See Aston Martin Vantage Lap The Nurburgring In 7:43

Ah yes, the famed Nordschleife, one of the most dangerous and demanding circuits in the entire world. Known as the official or unofficial testing ground of the world’s fastest cars and drivers (depending on who you ask), the lap times recorded here are also considered to be the word of God (or any higher being that you may believe in) by automotive enthusiasts, and by bros who use the numbers as a way of showing off their latest enthusiast knowledge at your local car meet. In all seriousness, though, the Nordschleife will always be the benchmark for any gearhead, and the chance to run a hot lap in an Aston Martin Vantage is just too good to pass up. Just ask the guys over at Sport Auto, a channel dedicated to flogging all things on four wheels around the world’s most famous tracks. Their goal is to find out just how fast Mr. Bond’s car can go. 

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Aston Martin has a wildly successful history in creating some of the most iconic British sports cars and grand tourers. While one might be hardcore and the other more practical, every Aston has performance at the forefront of their key feature set. The Aston Martin Vantage is the former. Oh, and it helps that the Vantage is gorgeous, too. Under the hood is a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that makes 503 horsepower and 505 pound-feet of torque, and behind the wheel for this run is Sport Auto’s Test Driver Christian Gebhardt; no stranger to high horsepower cars and demanding circuits. With onboard cameras and extra bits of info like the actual time, g forces, and an accurate speedometer, we can see how the car behaves and how the driver manages the car on the track. 

While we won’t be the judge of the actual time, let’s just say that when looking at the other Sport Auto hot lap videos, the Vantage is splitting hairs with much heavier and larger vehicles (the BMW M5 is faster by almost 5 seconds!?). Granted, factory times are always faster than these runs by magazines and press, but when the driver is giving the same amount of effort in pulling off a good lap, it all comes down to how the car feels and performs. So, for a stunning car just shy of $150,000, would you get one?


Billionaire Stroll takes major stake in Aston Martin

The £500 million investment will include £55.5 million of short-term funding from Stroll to improve the immediate liquidity of the company, which will be refunded once the full share placing is finalised. The firm said the proceeds from the investment will be used to “improve liquidity and finance the ramp up in production of DBX and turnaround of the company’s performance.” 

In a statement confirming the deal, Aston Martin Lagonda said the move would “strengthen its balance sheet to necessarily and immediately improve liquidity and reduce leverage” following “the disappointing performance of the business through 2019”.

Aston Martin was floated in 2018 with a valuation of £4.5 billion, but based on today’s share issue is currently worth around £1bn.

As part of the investment, Stroll will join the Aston Martin board in the role of executive chairman, with the consortium also gaining the right to appoint a second board member.

What the Stroll deal means for Aston’s future product plan and F1

According to the Aston Martin release, the current technology partnership between Aston Martin and Red Bull Advanced Technologies “will continue until Aston Martin Valkyrie is delivered.” There had been questions as to wether the partnership between the two firms on the hypercar would continue with new investors in place, and it is unclear if Red Bull’s involvement in the mid-engined Valhalla project will continue unabated.

Aston Martin currently sponsors the Red Bull F1 team – and will continue to do so in 2020 –  but has thereafter agreed a 10-year deal under which Racing Point will become the official works Aston squad. The deal includes a five-year sponsorship agreement starting in 2021.

Stroll has also been linked to a deal to buy the Mercedes works team from the manufacturer at the end of this season, as first reported by Autocar. The German firm is understood to be considering the future of its F1 arm beyond the coming season. It is believed today’s deal does not necessarily mean Stroll is out of the running to buy the squad.

Due to Aston Martin’s recent struggles, the firm has also agreed a ‘reset business plan’ to raise its performance, which includes both cash generation and changing its product plan.  The reset plan includes delaying investment in electric vehicles until beyond 2025, including delaying the relaunch of the Lagonda brand – scheduled for 2022 – until after that date. The Rapide E electric car project has been “paused pending a review”.

There remains a commitment to deliver on its range of mid-engined cars currently being developed, starting with the Valhalla in 2022.

