“Power, beauty and soul”
- Aston Martin motto
The Aston Martin brand is now a legend; greater than the sum of its parts, a mantle taken on by those assuming responsibility for maintaining its rightful place in the pantheon of performance automobiles. It somehow summons up a peculiarly British sense of the automobile, redolent of the gentleman racer - whose elegance and wealth somehow seemed effortlessly coincidental. The front grille is a statement of snarling road-eating intent, the elegant lines, from which flashbulbs refract into urbane stars, prowl with the low muscularity of the raw racing heart that has beat savagely in these beasts for nearly a century. These are iconic touches, automotive celebrities in their own right that have graced the silver screen for decades - enjoying a partnership with James Bond, the eternal English gent, since Sean Connery first climbed into an iconic silver DB5 in Goldfinger over forty years ago. It is perhaps with this unmistakable DB series - the latest being 2007’s DBS V12 - of high performance touring cars that the brand is most closely associated.
The smooth essentiality of the design is not mirrored in the fluctuating history of the brand. Ownership has changed hands multiple times since Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford joined forces in 1913 and created the first Aston Martin by fitting a four-cylinder Coventry-simplex engine to the chassis of a 1908 Isotta-Fraschini. It is racing that driven much of the brand’s development since that time, where Aston Martin cars competed in Formula 1, in 1959 and 1960. However, it is in 24 Hours of Le Mans race, the epitome of automotive euro-chic, where Aston Martin have been prominent and successful participants since 1931- most notably achieving a score of podium finishes in the 1950s and early 1960s. This sense was that one was sitting behind the wheel of a British designed and made state of the art and track-ready racecar, but one designed and finished with such panache that only a beautiful model in the passenger seat could improve one’s image. Timeless glamour matched by raw speed and perfect handling has to this day secured the Aston Martin brand a permanent place in the automotive elite.
Most recently, in 2007, the company was taken over by a consortium led by racing industry insiders and a prominent Aston Martin collector - with previous owner Ford maintaining a sizeable stake - and has gone from strength to strength, making a celebrated return to Le Mans competition last year.
For what is essentially a luxury performance car boutique like Aston Martin to have survived the rigors of one of the most competitive industries in the world without evolving alongside inevitable technological and cultural changes would have been impossible. The powerfully-winged logo has soared over successive tumults, such as crises in the oil market and the looming impact of environmental responsibility, secure that legends always prevail.
It is in this spirit of evolution that Aston Martin announced this month that production of the Cygnet luxury city car will begin in the coming year. The Aston Martin Cygnet is a historic moment in not only for the company but also for the emerging micro-car market. At a compact three meters in length and with a 1.3 liter four cylinder engine, the Cygnet is a departure from the explosively expansive grand-tourers and coupes for which the brand has become renowned. As such, it represents Aston Martin’s uniquely stylish response to the demands of modern urban living and driving. It is however unmistakably identifiable as an Aston Martin, hugging the road with a low center of gravity and squaring up to the chaos of the city with the trademark Aston Martin grille and its incredible maneuverability. Limited parking space, increasing traffic congestion, the likelihood of fuel consumption and emissions caps on city vehicles all mean that the urban car market will continue to become increasingly specialized. Those commuting into our city centers will increasingly require a vehicle meeting very demanding specifications, of which the Cygnet is a mould breaker - the first truly luxury car in its class.
Present are all of the stylistic hallmarks and signature touches that make this innovative addition to the brand’s exclusive collection instantly recognizable as an Aston Martin. The grille dominates the front of the car, giving it a hungry dynamism, there are the familiar racing touches too, such as the side ventilation gills so familiar on the tourers. The interiors are hand-crafted to the exacting standards we have come to expect, with a limitless selection of materials and color schemes for the craftsmen at the firm’s Gaydon production complex to choose from, ensuring that the Cygnet is an Aston Martin through and through - from bonnet to bumper.
- Ben Stewart
Aston Martin Cygnet
Concept: Luxury Compact Car
Date of Launch: 2011
Aston Martin Cygnet