also more cost-effective German V-8. The good news is that it will still be a lightweight rocket for the road, it will just have a V-8 and heavily modified body and chassis instead. The new AM9 will feature a carbon-fiber tub that will allow for the perfect combination of structural rigidity and lightness. It should tip the scales at less than 1,500 kg or around 3,300 pounds. For reference, the 2020 Honda Accord tipped the scales at anywhere between 3,131 and 3,428 pounds.
The AM9’s lightweight nature will be largely supported by a unique aerodynamics package that’s inspired by the Valkyrie. This aerodynamic profile will maximize downforce while allowing for high-speed cornering agility. There’s no word on how much downforce will be created, but the Valhalla is able to produce some 600 kg of downforce at 150 mph. Though, the aero on the AM9 might not be quite so extreme as it’s meant to rival cars like the Ferrari 296 GTB, which means the aero has to be road-focused and paired with driver-oriented ergonomics and long-distance refinement, among other things. When launched, the AM9 will feature Aston’s new touchscreen infotainment system that will also land in the Aston Martin Vantage, DBS, and DB11 by the end of 2022.
The AM9 will serve an even bigger role down the road, though, as it will also become the basis for a dedicated track car, similar to that of the Ferrari LaFerrari-based FXXK and 599XX customer race cars. The resulting racecar will be used in a one-make series that will span across Europe, North America, and Asia. The company has planned to launch this one-make series for a while but decided to wait until it had a proper mid-engined car to do it with, and the new AM9 will be the key. When the AM9 enters production, it will also be a key player in the brand’s push into electrification and will probably be the final new product launched before its first EV hits the road in 2025. By that time, the brand’s entire lineup will be hybrid, and more electric models will eventually be on the way.
Further down the road, Aston will slowly transition into a pure-EV lineup, but high-output hybrid cars like the Valhalla and the AM9 (or whatever it will be called if it’s not Vanquish) will keep the company going and the enthusiasts happy. The company openly admits that its customer base is full of petrolheads and enthusiasts who “want to smell them and want the noise.” So, these high-powered, big-engined, hybrid cars will be the best of both worlds and will continue to generate revenue as the company invests deeper into widescale electrification. With the first EV coming in 2025, one could argue that Aston Martin is already on its way.