Aston Martin has confirmed that its first-ever SUV model will be called DBX and launch before the end of next year. The brand has also released official 'spy' images showing the car's near-production bodywork.
The DBX was first previewed as a concept car in 2015 but had been tipped to take another name for production, with Varekai one of the rumoured possibilities. Unlike the concept, the production DBX will feature a more conventional five-door layout rather than the sleeker three-door design that was originally expected.
The DBX is arguably the most important model in Aston Martin’s history and the next phase of the company’s turnaround plan under boss Andy Palmer. While every Aston produced under Palmer to date as part of his ‘Second Century’ plan has been a replacement for an existing model (DB11, Vantage and DBS Superleggera), the DBX breaks new ground by having no direct predecessor.
As well as being the first Aston SUV, it is also the first Aston to be produced in a new purpose-built factory in St Athan, Wales. During its life cycle, it will introduce hybrid technology to Aston, and it will also play a key role in trying to attract female buyers to the Aston Martin brand.
The DBX is built on an Aston Martin architecture that will be closely related to that set to be used by the Lagonda saloon and SUV that Aston also has in the pipeline and which will be built alongside the DBX in Wales from 2021.
Whereas the Lagonda models will be electrically driven, however, the DBX will start life with petrol power, before getting Mercedes-sourced hybrid technology early in the next decade. Aston Martin’s own V12 and Mercedes-AMG’s V8 engines will both find their way into the DBX, with Mercedes also donating the car’s electrical architecture.
The DBX will compete against the likes of the Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga, Rolls-Royce Cullinan and upcoming Ferrari SUV. Given the broad appeal and rise in popularity of SUVs, the DBX is expected to quickly become Aston’s bestselling model.
New official shots show DBX's design for the first time
Aston has released images of the DBX undergoing testing on the gravel stages of the Wales Rally GB, for the first time giving hints of the final production car’s design. There’s little left of the DBX concept in the camouflaged test mule, although the sleek silhouette does remain, albeit with an extra pair of doors.
Sharp body creases and a pronounced shoulder line help reduce the overall visual bulk on what is the most high-sided Aston yet produced, while a new integrated grille design performs a similar role at the front of the car. Aston Martin is already talking up the DBX’s all-terrain capabilities, which are revealed in these official testing images with the company’s chief engineer Matt Becker at the wheel.
The DBX is the first Aston Martin to go through a new dedicated test programme, to ensure it can produce the kind of dynamic on-road performance on which Aston has always made its name, allied to some credibility off-road. Testing is also due to take place in the Arctic, the deserts of the Middle East, on German autobahns and at the Nürburgring, as well as both on and off-road in the UK.
It will also be the first all-new Aston Martin model launched after the company’s stock market flotation, a formal intention for which was finally confirmed in late August after the firm returned to profitability last year. In a long-rumoured move, Aston Martin is set to offer more than £1 billion of shares, which equates to some 25% of the company, on the London Stock Exchange in the autumn.
The initial public offering (IPO) values the British manufacturer at around £5bn and would place it in the FTSE 100. Following its own IPO in 2015, Ferrari’s value doubled to around £15bn a year later.
Aston Martin has changed significantly as a company under the leadership of Andy Palmer, who joined as CEO in 2014. He has brought financial stability to the company and returned it to profit.
Last year, it was in the black for the first time since 2010. Aston’s first-half results in 2018 showed that it recorded a pre-tax profit of £20.7 million.
Palmer has underpinned that growth with his so-called ‘ second-century’ plan, which is formed of seven models being launched over seven years at the rate of one per year, each then on sale for a seven-year model cycle with various derivatives and special-edition versions launched within that.
Hybrid powertrains to arrive later in DBX's lifecycle
Daimler will provide Aston’s hybrid technology and is also one of two routes for sourcing full-electric drivetrains, according to Palmer, with other external partners also being explored.
Aston has sourced an 800V system for its first electric car, the limited-run RapidE due in 2019, and Palmer said 800V and access to the latest chemistry is key to any future EV powertrain from the firm. Although hybrid versions of the DBX are a long way off, the car will be launched with a Mercedes-sourced 4.0-litre V8 and Aston’s own 5.2-litre V12 as core engine options.
Palmer said that although he lists the DBX’s rivals as the Bentayga, Urus, Cullinan and upcoming Ferrari, each model performs a very different role in the super-luxury SUV segment. “Those minded towards a beauty of execution will move to Aston,” he said.
First-time Aston customers are expected to be found in China and North America in particular for the DBX, but Palmer said plenty of existing Aston owners will be interested, too. “It’s fascinating to me that 72% of Aston customers also own an SUV, and normally these are Cayennes or Range Rovers,” he said. “If you’re converted to Aston, it’ll be easier to convert buyers to an Aston SUV.”
The final model name of the DBX has yet to be decided upon. However, earlier this year Aston trademarked the name Varekai. The seventh model in its product plan, a mid-engined supercar to rival the Ferrari 488, will be called the Vanquish.
The DBX is expected to sell at around 5000 units per year, which would comfortably make it Aston’s most popular model. Last year, the firm sold 5117 sports cars, with the long-term goal of up to 14,000 split between 7000 each from Gaydon and St Athan, and the rest from up to two special, limited-run models each year.
The seven cars in Aston’s plan:
The first new-era Aston was an instant hit but has already been replaced by the more honed DB11 AMR. The range recently expanded with an open-top Volante.
Far more overtly a sports car than its forebear, it will take the fight to the Porsche 911 with a series of spin-offs including a Volante and a V12 version.
DBS Superleggera, 2018
Latest Aston Martin is a full-blown front-engined supercar rival to the Ferrari 812 Superfast. An Autocar road test of the model is due in the autumn.
Aston’s second-century plan enters its next phase with the first all-new model with no direct predecessor: the radical four-door, four-seat SUV.
The name will return to an Aston in the form of a new mid-engined supercar. Its development is taking place at a special Aston facility inside Red Bull’s F1 campus.
Lagonda saloon, 2021
Lagonda badge will be revived for an electric saloon to rival the Rolls-Royce Phantom, albeit with radically different proportions and styling.
Lagonda SUV, 2022
Lagonda range will quickly double with an SUV. As with the Lagonda saloon, this SUV will be closely related to the DBX and built at the new St Athan plant in Wales.
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