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Old 03-19-2003, 06:12   #1 (permalink)
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Baby Aston Takes Its First Steps

Wednesday 19th March 2003
AutoExpress
Dan Strong

Britain's hottest new car has been caught keeping its cool during a special winter test in northern Europe. Exclusive images in the current issue of Auto Express magazine gives the clearest indication yet of the all-new Aston Martin V8 Vantage, which was revealed as a concept at this year's Detroit Motor Show.

Although the coupé might be the smallest, most affordable model the company has ever unveiled, it seems certain to make a huge impact at the very top of the new car market. The styling, penned by Aston's in-house design team led by Ian Callum, has a look of scaled-down Vanquish about it.

Codenamed AM305 and powered by a 4.3-litre supercharged V8 engine, the car is expected to develop more than 450bhp. Its lightweight carbon fibre and aluminium construction means there will be no shortage of performance - the 0-60mph dash should be completed in less than five seconds. But it's not only straight-line speed that's being developed. The model is aimed at the Porsche 911 and Ferrari 360, two of the world's best driver's cars. To help it compete, the rear-wheel-drive Aston will not only have a fantastic engine, but an agile chassis, too.

There will be a choice of two gearboxes - a sequential automatic similar to that of the Vanquish, plus a conventional six-speed manual unit for those who prefer a more traditional approach to their driving. Massive brakes will help slow the car from high speed.

Clearly development of the newcomer marks a step into the future for the Newport Pagnell-based firm. However, tradition will not be ignored completely, as it's likely the cabin will offer the charm of wood and hand-stitched leather. Due to hit the road in 2005, it's expected the two-seater will cost around £70,000. Insiders at the company hope the comparatively low purchase price will make it the fastest- selling Aston Martin of all time, out-performing the current record-holder, the DB7. The firm claims it will have the capacity to build 2,000 models a year.

But the AM305 is not the only new coupé Aston's engineers are working on. The company is also preparing a replacement for the spectacular DB7. Codenamed AM308 and due late in 2004, three separate editions are currently expected. Central to the line-up will be the standard coupé, although the promise of a cabriolet and high-performance Vantage variant should attract plenty of headlines. Powered by a reworked version of the 6.0-litre V12 that drives the Vanquish, it's expected to offer nearly as much power as the new V8, but even more torque.

On the outside, the AM308 is expected to draw heavily on the influence of the sensational Vanquish - those close to the project say it shares that car's hard-edged, aggressive looks.

Under the skin, it will be built around Aston's new corporate aluminium spaceframe chassis. Known as the VH platform, it will also be used to underpin the smaller AM305. Insiders say the new car will be a proper 2+2, making it roomier than the DB7. There'll be two boxes on offer, a six-speed manual or a more advanced sequential unit developed by engineers for the Vanquish.
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