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Everything you need to know about Aston Martin

Aston Martins are among those cars that so many of us dream of driving and most of us never will. Read on to find out how a tractor maker created a desirable motoring name.

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To enthusiasts, Aston Martin has always been a thoroughly British maker of desirable sports cars. But it’s probably best known among those who aren’t even remotely interested in cars as the favourite wheels of James Bond.

Aston Martin is indeed a British brand that, despite a somewhat chequered history, has remained renowned for making sports cars and grand tourers that are considered very special. And now the company is planning for a future that includes a major focus on electric vehicles – something which traditionalists will find particularly hard to get their heads round.

So who or what is Aston Martin?

Aston Martin traces its history back to 1913, when car dealers Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford decided to make their own cars rather than sell other people’s. Martin was already building cars to race on a local hillclimb course called Aston Hill, so their first car was called an Aston Martin.

The first world war prevented the company commencing production, and Bamford left once the war ended. Funding for the company to carry on was provided by a leading racing driver called Count Louis Zborowski, who competed in a car called ‘Chitty Bang Bang’ (the inspiration for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from the famous book and movie).

For Aston Martin the inter-war period was one of feast and famine, the company repeatedly lurching towards bankruptcy – a feature of the company throughout it’s 111-year history.

Following the second world war the company was snapped up by David Brown, a Huddersfield businessman who made tractors. He also bought luxury car brand Lagonda, moving it into Aston Martin’s factory at Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire. Over the next 25 years Brown would establish Aston Martin’s upmarket reputation and his DB initials remain in the name of some Aston models today.

The first of these was the DB2, a grand tourer launched in 1950 and followed by a host of further DB models in successive years. Undoubtedly the most famous of these models is the DB5 – it was only made between 1963 and 1965, but achieved immortality with its role in several James Bond films, starting with ‘Goldfinger’.

Despite all this, Aston Martin still faced constant financial strife and one of David Brown’s last acts as the man in charge in 1972 was to pay off £5 million of debt. Just three years later the company was in receivership and a host of owners followed.

Stability finally came to Aston Martin after Ford took control of the company in 1987, a period of ownership that would last 20 years. Ford’s control saw a rise to prominence of the ‘V’ models – Vantage, Virage and Vanquish – and the opening of a new factory adjacent to Jaguar Land Rover (also owned by Ford at the time) at Gaydon in Warwickshire in 2003. This replaced the long-established Newport Pagnell factory, which now maintains heritage Aston models.

Ford sold off most of its ‘premium’ brands after 2007, including Aston Martin. For the next few years, the company hoovered up funding from American, Kuwaiti and Italian interests but still suffered losses, reaching £75 million in 2014. A turnaround followed over the next few years, which encouraged the company to float on the stock exchanged – however, that turned out to be disastrous.

Investment fro Mercedes-Benz brought new engines and in-car technology to Aston Martin, replacing Ford-based technology from the previous owners. A new factory was also opened in a former Ministry of Defence facility in Wales to produce the DBX SUV and future electric cars.

In 2020, a consortium led by Canadian billionaire Lawence Stroll took a stake in the firm, with Stroll becoming executive chairman. He has announced plans to begin building EVs using technology from US specialist Lucid, and he has taken the brand back into Formula One racing (conveniently, Stroll also happened to own an F1 team that was re-branded with the Aston Martin name and colours).

What models does Aston Martin have and what else is coming?

There are currently four models in the Aston Martin family: three sports cars and an SUV.

The range starts with the two-seat Vantage sports car, carrying an Aston name that dates back to 1977. It may be the entry point but it doesn’t come cheap – prices start at more than £130K.

The DB12 is a two-door gran touring coupé (technically it has four seats, but the rears are kiddy-sized onlt). It went on sale in 2023, replacing (unsurprisingly) the DB11. Prices start at around £200K.

As of May 2024, the company’s top-level production model is the £270K DBS supercar – although this is now at the end of its production life and is about to be replaced by a new Vanquish model. As with the Vantage and DB12, it’s available in both coupé and convertible (known as Volante) versions, and it’s powered by a twin-turbocharged V12 engine that Jeremy Clarkson described as “almost too fast”.

Finally there is the DBX, Aston Martin’s first SUV – a minimum of £180K buys a car that is the tallest Aston yet but still about as far away as you can get from the typical image of a family SUV, both in terms of styling and performance.

A very special, very limited-edition flagship model is the Valkyrie, created in conjunction with the Red Bull F1 team with major input coming from its superstar designer, Adrian Newey. Only 150 examples were built, each with £3 million price tags.

The first electric Aston Martin is likely to go on sale in 2026. Four EVs are apparently already designed and underdevelopment, with the first expected to be closest in style to the DBX SUV.

The Valkyrie’s successor will be the Valhalla, a slightly less outrageous car and again developed with Red Bull and Adrian Newey. It will have a plug-in hybrid engine producing nearly 1,000hp a more modest price tag of ‘only’ £600K. It had a very brief cameo in the background of a scene in the most recent Bond movie ‘No Time to Die’.

Current Aston Martin range on our Expert Rating Index

Aston Martin DB12

Aston Martin DB12

Aston Martin DBS

Aston Martin DBS

Aston Martin DBX

Aston Martin DBX

Aston Martin Vantage

Aston Martin Vantage

Where can I try an Aston Martin car?

Aston Martin has 19 official showrooms around the country, which includes Jersey. The experience of visiting an Aston Martin showroom is a little more glamorous than popping down to your local mainstream car dealership on an industrial estate, however. But then you’d hope so, given the amount of money you’ll be handing over.

What makes Aston Martin different to the rest?

Very few car manufacturers hold a Royal Warrant – Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin are the only ones that come to mind. The Royals have long been fans of the sports cars, with the King being gifted a rare DB6 Volante by his mother in 1970 and still owning it today, having converted it to run on biofuel.

An Aston Martin fact to impress your friends

Possibly the strangest model to be offered by Aston Martin was the Cygnet, a reworked version of the Toyota iQ two-seat city car, but with a rather more upmarket interior trim and revised styling.

Aston Martin described it as “a luxury solution to urban mobility,” and “an extension to Aston Martin’s range of acclaimed luxury sports cars,” but the project only lasted three years and has not been repeated.  

Aston Martin Cygnet

Summary

Aston Martin has lurched from one difficulty to the next over much of its 111-year history, nursing and encouraging a reputation of desirability that has far outperformed its profit levels.

Although it hasn’t been a UK-owned business for decades, Aston Martin remains a quintessentially British sports car company to most people – many of whom dreaming of being able to drive the same car as James Bond…

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.