Aston Martin describes its new DBX as, ‘a bold new chapter and a landmark moment in our illustrious 106-year history. Our first SUV will propel the brand to new heights worldwide. That model, is DBX.’ The thing is, I don’t think it’s a bold move at all – in fact, it’s pretty much the most obvious car it has built. And far more relevant than the ill-fated Cygnet.
Yeah, I know it’s an SUV. A crossover that us car enthusiasts look down our noses at, but which drivers are snapping up in ever increasing numbers. But this five-seater behemoth will help secure Aston Martin’s future, as well as establish its new factory in St Athan, Wales. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than aware of the weakness of the SUV as a format – they’re generally slower, less economical and less fun to drive than the saloons and hatchbacks they’re based upon. And, yet, the best ones can be satisfying to drive. A dichotomy, surely?
It’s worth saying that in giving the buyer what they want, Aston Martin is joining a crowded marketplace. The Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus and Rolls-Royce Cullinan are doing very well thank you very much. And we have a Ferrari SUV on its way. Aston Martin says that the DBX, ‘brings both the versatility and indulgence expected of a luxury SUV with sports car levels of dynamic performance, DBX sets a bold new standard in this sector.’
So, will it?
In the case of the DBX, the fact it’s sat on bespoke underpinnings helps somewhat. Aston Martin Lagonda President and Group CEO, Dr. Andy Palmer might say that, ‘the DBX will reward all who experience it in their everyday lives.’ Before you chortle at the idea of a £150k-plus SUV being someone’s daily, just take a look at where you see these cars flocking – they’re in our cities, our motorways and in our villages. Yes, SUVs really are the new normal, like it or lump it.
Is the DBX any different to its rivals?
In engineering terms, it’s interesting, but not unique. It’s fashioned from bonded aluminium, a construction method Aston Martin has refined through the development of its sports cars since the year dot. It has adaptive triple volume air suspension, a 48 volt electric anti-roll control system (eARC) and electronic adaptive dampers. From what we’ve seen, it’ll drive well on road, and probably quite tolerably off it, too – as long as it’s on decent tyres.
As you’d expect (and be disappointed if it weren’t the case), it’s powerful at 543bhp, while the the turbocharged V8 has cylinder deactivation to enhance fuel economy, yet it can also shovel the DBX from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and on to a maximum speed of 181mph. For any Aston Vantage owner jumping into their DBX to go on an family adventure to deepest Wales (or to Waitrose), they won’t feel too shortchanged in terms of pace.
According to the spec sheet, it has all the accoutrements for going off-roading, too. So you’ll take it as read that it has lots of ride height, and a suite of diff settings to play with. Will it? Unlikely…
It’s hard not to feel a little disappointed by the DBX’s exterior styling, which seems almost apologetic – as though the Design Team’s brief was to try not to offend anyone. Given the Vantage and DB11 look completely out there, this is an organic effort that doesn’t translate at all well in images. In its press release, Aston Martin says, ‘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.’ Maybe that explains it…
But, you know what: the Porsche Cayenne is hardly a looker either, and it still sells strongly, as it slides towards a million built. Porsche production looks like this: of the 246,375 cars produced in 2017, 32,197 were 911s, 25,114 were Boxsters and Caymans, 63,913 were Cayennes, 27,942 were Panameras and 97,202 were Macans. In other words, the two best-selling Porsches were SUVs. More than that, the Cayenne probably saved Porsche – or, at the very least, guaranteed the company’s survival. We might not like it, but that’s the reality. Aston Martin will be looking for the same.
Dr. Andy Palmer added: ‘DBX is a car that will give many people their first experience of Aston Martin ownership. As such it needed to be true to the core values established in our sports cars, while also providing the lifestyle versatility expected of a luxury SUV. To have produced such a beautiful, hand built, yet technologically advanced car is a proud moment for Aston Martin.’
I think what he’s saying is that the DBX has been designed to ooze family values, but will encourage lots of new people into the Aston Martin circle of owners. Despite being an unoriginal SUV that’s going to be fighting a lot of similar cars, I think it’ll sell. And sell well. Right now, the SUV market continues to grow at an alarming rate and shows no sign of backing off. The Aston Martin DBX might come with an evocative badge on its bonnet but it’s not that dissimilar to its rivals, so it’s fortunate that the luxury SUV market will keep expanding for now – until at least we’re all forced into electric cars.
So, Aston Martin has now concluded it needed to be in it to win it. Now it’s in, it’s more as likely going to sell like hot cakes. Any regrets I might have about the company resorting to building cars like this (and therefore polluting the lovely DB bloodline) are firmly outweighed by the fact that Aston Martin’s survival would be a wonderful thing. We’ve lost too many heroes recently for it not to happen. Let’s hope the company flourishes, this thing sells as well as I think it will and the profits go further than just designing a more palatable send-generation DBX in years to come. I’m clinging to the hope that this DBX will be the enabler for something truly innovative after that.