Aston Martin today took the covers off its first SUV in its 106-year history – the DBX – in Beijing, China, its most important global market.
The Aston Martin SUV’s arrival represents a unique case of a hard-pressed car company fighting fire with fire. Aston Martin, floated on the stock exchange just over a year ago, has had one of the toughest debuts ever for a listed company, shedding around three-quarters of its share capitalisation. But now that it is seeing hard evidence of the DBX – a model from the brand-new St Athan factory (in Wales) designed for sales in the still-thriving luxury SUV market – some analysts have begun recommending Aston Martin stock for growth, a development the company’s hard-pressed CEO Andy Palmer always said would happen.
Aston has been working on the DBX project, including its new production hub in St Athan, Wales, since 2015 and driving its prototypes around in public for nearly two years. It aims to sell more than 4,000 units a year, initially boosting total Aston volume by two-thirds to more than 10,000, by far the greatest output in its 106-year history. Aided by the DBX’s sporty-looking fastback shape – with its traditional ‘DB’ grille, its elegantly sculpted haunches and its powerful, aerodynamic rear – market forecasts for demand are said to be strong.
There’s a smart all-wheel-drive system that features electronically controlled centre and rear differentials to distribute torque away from slipping wheels.
Dr Andy Palmer, Aston Martin Lagonda president and Group CEO, said: “I can’t emphasise enough how incredibly exciting and significant DBX is for Aston Martin. Through its development alone, this beautiful SUV has already taken the company into new territories and in inspiring directions. DBX also marks a key moment in the delivery of the third and final phase of our Second Century Plan, not only representing the promised expansion of our portfolio but also signaling the start of production at Aston Martin’s second manufacturing plant. We have both delivered this model through our expertise, but also by garnering invaluable experience and knowledge from external counsel, including our Female Advisory Board. This is a real landmark for this great British brand and I promise that DBX will reward all who experience it in their everyday lives.”
New dedicated SUV platform
The foundation of the DBX is a new dedicated SUV platform. Utilising bonded aluminium, a construction method Aston Martin has refined through the development of its sports cars, the body structure is both very light and incredibly stiff, assisting in the delivery of an overall kerbweight of 2,245kg.
Right from its genesis, the DBX was designed to allow maximum room in the cabin, putting a premium on refinement and class-leading spaciousness for both front and rear occupants. The British carmaker says the exceptional stiffness inherent in the design of the new platform has also enabled DBX to achieve exceptional dynamics both on and off-road.
The car rides on 22in Pirelli-shod wheels available in two different styles and the brakes are steel discs, 410mm diameter with six-piston discs in front and 390mm diameter at the rear.
Adaptive triple volume air suspension has been combined with the latest 48v electric anti-roll control system (eARC) and electronic adaptive dampers to provide the new SUV with a huge breadth of ability. With its capacity to raise the ride height by 45mm or lower it by 50mm the air suspension gives any driver the confidence to tackle a wide range of terrain. While this provides benefits while on the move, the system can be further programmed to aid with ingress, egress and loading requirements, aiding on a practical level.
The adaptive triple chamber air springs enable variable spring stiffness, giving both luxurious comfort and dynamic prowess. The eARC – capable of 1,400 Nm of anti-roll force per axle – can limit the DBX’s body roll for handling that is much more akin to that of a sports car than an SUV. This sophisticated system of adaptive air suspension, dampers and eARC allows for maximum ride comfort when transporting up to five occupants and their luggage, while maintaining a highly responsive and engaging dynamic capability.
Powered by a new version of the 4-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine found in the DB11 and Vantage, DBX features an impressive output of 542 hp and 700 Nm of torque, carefully tuned to meet the specific needs of this model. The turbocharged V8 has cylinder deactivation to enhance fuel economy, yet it can also propel the DBX from 0 to 100kph in 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 181mph / 290kph.
The steering is all electric and high geared, requiring 2.6 turns from lock to lock.
Transmitting this power and torque to the ground is a nine-speed torque convertor automatic gearbox, allied to an all-wheel drive system with active differentials featuring an active central differential and an electronic rear limited slip differential (eDiff). This allows the torque to be moved precisely both fore and aft in the vehicle and also across the rear axle.
With 632 litres of boot space and 40:20:40 split folding rear seats, the DBX possesses all the flexible load capacity expected of an SUV with class-leading interior space. The load space offers a practical and cleanly designed space. A narrow load sill and broad aperture maximises the practicality for a variety of luggage, such as suitcases, golf bags and ski equipment.
DBX is extremely plush inside, all switches and controls have been designed specifically for this new model.
Luxurious handcrafted interior
The luxurious handcrafted interior of the DBX is designed to provide equal space and comfort, whether sitting in the front or rear of the car. Class-leading headroom and legroom combines with a full-length glass panoramic roof and frameless door glass to offer a light and spacious cabin environment. The use of sports car seat packaging in the front not only provides the driver with exceptional support and long-distance driving comfort, but also provides knee and footwell clearance for those sitting behind, says Aston Martin.
Small touches throughout, including separate central armrests, glovebox design and the ergonomic positioning of the car’s key control systems, have been guided carefully by the input of the brand’s Female Advisory Board, dealership feedback and a variety of private focus groups held worldwide.
Throughout the cabin, DBX maintains an authenticity of materials, with judicious use of metal, glass and wood throughout the cabin.
The DBX has an abundance of technology. A 10.25-inch TFT screen sits flush in the centre console, while a huge 12.3-inch TFT screen provides a wealth of information to the driver. Apple CarPlay comes as standard, as does a 360-degree camera system and ambient lighting that offers 64 different colours in two zones.
Aerodynamics were an important consideration within the design process and this included the novel experience for the team of running computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tests with a DBX towing a trailer with a DB6 on it. At the car’s front, the daytime running lights (DRLs) have an integrated aerodynamic duct, which channels air through the front wheel arches and along the side, helping to reduce both drag and lift while also cooling the brakes. Air flows cleanly over the roof, through the rear wing, over the rear window and on to the rear flip. This unique approach and design detail allows the rear screen to self-clear on the move. Aerodynamic design has also played a key part in passenger comfort because as one of only a few companies using computational aeroacoustics technology, Aston Martin’s engineers have been able to keep cabin noise to a minimum at speed.
With its all-wheel drive system, DBX is an SUV that will allow Aston Martin to increase its presence in markets where perhaps the weather or terrain is less than conducive to rear-wheel drive sports cars. The clear emphasis on a spacious and luxurious cabin – whether seated in the front or back – will also allow Aston Martin to better reach customers who prefer to be driven rather than drive.
The first 500 owners of this landmark model will get an exclusive ‘1913 Package’. Fitted with a unique fender badge, sill plaques and an inspection plaque detailing its limited build-run, each of these first examples will be personally endorsed and inspected by Dr Palmer. In addition, each customer will also receive a unique build-book signed by both Aston Martin’s CEO and Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman and an invitation to a regionally hosted Waldorf Astoria celebration cocktail party, hosted by a member of the Aston Martin Lagonda executive team. A luxury SUV, priced at £158,000 (Rs 1.46 crore) before options and the first of its kind from an iconic brand does have its benefits.
(Inputs from Steve Cropley, Autocar UK)
Also read: Marek Reichman: ‘There’s never been an Aston that has had so much research into its design.’