FEB 25th 2015

Aston Martin Vulcan revealed at last – so has it been worth the wait?

Racing cars don’t get any more significant than this new Aston Martin…

The company’s star turn for the Geneva Motor Show on 3 March, the Vulcan is ostensibly the ultimate Aston Martin track toy for (very) rich folk.

But its real purpose is to introduce us all to the look of the next generation of Aston Martin sports cars. Which is why it is making its debut at a car show, albeit one that promises to be the most interesting for gentlemen racers since, well, since forever.

New design, new man at the top, new models, new engineering partner Mercedes, new turbo V8 drivetrain coming – it is easy to see Geneva 2015 as a signpost to a post VH-architecture Aston Martin of the (near) future.

Understandable then that new CEO Dr Andy Palmer is keen to make a bang at the Swiss show – and as bangs go, they don’t get much bigger than the 800bhp, £1.5m (plus taxes), limited-edition Vulcan GT3 track-only supercar; ‘the most extreme car in Aston’s 102-year history’ says the firm.

Extreme? Well, as shown here it is a racing car through and through, developed in conjunction with Aston Martin Racing and, say Aston people, boasting a power-to-weight ratio exceeding that of the GTE class cars of the FIA world endurance championship.

In a high performance world of turbos and hybrids, the Vulcan is in some ways a throwback – whoever goes racing with a normally-aspirated 7.0-litre V12 these days? That’s what’s under the bonnet though. The Aston Martin debut of the new Mercedes-AMG twin turbo V8 will have to wait a bit yet.

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Is the V12 old-tech or, as Andy Palmer has it, part of the ‘rich heritage’ that he says the Vulcan encapsulates? The sort of people who this car is aimed at will surely agree with the boss and see it as the latter. In years to come, to have the last Aston V12 racer will be rather special…

Other mechanical ingredients are GT race-car familiar – the Xtrac 6-speed sequential shift gearbox, pushrod adjustable suspension, integral limited-slip differential, magnesium torque tube with carbon-fibre prop shaft, and Brembo racing calipers and carbon ceramic discs.

In other ways this latterday DBR9 represents a blank sheet of paper, its front mid-engined layout, dimensions, aero and certainly its styling owing little or nothing to current Aston Martin practice. It’s a one-off concept in carbon that will just happen to be replicated a maximum of 24 times, if Aston’s sales aspirations are fulfilled.

The customers? Well-heeled privateers who want to sign up for an old-school alternative to the track-only McLaren P1 GTR and Ferrari FXX K, also to be unveiled in Geneva, as the creme-de-la-creme of track cars. Each Vulcan comes FIA approved with all the safety gear, says Aston.

Owners will be getting ‘800bhp-plus’ and what Aston believably describes as ‘extreme on-track performance’ and the firm’s ‘most intense and exhilarating’ drive. Usefully, they will also be getting a helping hand in keeping it out of the gravel.

Each Vulcan comes with an ownership programme of driver training and technical back-up, mirroring the schemes offered by McLaren and Ferrari. Honing one’s track technique in the company of aces such as Le Mans winner Darren Turner begins with the V12 Vantage S (some start!) and progresses to the One-77 and then the Vantage GT4 race car. Only then is one unleashed in the Vulcan. There’s time in a simulator and invitations too to a variety of track days beginning in 2016.

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The Vulcan won’t have to be in full afterburner mode all the time. Quite how it works we are not sure, but Aston is promising owners will be able to ‘tailor their track-day experience through a graduating scale of detailed power and dynamic adjustments’. A big red knob on the dash marked from 1 to 10, perhaps…

Until Geneva press day on 3 March that’s pretty much all we’ve got on the Vulcan. As a top-of-the-line track car and ‘ownership experience’ it is surely up there with the best while being, literally, Aston Martin through and through.

But it’s inevitably what the Vulcan’s Marek Reichmann-drawn looks mean to future, Mercedes-AMG-powered Aston Martin sports cars that will dominate the interrogations at Geneva.

How literally can we take the company’s assertion of ‘a design language hinting at the next generation of Aston Martin sports cars’? Our first thought was that it’s a tad Corvette-ish – what do you think?

Then there’s that name: Vulcan. Strong or what? Even at a Geneva show that will be more like a GT race grid than a motor show (P1 GTR, Ferrari FXX K, Mercedes-AMG GT3, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Cayman GT4, Radical RXC Turbo 500) the Vulcan should command a certain presence.

After all, what is a Vulcan if not very British, very noisy (you can listen to its engine here), staggeringly beautiful and very, very fast?

And no, we are not talking about Mr Spock…

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