Can Aston Martins Become Unforgettable?
Most look like rebodied Jaguar XKs. It shouldn't be that way.
Another new Aston Martin debuted on Wednesday. It’s called the Vanquish, and it’s intended to be a replacement for the DBS. The DBS, if you can remember, was the replacement for the old Vanquish, but it's almost the exact same car as the less expensive DB9. Then there’s the Virage, at left, which supposedly slots between the DBS and DB9 and looks just like both of them. And who can forget the V8 and V12 Vantage?
To be honest, I’ve forgotten all of them. The minuscule differences between each body style -- nearly all are the exact same size -- what engines they do or don’t have, what they cost – it’s a puzzle only Rick Ross has time to figure out. Aside from the compact Vantage coupes, which I find a little too stubby to feign elegance, these are beautiful, beautiful cars. They’re not all that fast, considering that some cost north of $200,000, but that's not the problem.
While the curb appeal and exotic lines are there, I just don't feel a tingle from today's Aston Martins, because there's something that's just like it, an equally beautiful car with incredible dynamics and a predecessor that's on permanent display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's the Jaguar XK.
Part of my lost feelings have to do with testing at least two Jaguar XK coupes and convertibles every year, versus the one Aston Martin I sailed through Kennebunkport, Maine, three years ago. I have a strong relationship with the XK, it seems, and I'm lucky to have experienced its growth from a mild-mannered 300 horsepower to a kick-in-the-groin 550 horsepower on the carbon-chinned XKR-S. For less than $100,000, you can have an aluminum-bodied coupe with all the sexy curves and long, tapered proportions of an Aston Martin -- not to mention most of the luxury and silky performance -- for around half the cost.
It’s no accident. Ian Callum, Jaguar’s chief designer, penned the XK in 2007, but before he moved to Jaguar in 1999 he was designing several other cars, including the Aston DB7 and the first Vanquish. Callum, in an interview with Car and Driver two years ago, said the striking resemblance between Astons and the XK wasn't due to chance. It was because both cars prioritized a design ethos that “makes a car correct”:
“I’m not going to change those values because I’m working for a different brand,” he said. “But there are other values that belong to the brand: Jaguars are much more voluptuous; Aston Martins are more muscular — strength in a tailored suit.”
When I drove the V12-powered DB9 Volante, its stunning wood and jewellike instruments caught my attention, but the overall performance and gut feeling left me hanging. It just wasn't enough for $200,000. An XKR-S, topping at $132,000, aims straight for your heart, shocks your nervous system, and can just as easily calm your senses with its leather-lined roof and quiet ride. It's as if the car could pour you a single-malt scotch after an intense day at the track. The infotainment system on the XK is still lousy, I'll give you that. Everything else is still brilliant.
However, there are three new Astons I lust over in my sleep:
- The Rapide sedan, even though it’s impossible to sit comfortably in the rear.
- The sold-out One-77 hypercar.
- The V12 Zagato, which must have the world’s only combination of high-revving Ferrari shrieks and the awesome, misfiring idle of a hot-rodded muscle car.
I’d also take the wide-mouthed, 10-year-old DB7 Zagato and, of course, the DB5 Bond-mobile, sans rockets. These are truly special machines with ageless, rarefied characters. They’ll never be confused with a Jaguar. They all feel very different.
These are the cars I hope future Astons take after -- and I hope these kind of cars can be built in greater numbers than the 150 hand-assembled Zagatos or the 77 chosen people who now pilot the One-77. I want to love everything Aston does, simply because it's Aston Martin. Right now, though, the company is making it impossible. Between a Vanquish or a DB9 or whatever else is continuing to dilute the Aston lineup, I’d prefer two Jaguar XKs. Again, I’m in a committed relationship.
Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving and riding in cars he doesn't own. He was raised in Volvos and has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He lives in Boston, is a member of the New England Motor Press Association, and has reported for The Boston Globe, Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics and The Times of London.
i never think of a aston martin. well.. the only time i think of them is when i think of 'when is ford going to dump this lemon of a headache' and put the proceeds to good use??
EXPLORE NEW CARS
MORE ON MSN AUTOS
ABOUT EXHAUST NOTES
Cars are cool, and here at MSN Autos we love everything about them, but we also know they're more than simply speed and style: a car is an essential tool, a much-needed accessory to help you get through your day-to-day life. What you drive is also one of the most important investments you can make, so we'll help you navigate your way through the car buying and ownership experiences. We strive to be your daily destination for news, notes, tips and tricks from across the automotive world. So whether it's through original content from our world-class journalists or the latest buzz from the far corners of the Web, Exhaust Notes helps you make sense of your automotive world.
Have a story idea? Tip us off at email@example.com.