It’s a big week for SUVs. First came the “that’s not really a Mustang” Mach-E electric SUV from Ford, and then Aston Martin finally unveiled the first five-seater model in its 106 year history, the new DBX SUV.
We were fortunate enough to see the DBX before the official reveal, at a private viewing at Aston’s design facility at its Formula 1 partner Red Bull’s Advanced Technology Centre in the UK.
The new DBX is a very big deal for Aston. While the company won’t officially say how many it hopes to sell, a figure of 4,000 cars a year is being discussed. That would almost double the brand’s existing production, which is why it needed to build a brand-new manufacturing facility for the DBX at St Athan in south Wales.
That facility is not just for the DBX though, it will also be the home of Aston’s electrification plans. It’s already producing the Rapide-E there in very limited numbers, but there’s more to come including the super luxury Lagonda. The Aston people won’t be drawn on electrification plans for the DBX but with the company promising to electrify its range by the middle of the next decade, it’s safe to assume the DBX will be plugged in to the new automotive era.
Walking round the car with Simon Croft, senior manager launch strategy and planning at Aston Martin, it’s clear there are many design aspects that will be familiar to Aston fans. The ‘DB’ grille is an obvious one, it’s the largest grille ever on a model from the marque.
There will be those who criticise the brand for venturing into SUV territory instead of sticking to sports cars. Earlier this year Aston Martin’s chief creative officer, Marek Reichman said that millennials will see SUVs as GT cars.
And not just millennials. The world is moving to SUVs at a rapid rate, in spite of environmental concerns around them. Just as people are buying SUVs lower down the pricing order, so are high-end buyers. Porsche has its Cayenne, Bentley the Bentayga, Lamborghini the Urus and soon Ferrari will launch its Purosangue.
But in 2018, Bentley sold 4,072 Bentaygas, almost half its total production. Aston wants a bit of that action. And to make DBX a success, it has drawn on its shareholder, Daimler. Underneath the clamshell bonnet sits a 4.0l twin-turbo V8 from Mercedes-AMG. It produces 405kW and 700Nm, capable of hauling the DBX to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 291km/h.
There’s an adaptive triple volume air suspension system to keep things level, to help ensure that the DBX handles like an Aston Martin. But of course it needs to handle off-road, like no Aston has done before.
It uses a tweaked version of Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive system, something we learnt when we saw the name flash up on the dashboard. It’ll be gone on the production model.
The system can send 100% of the torque to the rear and across the rear axle via an active centre differential and an electronic rear limited slip diff. The DBX has a 500mm wading depth and six Terrain modes accessible at the touch of a button.
What also makes things easy is the luxurious interior you would expect of an Aston SUV. It’s all handcrafted of course, with copious amounts of leather and fashionable recycled materials. The dashboard has a real Aston look and feel about it, even with the various elements that clearly come from Merc, such as the infotainment and digital instrument cluster screens, the touchpad and some of the buttons.
There’s plenty of space in the rear seats too and even more headroom back there than I’ve experienced in many a modern SUV. Boot space is 632l and you can fold down the seats at the push of a glass button for larger loads.
Then there are 11 optional packages. These range from a “pet package” with a hose and built in water container to wash your pooch after a walk in the woods, to a “field sport package” with gun cabinet and shooting stick. And you have a list of accessories, such as a roof-mounted bike rack, rear seat entertainment and so on, because no-one will buy a DBX stock standard.
This means they will be paying significantly more than the R3.6m basic price for the DBX when deliveries first begin in June 2020. By then we have no doubt that Daytona Group, the importers of Aston in SA will have a sizeable order book.