The immediate priority will be on launching the DBX later this year, with the firm saying it has received 1800 orders to date. It will then update the Vantage in the Spring – including with a Roadster version – and start Valkyrie deliveries later this year. The firm will also seek to trim costs by £10 million per year.

The mid-engined Vanquish will now be revealed after the Valhalla in 2022, while the firm will also develop a “fuel efficient, modular V6 engine with hybrid capabilities”, due to be introduced from the mid-2020s.

The firm also says special models will continue to be a key part to its plan, with one ‘heritage special’ and two ‘contemporary specials’ delivered each year. 


Exclusive: Andy Palmer on Aston Martin’s investment deal and future

Shouldn’t you have done that before?

“We had to pay our bills, most notably the one to build a new factory. We made that decision in 2016 when the going was good and were committed to it. You can’t build a new factory and a new SUV that’s true to your values by cutting corners. The costs were fixed in a bullish market that turned to crap.”

How bad was last year?

“Very. Our retail sales were up 12%, our marketshare was up in a lot of markets, but the slice of the pie was less and the profitability of what we sold not good enough. The list goes on. It was a bad year.”

Don’t you have to take the responsibility for that?

“Yes. I’m chief executive. I’m responsible for that and for where we are. Clearly there were factors I couldn’t control, which affected almost every luxury car maker, but it is absolutely my responsibility to get us through this.”

What would have happened without this investment?

“We would have had to take on more debt at nosebleed levels. $100m at 15% interest is pretty alarming and inevitably would have created problems down the road. It’s not where anyone wants to go, because it is toxic debt, but I’m not going to say that we would have faced doomsday – just issues to overcome down the road. Thankfully we have a solution that I sit here now and reflect on as being enormously positive for now and the long term.”

Why push on with the mid-engine programme?

“Well, I’m a car guy, so that helps, but in business terms the profit margins on those cars are attractive, the market is still growing and open, and there is very little cross-shopping among buyers that would harm our other vehicle sales. Tie those facts into our involvement and belief in F1, plus the arrival as Valkyrie as our halo car, and it makes sense.”

You’ve stated Valkyrie will arrive this year. How hard has that project been?

“We are building and running cars and it will be delivered to customers this year. That’s the facts, but if you’re asking if it has been easy then the answer is no. I’m not blaming anybody for that, because we are trying to make a car of the decade, if you will, a last naturally-aspirated, F1-derived car for the road. That’s difficult, and if you want to know how difficult then look at how Mercedes are getting on with its own Project One. We are a bit late with the project but no more than a bit late, and it will be phenomenal. What a halo to have for our mid-engined programme.”

Will the split with Red Bull Technologies affect Valhalla?

“Valhalla was always in-house and will continue to be, as will development of our V6 hybrid engine.”

Could Racing Point, or Aston Martin Racing personnel, work on road car projects?

“Today, who knows? But it is possible.”

Could you work with Red Bull Advanced Technologies again in the future?

“I’m not discounting anything.”

How disappointing is it to delay your electric car plans, including the relaunch of Lagonda?


Geely and Stroll in final talks to invest in Aston Martin – report

Aston Martin confirmed that it was in talks with potential investors late last year, following a story broken by Autocar and, which first revealed interest in the firm from Stroll. Both the Racing Point F1 team and Aston Martin currently have bases at Silverstone, although Aston’s headquarters are in Gaydon, Warwickshire. Aston, Stroll and Geely have not commented on the latest reports.

The majority of Aston’s shares are currently held by the Kuwait-based Adeem/Primewagon group, while the Strategic European Investment Group, part of the Italian private equity group Investindustrial, currently holds around a one-third holding in the company. Mercedes parent Daimler also owns 4% of the firm – as well as supplying engines to the Racing Point F1 team owned by Stroll.

Both Geely and Lawrence Stroll have so far declined to comment on any of the reports.

The firm has come under intense scrutiny since floating in 2018, with a valuation of around £4.5bn. Today the share price has fallen by around 80% from that point.

