THE VANQUISH IS Aston Martin’s flagship grand tourer, and though it is gorgeous, it hasn’t changed much since Ian Callum designed the first generation in 2001. Now Henrik Fisker, who followed Callum as design director at Aston Martin before founding his own company, has given the Vanquish a muscular update—and a completely new way of interacting with the interior.
For those who don’t recall, Fisker penned knockouts like the Aston Martin DB9 and BMW Z8, then did a little coachbuilding before trying his hand at building ultra-luxe plug-in hybrids. That didn’t end well, and Fisker’s kept mostly to himself, occasionally offering an outlandish motorcycle or automotive design. Now he’s back with Thunderbolt, a concept he unveiled this week at the ultra-tony Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
It is a testament to Callum’s original design that Fisker didn’t radically remake the exterior. He lowered the Vanquish’s body 15 millimeters and fitted 21-inch alloys wrapped in hi-perf tires. The custom carbon bodywork features a wraparound rear window, protruding, blade-thin tail lamps, a panoramic roof, and a fresh aluminum grille.
It’s “my personal interpretation of what a Vanquish could be for the future,” Fisker says.
You could look at the Thunderbolt as Fisker’s view of an alternate reality in which he never left Aston, never launched an ill-fated automaker, and never got hauled before Congress to be grilled Republicans peeved that Uncle Sam spent some $200 million to fund Fisker’s dream.
The car is gorgeous, and exactly the kind of work we imagine Fisker can do in his sleep. After all, the problem with Fisker Automotive wasn’t the way the cars looked—the defunct Karma was gorgeous, even if the grille looked like a Lyft ‘stache—and there’s no denying the beauty of the Aston Martin DB9. He even manages to make the Ford Mustang look ferocious.
But what’s most exciting here, to hear Fisker talk about it, is what’s inside the Thunderbolt—and not the admittedly snazzy champagne bottle holder built between the seats.
No, the big news here is the infotainment system. It’s built around Panasonic’s 11.6-inch, adjustable-height “curved control screen,” designed to reduce glare and provide outstanding resolution. Without revealing details, Fisker says the system, which he worked on with Panasonic, boasts the intuitive, easy UI of a smartphone, though the only photo of the system in action shows a pretty standard menu with options like navigation, telephone, and settings.
“How do we merge our traditional love of cars, which is engine noise, shifting gears, and beautiful sculpture, with our clean, high-tech culture that we all live in now?” Fisker asks. “No automakers have done it yet.” Putting aside the Model S (there’s no love lost between Henrik and Elon), he’s got a point. The automotive infotainment systems that don’t straight up stink fall well short of what smartphones offer.
That’s why, Fisker says, a $200,000 car can feel outdated next to a $500 tablet. The designer argues the auto industry’s shift from gas-powered to hybrid and electric cars is all but done (the transition simply needs time to be completed), and “the new revolution is really about redefining the interior experience.”
Few drivers, if any, will get to experience what Fisker’s made here: The original idea was that the Thunderbolt would just be a design study, but wealthy buyers could cajole Fisker into making a few dozen for sale. And there’s more to come here: Fisker says his next project will address user interface and other modern technologies coming into the car in “a super modern new way,” one that’s “much more extreme that what I did with this car.”
The Thunderbolt is in large part a delivery mechanism for this new focus, “an easier way to introduce that talking point into a car.” But in this case, the wrapping paper comes with an enormous upside: If you don’t like the infotainment system, you still have a V12 engine in a gorgeous body to play with. And room for two bottles of bubbly.
source: wired.com by ALEX DAVIES