Currently reading: New Aston Martin DBX: 542bhp SUV charged with reviving firm
The long-awaited £158,000 SUV is expected to boost Aston’s sales by two-thirds
Steve Cropley Autocar
News
6 mins read
20 November 2019

Aston Martin has officially unveiled its all-important SUV, dubbed the DBX – a model designed to open a vital, perhaps life-saving, new tranche of its global business. The five-seat 4x4, powered by a 542bhp version of the 4.0-litre turbocharged AMG-sourced V8, will cost £158,000 before options and goes on sale today for deliveries next spring.

The DBX’s striking fastback looks are revealed here for the first time, although the company has been teasing market watchers for many months by displaying disguised prototypes in public.

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 they’re seeing hard evidence of the DBX – a model from the brand-new St Athan factory 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 4000 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.

The DBX is a late-comer to the sporting premium SUV market: Porsche has been in it for the best part of two decades. Lamborghini and Bentley are more recent arrivals and even Ferrari has fast-maturing plans.

But Aston Martin believes its combination of an all-new bonded aluminium platform (using techniques perfected in two generations of sports cars) plus the fact that the DBX’s structure is shared at the outset with no other model – Porsche and Lamborghini share structures, for instance – gives the new SUV considerable advantages. One is weight saving: the DBX’s 2245kg kerb weight does not make it light by any means, but it undercuts some rivals by as much as 400kg.

For now, the DBX’s engine is the AMG-sourced 4.0-litre V8 but a high compression ratio plus upgrades to the intercoolers and turbochargers lift power to 542bhp at 6500rpm and peak torque to 516lb ft, delivered between 2200rpm and 5000rpm, with 0-60mph in 4.3sec and a top speed of 181mph.

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There are new efficiency refinements and a cylinder cut-off system for part-load running. The upshot is a combined WLTP fuel economy figure of 19.7mpg and a CO2 output of 269g/km.

New powertrains are coming for the DBX, and although Aston won’t give many details, it seems likely they will include a plug-in hybrid (doubtless using know-how from technology partner Daimler). Meanwhile, the company has also been gathering experience of electric vehicles – at St Athan – with its limited-edition RapidE saloon.

With an overall length of just over 5.04m, the DBX fits almost exactly into a gap between Bentley’s Bentayga (5.14m) and Porsche’s Cayenne (4.92m). It is low and sporty in SUV terms – 74mm lower than the Bentley, 20mm lower than the Porsche – yet its 3.06m wheelbase is longer than both, allowing packaging that makes it unusually spacious for both people and luggage.

Palmer said the DBX’s specification has been guided by “external counsel”, including from a female advisory board set up soon after his arrival at Aston Martin five years ago. Palmer especially values female customers and has been successful at attracting them to the company’s other vehicles, especially in Asia and the US.

As you might expect of a company that brought in Lotus’s top chassis man – Matt Becker – to develop its cars’ dynamics, Aston has equipped the DBX with all of the suspension hardware a serious SUV needs to perform its wide spectrum of duties well. It has triple-chamber air suspension to vary spring rates, adaptive damping from Bilstein and a 48V anti-roll system that incorporates what Aston claims is an extremely quick-acting electric motor into its anti-roll bars to counteract body roll according to instructions from sensors all over the car.

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There’s a smart all-wheel-drive system that features electronically controlled centre and rear differentials to distribute torque away from slipping wheels. In normal use, the car is 100% rear driven – for high-speed handling reasons – but when necessary, just under 50% of torque is directed to the front wheels.

“The lateral grip numbers we’ve seen in testing on Tarmac have been incredible,” said Becker. “We believe we’ve pushed the boundaries of what is possible for an SUV.”

The DBX’s all-independent suspension can raise the car 45mm or lower it 50mm from normal ride height and there are six adaptive driving modes (four on road, two off road). The steering is all electric and high geared, requiring 2.6 turns from lock to lock.

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.

Inside, the DBX is extremely plush and almost infinitely configurable. All switches and controls have been designed specifically for this new model. Prominent features include a large pair of TFT screens, one central and one ahead of the driver, and a ‘bridged’ centre console that brings both elegance and space efficiency to the cabin.

The seats are derived from DB11 designs, to enhance sportiness, and among a plethora of imaginative options are a pet package (which carries a portable dog washer) and a snow package (which has boot warmers for keen skiers).

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The first 500 DBX buyers get what Aston calls a ‘1913 Package’, whose name celebrates the marque’s 106 years of life by adding unique body and sill badges plus a commemorative plaque.

Each car will be inspected and endorsed by Andy Palmer and a special photographic build book will be signed by both Palmer and design boss Marek Reichman to underpin the fact that, after more than a century, Aston is now building a new kind of car.

“DBX will give many people their first experience of Aston Martin ownership,” said Palmer. “It needs to be true to Aston Martin’s core values.”

Q&A Marek Reichman, design chief

Question: What’s different about the DBX against other SUVs?

Answer: “DBX doesn’t compromise beauty or performance for practicality or usability. We’ve designed it to deliver on the proportions that meet the beauty criteria we’d apply for any Aston Martin.”

Question: How did you derive the impressive interior dimensions. Did you do the cabin first?

Answer: “There’s never been an Aston that has had so much research into its design, especially to ergonomics and interior space. That began with the decision to tailor the vehicle size and proportions to the specific needs of DBX. The length between the wheels allowed us to optimise cabin space while maintaining a low roofline.”

Question: Did you feel constrained by the practical nature of an SUV after all those sports cars?

Answer: “Not at all. An SUV has to be fun, too. Some others may not be, but ours certainly is. This was never going to be a breadvan. I think of it as a car with its own spirit, an adventurer.”

Question: Of which parts are you proudest?

Answer: “I’m pretty pleased with the way the fastback look of DBX positions the visual mass over the rear wheels, just as you see with our sports cars, without compromising the ingress and egress. That’s not so easy to do.”

Question: Do you expect loyal Aston buyers to go for the DBX?

Answer: “Our research tells us 72% of our existing customers have a high-end SUV, but we don’t believe success will come from depending on their loyalty. These days, success is about having the best product.”

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paddyb 25 November 2019

So much better looking than

So much better looking than the Bentayga, Cullinan, Cayenne, X6, X7, etc, etc.

No SUV, other than the Range Rover, has such a British pedigree.  The Bentayga and Cullinan are both German interpretations of 'Britischness', whereas the Aston really seems to be the genuine article.  If I saw one on the street I would admire it, whereas when I see a Bentayga I generally want to wretch.

The front and side profiles are particularly good.

This should secure the future of the company for the medium term, although they really need to do some catching up on the EV front.

eseaton 20 November 2019

Accepting it had to be done,

Accepting it had to be done, that looks pretty decent.  And the price isn't as silly as it could have been either.

Cenuijmu 20 November 2019

When your SUV is better looking than your sports car.

I still can't believe the Vantage got signed off looking like that, it has almost sunk the company.  

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