Earlier this year Aston issued an unexpected profit warning due to “challenging trading conditions”. Revealing the firm sold 5819 cars in 2019, 7% down on 2018, chief executive Andy Palmer said Aston had suffered a “very disappointing year [in 2019]”.

“The challenging trading conditions highlighted in November continued through the peak delivery period of December resulting in lower sales, higher selling costs and lower margins,” said Palmer.

As a result Palmer said that Aston’s earnings margin for 2019 will be 12.5-13.5 per cent. Last summer it issued a warning that the margin would be 20%, triggering a substantial fall in its stock price. Palmer added that adjusted earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortisation will be £130-140m, around £60m below expectations.

Palmer also revealed Aston spent more on marketing and underwriting finance than previously.

“Whilst we are disappointed with trading performance in 2019, our focus is now on revitalising the business, launching DBX and ensuring profitable growth in the medium-term,” added Palmer.

Additional reporting by Dieter Rencken


New Aston Martin DBX snapped with no disguise

New Aston Martin Vantage Roadster: first images released​

Aston Martin DBS GT Zagato: 760bhp special revealed​

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Mercedes to discuss Formula 1 withdrawal, potentially triggering sensational Aston Martin buyout

Mercedes has won every drivers’ and constructors’ championship in F1 since 2014. With a significant rules overhaul due in 2021, it faces a significant hike in costs in order to maintain its competitive advantages.

Contacted by Racefans, a Mercedes-AMG F1 Team spokesman said they could not comment without further detail.

Mercedes is expected to continue in F1 as an engine supplier, however; it already has contracts in place with McLaren and Racing Point and potential deals to supply the new owners of the Mercedes team and current customer Williams.

This would allow the company to continue having a high-level presence in the sport through what is believed to be a profit-making channel. Mercedes’ F1 engine division is based in Brixworth in the UK and has also contributed expertise to the firm’s road car projects in the past.

Mercedes has publically set itself the goal of saving 1.4 billion euros (£1.2bn) by the end of 2022 and announced a series of job and investment cuts at the end of last year toward this objective. Although prize money and sponsorship was said to have covered the vast bulk of the F1 team’s expenditure, Daimler’s board is said to be concerned that competing in such an overtly extravagant sport at a time of redundancies and the increasing importance of environmental messaging is inappropriate.

Perhaps the most intriguing knock-on effect of the decision will be to whom the ownership of the Mercedes F1 team transfers. Sources suggest a plan is in place for team principal Toto Wolff, who is already a substantial shareholder of the team, to assume control, sensationally working with current Racing Point F1 team owner and mooted Aston Martin investor Lawrence Stroll.

It’s suggested that the pair will invest respectively in the team and Aston Martin, with one source claiming that Wolff is weighing up the opportunity to assume a top-line position at Aston Martin’s road car division while a trusted lieutenant is put in place of the F1 operation. This would be rebranded as an Aston Martin works team, running engines from minority shareholder Mercedes.

However, other sources have denied that Wolff has any interest in stepping into a leadership role of a road car manufacturer.

An Aston Martin spokesman declined to comment on the rumours when approached by Autocar.

Sources suggest that if Stroll were to get involved, he would then sell Racing Point – potentially to Belarus-born Russian billionaire Dmitry Mazepin, who made his fortune in the chemical industry. His son Nikita is a high-level racer who has previously tested for the Force India F1 team, which became Racing Point partway through the 2018 season.


Here’s The Aston Martin Valhalla From The New James Bond Movie

The Aston Martin Valhalla is still a year or more away from arriving in customers’ hands. However, that hasn’t stopped Aston from trotting out its new hypercar for some early publicity. Announced less than a year ago, the Valhalla will have its first big showing when the new James Bond movie, No Time To Die, hits theaters this April. But before the premiere, Supercar Blondie and her co-host Aylissa got a chance to check out the star car.

