Few new car launches have much sense of excitement today, but that for Aston Martin’s Project X, which we now know will enter production as the DB7, was a satisfying exception. The two-plus-two is destined to retail for “below £80,000”.
The superbly evocative design is the creation of former Ford and Ghia designer Ian Callum, and is scheduled to sell from the beginning of 1994. Dealers are now accepting orders. . . accompanied by £10,000 deposits. We believe deliveries will begin in April 1994 from the JaguarSport XJ220 factory at Bloxham, but only 270 such supercharged Astons will be made next year. The company hopes that output will thereafter settle at between six and seven hundred units per annum.
Dimensionally, the DB7 is just 8mm longer than the revered DB6, a substantial 144mm wider and an equally significant 104mm lower. The newcomer is also 224 lb heavier, most of which can be attributed to modem necessities such as Teves anti-lock brakes, central locking, power steering (a nifty 2.54 turns, lock-to-lock) and side impact beams. Aerodynamics are respectable, though not exceptional, with a Cd of 0.31.
Aston has eschewed using aluminium, the DB7’s underframe and most panels being crafted in steel. The composite exceptions are the bonnet, front wings, side sills and bootlid. The sunroof is a single-piece Targa panel, which can be stowed in the boot.
The show car was a very convincing rendition of what will come, and a stunning testimony to the intelligence of designer Callum. “I did study the early Astons, but I think its appearance owes just as much to those childhood influences that you absorb without really being aware that, for example, the nose draws deeply on the racing DBR,” he says.
My only disappointment was with uninspired black and white instrumentation. Discreet inquiries revealed that Ford design heavyweights rejected the original concept, which specified a turned metal panel as the instrument backdrop. The same Ford men also failed to identify many of the Aston styling cues (front grille, the front wing oval air exit). Some insiders who saw Jaguar F-type studies felt its influence was too strong. particularly in the rear side glass and cowled, quadruple lamps.
The show car was one of six constructed thus far (variants have tested in Arizona and Sweden), but the in-line six-cylinder on display in Geneva was a non-running demonstrator used to illustrate the format of the previously unreleased Jaguar 3.2-litre alloy block. The final 3228 cc specification will include a single Eaton supercharger, blowing a maximum 1 bar boost in conjunction with Zytek electronic engine management. Current test results suggest an eventual 335 bhp at 5600 rpm and 360-368 lb/ft of torque by 3000. Pulling power will not be a problem, even at the predicted 1650 kg kerb weight, for the unit retains 90 per cent of its peak torque capability all the way from 2200-5500rpm according to Aston Martin literature.
Predicted performance claims embrace 0-62mph in 5.7s and a 165 mph maximum. Aston recalls that the old DB6, with its 10 fewer bhp, sprinted from rest to 60 mph in 6.5s and pushed on to an eventual 148.
According to Tom Walkinshaw, the former saloon car racer who is at the heart of co-operative companies that work in association with Ford satellites Aston Martin (Aston Martin Oxford Ltd) and Jaguar (laguarSport), the DB7’s supercharged format “has nothing to do with the twin Eaton layout on the new Vantage. We went our own way. The single supercharger will give us exactly the performance expected of a new Aston, whilst conforming with worldwide emissions regulations on emissions.”
The double wishbone independent suspension system has completed many test miles in the hands of recent Aston Martin board nominee Jackie Stewart.
Externally, the car is a jewel. Past Aston influences are brought together with rare cohesion, and are suitably interpreted for the benefit of present-day customers.
Within, there is the piped leather, Wilton carpet and wood trim which current Aston Martin Lagonda chairman Walter Hayes knows that his clientele expects, even at half the list price of certain other Aston Martin Lagonda products.
The existing 310 bhp Virage coupe, new Volante and 540 bhp twin supercharged Vantage will be made at the traditional Newport Pagnell site, where the premises are rather more primitive than the Bloxham facility which will spawn the DB7. Bloxham felt more like a Formula 1 factory when we visited it recently, at which point it had turned out 55 of the planned 350 Jaguar XJ220 production run.
We would feel happier if the new Aston was entering production as this appears in print, for it is all too easy to be carried away with launch euphoria for a British product that is nearly a year from becoming showroom reality. Yet the newcomer is so well executed that we can only anticipate that will be as big a commercial success as it was a hit with all those hardened critics who applauded its static debut.