If you’re thinking it’s a big leap from the new Vanquish to Aston Martin’s 1160bhp Valkyrie, you’re not alone. The bridge? AM-RB 003, Aston’s LaFerrari. Words Ben Miller Photography John Wycherley.
The Missing link
AM-RB 003: Aston’s LaFerrari
Aston Martin AM-RB 003
How to bridge the gap between your V12, Red Bull-developed hypercar and your new £200K 488 rival? With another mid-engined hypercar, obviously
Aston Martin is keen that you don’t lump the Valkyrie hypercar (you remember: single-minded Adrian Newey package and aero; astonishing naturally-aspirated 6.5-litre V12 with hybrid boost making 1160bhp; £2.5m) in with the likes of the McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari and AMG One. It is, Aston says, something beyond even those ethereal machines, and a unique automotive moment.
Here, then, is the car we are allowed to compare to the aforementioned Ferrari, McLaren and AMG: AM-RB 003, a name that makes little sense until you recall Valkyrie’s codename was AM-RB 001 and the track-only Valkyrie AMR Pro’s AM-RB 002.
AM-RB 003 will blend Valkyrie’s use of carbonfibre with elements of Vanquish’s V6 hybrid powertrain
‘This is the bridging project between Valkyrie and Vanquish; the latter is the “cooking product” for want of a better term in our mid-engined lineup,’ explains Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer. It’s a big leap from a £2.5m car [Valkyrie] to a competitor of a future 488 or future Aventador. So this is AM-RB 003, “Son of Valkyrie” – a £1m hypercar to be built in a limited run of 500 units.’
While clearly inspired by Valkyrie, AM-RB 003 will blend that car’s extensive use of carbonfibre (for both chassis and bodywork) with elements of Vanquish’s V6 hybrid powertrain in place of Valkyrie’s boosted V12. To an extent, development of the AM-RB 003 will run in tandem with that of the Vanquish, though it’s the more expensive, carbon-tubbed car that will hit the road first.
‘We have the body architecture in carbonfibre and the aerodynamics from Valkyrie but with the engine which will eventually go into AM9 [Vanquish]; the brand new V6 engine,’ explains Palmer. ‘And obviously the point of the V6 is that it’s a smaller, easier-to-package engine [than even Valkyrie’s bespoke, mass-obsessed V12]. One of the lessons we’ve really embraced from the Adrian Newey collaboration is an obsession with mass, and wrapping everything as tightly as we possibly can for reasons of efficiency. You’ll see that in this car.’
Palmer confirms that Red Bull and its celebrated aerodynamicist will work directly on AM-RB 003, whereas their influence on Vanquish is less direct and more by osmosis. That attention is evident in 003’s moveable aero surfaces, an idea recently explored by McLaren on its Speedtail.
Instead of conventional flaps, a Flexfoil surface on the rear wing will allow the car to tweak its aero balance without shifting a conventional wing. Aston claims improved efficiency and reduced noise versus a conventional aero solution though, like Valkyrie, the car will do a lot of its aerodynamic work via its body and vast rear diffuser.
Increased usability compared with the Valkyrie means AM-RB 003 will use dihedral doors in place of Valkyrie’s gullwing set-up. Inside, Aston’s designer Miles Nurnberger talks of a ‘more habitable but still focused place’. He adds: ‘With this car we’re introducing what we call Apex Ergonomics, so we have an arc-like design element in the cockpit with recessed vertical gills. In there you’ll find the vents, ambient lighting and audio, so at the same time we create a striking design feature while reducing visual clutter.’
The interior will use 3D printed parts, to minimise the amount of material required to make each component, reducing weight. It’s also a bigger space than the seriously cramped cockpit of Valkyrie, with room for two friends content to keep their relationship platonic. This innovative interior will also mount the main driver’s display on the steering column, for communication while leaving an uncluttered forward view – handy when you’ve performance of this order of magnitude at your disposal.
The daunting job of translating that performance into a road car mere mortals can understand, explore and enjoy falls to Aston’s weapon’s-grade development team: ex-Lotus man Matt Becker and hypercar development ace Chris Goodwin. While the complexity of the project beggars belief (calibrating the hybrid unit, honing the behaviour of the Flexfoil aero surfaces, taming serious downforce for the more varied, less predictable road environment…) the prize is a big one: the chance to prove that Gaydon, not Maranello or Woking, is the seat of power when it comes to emerging hypercar technologies.
Just how serious will AM-RB 003 be? ‘It’s everything we learned from Valkyrie, the carbon tub and our brand new V6 engine in one car,’ says Palmer. ‘Sometimes I think “Son of Valkyrie” actually sounds like we’re diminishing what we’re trying to achieve. We’re pushing very, very hard with this car – it is everything to us.’
The prize is a big one: the chance to prove that Gaydon, not Maranello or Woking, is the seat of hypercar power
Flexing active bodywork will trim aero balance. AM-RB 003 debuts Aston’s new interior thinking. We like it a lot.
Dihedral doors, as opposed to Valkyrie’s Gullwings.
You’ll monitor the hybrid powertrain – and some silly speeds – here
Left to right: Valkyrie, Valkyrie AMR Pro, AM-RB 003, Vanquish
YOUR HANDY ASTON EXPLAINER
⊲ Valkyrie I Aston’s shortcut to mid-engined credibility – a road-legal, Red Bull-sculpted, £2.5m hypercar with a 1160bhp hybrid V12.
⊲ Valkyrie AMR Pro I As above but track-only, the Valkyrie AMR Pro is the ultimate Valkyrie – all the hybrid V12 glory but without any road-legal compromises.
⊲ AM-RB 003 I Less extreme than Valkyrie but still built around a carbonfibre tub. Crucially, the wailing V12 is swapped for a more powerful version of Vanquish’s hybrid-assisted V6. Just 500 will be built, and it’ll be with us before Vanquish; late 2021/2022.
⊲ Vanquish I The new £200k mid-engined Ferrari 488 (now F8 Tributo) and Huracan rival. Aluminium tub, hybrid V6 powertrain. Due on sale in 2022.