Higher calling: Aston Martin takes a sophisticated approach to its first ever SUV
For all the leaps and bounds in the everyday usability of even the fastest supercar, they’re not, by any stretch of the imagination, much use as practical family cars. According to Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s executive vice president and chief creative officer, some 72 per cent of Aston Martin owners also have another marque’s SUV in their garage, presumably for this very purpose. ‘It’s an obvious place for us to be,’ he admits.
The DBX is car number four in Aston Martin’s much-vaunted ‘seven cars in seven years’ strategy. It’s also notable for being the first foray into a whole new sector. The first three models saw the revitalisation of the company’s core sports car range, but from now onwards, Aston is in new territory, with a brace of mid-engine sports cars in the works and the forthcoming reinvention of Lagonda as an all-electric luxury brand.
The DBX has a lot of work to do. For a start, it must justify the investment in a new factory in Wales, and help bankroll Aston Martin’s other ambitious plans. As an Aston, the DBX must also be ‘the most beautiful SUV in the segment’, says Reichman, whose design approach, as always, is all about proportion. An SUV offers up a very different visual challenge, and not one of the DBX’s competitors hits the spot marked ‘elegant’.
All that is set to change with this low- slung five-seater. Aston Martin’s masterstroke is in stretching out the wheelbase and pushing the 22in wheels out to the corners. The resulting short front and rear overhangs and low roof line make the car appear much smaller than it really is, an effect exaggerated by a swooping shoulder line that dips down at the rear, just as the glasshouse is kicking up to mimic the coupé-style roofline of its sporting siblings. The rear is especially successful, with an integrated spoiler referencing the Vantage model, and a trim rear elevation.
At the front, the big aluminium grille is, according to Reichman, one of the largest ever applied to an Aston Martin. The DBX can take it, however; there isn’t an ungainly angle to be found and the whole ensemble is undeniably an Aston Martin. This juggling act has been helped enormously by Aston’s ability to create its own platform, albeit with a V8 engine (along with a 4WD system) supplied by Mercedes’ AMG division.
Aston buyers are still overwhelmingly male and the company sought feedback from customers, dealers and its own advisors to ensure the DBX helps address the imbalance. The SUV’s interior is cosseting without being cocooning, combining the firm’s meticulous attention to detail with the ability to personalise materials and colours. ‘It has more options than we’ve had with any other product,’ Reichman says, and six special designer specifications will launch with the car to help make sense of the choices. ‘For the first time in an Aston Martin, the interior volume is as important as the exterior forms,’ he admits, adding that, at 6ft 4in, it’s imperative he can sit comfortably in the rear seats. Owners’ lifestyles are also catered to, whether they are climbers, skiers, riders or dog owners; a collection of bespoke accessory packs can be specified to enhance the weatherproofing, practicality and protection of the DBX’s interior and luggage compartment, including a portable washer to clean muddy paws.
All this would be for nothing if the car didn’t behave like a true Aston Martin. Here, the company has deployed its secret weapon, chief engineer Matt Becker. Becker and his team oversaw a thorough development process to maximise the DBX’s abilities. The end result is an Autobahn stormer that feels wieldy around town, with sports car dynamics on twisty routes, as well as hugely competent off-road ability. As Reichman says, ‘it drives and feels like a Vantage and stops like a DBS Superleggera’.
Thanks to Becker’s finely tuned skill set and Reichman’s elegant forms, Aston Martin can be forgiven for being late to the SUV party. After all, it’s given itself advance warning of what everyone else is wearing, ensuring that the DBX will make maximum impact. Sporting luxury just entered a new level of sophistication. §