The Valhalla has a ton of new and cutting-edge tech that exemplifies its hypercar status. There are no side mirrors, for example. Instead, rear-facing cameras hidden within the car’s sheet metal provide rearward visibility. The Valhalla also uses a FlexFoil rear wing, a NASA-approved tech that bends carbon fiber. The rear wing’s downforce can change without actually changing the wing’s angle of attack. It generates no drag, turbulence, or wind noise. Aston 3D-printed the headlights, too, which are 50-percent lighter than traditional Aston headlights.

For as wild as the exterior is, the interior is just as crazy. There’s no infotainment system. Instead, there’s a clamp for the owner’s cell phone, which fills the role of the infotainment system. The steering wheel has a heart-rate monitor, while the seats use ballistic nylon. There are no speaker grilles or air vents in the Valhalla – not traditionally. The car uses a unique cutout the extends from one door, around the dash, and down the other door, creating a pleasant design line. Aston also used 3D printing for the carbon fiber center console.

Aston is only building 500 Valhallas, with each starting at £875,000 ($1.1 million at current exchange rates). The Valhalla, and Valkyrie, push the automaker into a new type of car and an exciting future. What better way to show that off than to have it star in the next big James Bond film?


See Aston Martin Vulcan Get Paint Protection In Satisfying Video

Topaz, one of the world’s leaders when it comes to supercar and exotic car detailing, is at it once again. After giving an Audi R8 and a Lamborghini Veneno proper exterior care, it’s time for one of the 24 Aston Martin Vulcans in the world to visit the renowned paint protection company.

Just like every time, the entire process starts with the decontamination of the vehicle’s body, which includes treating the wheels with a non-acidic solution. Each wheel is then cleaned with a delicate brush and the whole car is covered with a gentle citrus solution to remove the dirt from the body.

Once the car is rinsed to remove the citrus solution, panel gaps and apertures are brushed carefully with delicate horsehair brushes. The car is then rinsed once more and it’s finally time for the body to be clayed to remove the dirt embedded in the clear coat. 

After the car is completely washed and the paint is corrected, the Topaz team starts to put the paint protection film. Because of the Vulcan’s radical shape and crazy aerodynamic components, this is a really challenging task.

“There are preexisting PPF (paint protection film) patterns online for this car, but none that are to our standard,” Topaz explains in the description of the video. “As a result, we fully designed new patterns for the whole car, and got to work protecting every inch of that beautiful Verde Ermes paintwork!”

The purpose of designing a unique PPF pattern for this particular car is to avoid the need for trimming the protection film at the panel gaps. There’s even a custom protection film for the Aston Martin logo on the hood. As YouTuber Mr JWW would say, “utterly bonkers!”


Smart EQ ForTwo 2020 review

At least not physical ones. Acquired by Daimler in 1994 to function as something of a laboratory for future personal transport, Smart is still a forward-thinking brand, and its digital-technologies arm is more active these days than, for the time being, its efforts in either design or engineering.

The new models therefore come with a suite of app-based ‘Ready To’ services, including one that allows the owners to give access to the car to other individuals, and even charge them for use on by-the-minute basis.

What’s it like?

Largely unchanged, but still a unique and interesting machine at a time when most cars seem to become more homogenised with every passing day. Which makes the ForTwo quite likeable from the off. 

Slide aboard and you’ll find seats that are only as supportive as they need be for low-energy city driving, and that perch you usefully high for an expansive view forward (protective but fairly chunky A-pillars notwithstanding). There’s also some additional storage within the cabin – a couple of new nets and trays – but the feeling of what could be described as ‘avant-garde quirk’ is undermined by some flimsy panels and cheap plastics at key touchpoints. The handbrake is one particularly poor example. 

The ForTwo EQ line-up is fairly straightforward, starting with Passion (15in alloy wheels, halogen headlights, rear-parking sensors and 7in touchscreen infotainment), then moving up to Pulse Premium (16in alloys, panoramic roof and rear-view camera) before you reach Prime Exclusive, which costs some £2300 over base and adds full LED headlights, heated leather seats and ambient lighting.

