Aston Martin

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Since the 1960s, when Sean Connery drove one into 007 glory, Aston Martin has been considered one of the global standards of luxury automotive cool. Though definitely a boutique brand in every way, it's still considered a global benchmark for beautiful car design. Founded in London in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, the manufacturer celebrates its 100th Anniversary this year. For most of its early history, Aston Martin produced lordly racing cars, which never dominated the sport but maintained credibility in several different racing series, garnering the brand respect among enthusiasts that has never completely faded. After World War 2, the company nearly folded several times and floundered under various unstable ownership arrangements. The Ford Motor Company took control in 1994, owning the brand until 2007, bringing it back to motorsports and restoring some of the luster to the name. Ford established mass production methods with Aston nameplates for the first time (though 700 vehicles a year can hardly be considered "mass"), and brought back the V8 engine to Aston's flagship Vantage brand. Though they sold Aston Martin to an international consortium, Ford remains a minority stakeholder in the company and makes Aston's V8 and V12 engines in a German facility.

The Vantage is Aston's "entry-level" car, costing well into the six figures. It comes in a variety of luxury trims and engine variations, each one more powerful and sporty than the next. The DB9 serves as Aston's mid-tier GT and comes with the same 6.0-liter V12 as the Vantage V12 and is wrapped in arguably even more beautiful skin. Like the Vantage, DB9s are offered in coupe, or soft-top convertible variations. A lesser man could be forgiven for mistaking the Vanquish for a normal DB9, but Aston's flagship coupe wears totally unique carbon fiber body panels and more performance-oriented tuning. The sole sedan offering in the company's range is the Rapide S, which is Aston Martin's entrant to compete with the likes of other super-sedans likes the Porsche Panamera and Maserati Quattroporte.
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