There’s also an ‘Edition One’ spec at launch, which is plastered with decals much like those seen on the Mercedes-AMG models of the same name (cute fun or an utter travesty, the choice is yours) and some red/black gloss trim to go with various Brabus-branded elements. At £23,065 even after the £3500 government grant for plug-in cars, don’t expect to see many of these on the road.

And so to the big problem, which is that a 17.6kWh battery today classes as unusually small, and even when calculated under the NEDC regime (considered an optimistic method), the ForTwo’s range fails to make it into triple digits.

On account of Smart’s unambiguously city-centric proposition and the state of the competition, such limited autonomy may have once been forgivable but now looks downright feeble, not least compared to the WLTP-calculated 161 miles offered by the new electric Skoda Citigo.


Watch Nico Rosberg Customize An Aston Martin Valkyrie

F1 World Champion Nico Rosberg has been keeping busy since his defeat of Lewis Hamilton during the 2016 F1 season. During his retirement, Rosberg has spent his time commentating on F1 and making Youtube videos about cars. In his latest video, Rosberg is at one of the largest Aston Martin dealerships in the world where he spends the day driving Aston’s most exclusive cars and customizing a Valkyrie hypercar.

With an F1 world champion behind the wheel, Rosberg proves the new Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is a proper track weapon. The 715 horsepower DBS Superleggera represents one of the most powerful Aston Martins ever built and arguably one of their maddest road cars. The DBS Superleggera uses a tuned version of the DB11’s twin-turbo V12 engine in addition to a host of carbon fiber enhancements and more aggressive suspension tuning. The results are an impressive performance car with luxury to match. 

The dealership is beyond impressive. This architectural wonder is a monument built to honor the luxury and image Aston Martin injects into its cars. The interior is a far cry from the Toyota showrooms this journalist is familiar with. Instead, the interior of the Aston Dealership is a blend of the elegance of a museum with the inspiration of a modern mega yacht. 

Take for example the mad car storage system which moves over 90 cars around like a vending machine presenting the specific car called upon via a computer program. Like a vault holding precious art, the car storage facility holds minimal oxygen to reduce fire risk and decrease insurance costs. 

The elegant showroom is where perspective Valkyrie owners and spec out their hypercars using swatches and physical paint samples to choose. The entire affair oozes luxury. The bespoke nature of this process seems slightly more fun than building cars online while sitting in your basement.


Autocar’s guide to what will happen in 2020

Aston Martin DBX will be a huge success

Let’s make no bones about it: Aston Martin is struggling. Slipping share values and cooler than expected demand for its cars meant 2019 was almost a year to forget. Almost, but not quite, because it also gave us a first glimpse of its long-awaited DBX SUV, the car that will start to reverse the company’s decline.

Why? Well, the obvious point is that it’s an SUV, and a premium one at that. Despite ever-louder calls for reduced emissions and greater social responsibility, the inexorable rise of the off-roader shows no signs of slowing. Then there’s the way the DBX looks, which is really rather good, both inside and out.

Yet perhaps most controversially the DBX will flourish because it’ll be a blast to drive: there’s that glorious AMG engine, decent visibility that allows you to easily place the car’s extremities, four-wheel drive and a Matt Becker-honed chassis. It’ll also be the fastest Aston point to point on give-and-take roads. Crucially, its practicality and comfort will allow you to use it all day every day, not just high days and holidays.

No, SUVs are not the answer, but the talented and handsome DBX will still out-sell all of Aston’s other models combined, and the revenue generated will be poured into the cars we really, really want.

Ford’s Mustang Mach-E will be a very good EV – but Mustang fans will still grumble

The Ford Mustang Mach-E’s name has caused a bit of a stir: fans of the Mustang muscle car have started petitions in a bid to get the firm to change it.

They may be disappointed by the Mach-E, but we reckon those seeking a good electric SUV won’t be: early indications suggest it’s likely to be a credible contender in its class. We’re also intrigued by the prospect of the GT version, which promises to bring a genuine performance edge. It won’t appease a minority of Mustang fans, but it should show Ford can do electric right.