After 106 years without, Aston Martin adds an SUV to the lineup.
The number of automakers that don’t produce an SUV is shrinking fast. Now, after 106 years of building nothing but cars, Aston Martin has given in. The Aston Martin DBX is just under 200 inches long, nearly 80 inches wide and 66 inches tall. That’s big. Comfortably bigger than a Porsche Cayenne, in fact. Bigger than a Bentley Bentayga, too. The DBX provides seatbelts for five and offers 22.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, 54 cubic feet when that row is folded.
Reasonable SUV stats thus far. Here’s some more: While standard ground clearance is 7.5 inches, the Aston DBX comes equipped with a three-chamber air suspension that lifts clearance to 9.3 inches. At that height, it can wade in as much as 19.7 inches of water. All-wheel drive is standard and defaults to 47 percent of the power to the front axle, 53 percent to the rear. The DBX can tow 5,940 pounds. And there’s hill descent control. Again, it seems to fit the SUV bill.
But then Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin, told me this: “We are sub-eight minutes around the Nurburgring.” That’s when you notice that the standard tires on the DBX are a staggered set of Pirelli P Zeros, 285/40R-22 in front 325/35R-22 in back. That AWD system can also divert nearly 100 percent of the power to the rear axle and then has an electronically controlled limited-slip differential to direct it from side to side. That same air suspension also drops the DBX 2 inches from its base ride height. And the steering ratio is a supercar-fast 14.4:1.
Clearly, Aston Martin didn’t have the heart to throw its sports car playbook in the trash for the DBX. But Palmer also knew the company had to expand. “In the last five years, we are now selling in 54 different countries, U.S. being now our biggest market. And we need to separate the sports cars, so DB11 needs to be separate from Vantage, needs to be separate from DBS and this starts appealing to a greater portfolio knowing that 72 percent of our existing owners own an SUV.”
Aston Martin designed a new platform for the DBX that is distinct from the cars. And it is not a Mercedes-Benz chassis, either. Built from aluminum and largely bonded together, despite the size, the DBX tips the scales at a relatively slim 4,940 pounds. The four-wheel independent suspension uses links in a control-arm configuration in front and a multilink setup in back. In addition to the aforementioned air suspension, the DBX gets active antiroll bars with a 48-volt controller named eARC (antiroll control), which allows a lot of flexibility in body control. Some of that flexibility comes from choosing one of six driving modes: GT (the most comfortable), sport, sport-plus, terrain, terrain-plus and individual.
Powering all this is a new version of the 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8, originally from AMG, used in the DB11 and Vantage. It has upgraded turbochargers, a different compression ratio, updated charge coolers and produces a peak 542 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. That muscle gets channeled through a nine-speed automatic transmission, also from AMG, through a one-piece carbon-fiber drive shaft and on to all four wheels.
The DBX also has an active exhaust system for you to choose whether it’s time to bring the noise or stay quiet. And, fun fact, on startup if you press and release the stop/start button, the engine revs loud and proud; press and hold down the button, it’s a quiet start. Either way, punch it and the DBX reaches 60 mph from rest in 4.3 seconds and can eventually reach 181 mph. If all the above sounds underwhelming to you, Palmer didn’t commit to anything, but “all I’ll say is that all of our engine bays are capable of taking V8s and V12s.” Don’t be shocked to learn of a more powerful DBX soon.
While a touch tall and bulbous, the shape of the DBX is immediately recognizable as an Aston Martin. The iconic grille is there, and the shape of the hood is very DB11. The headlights are LEDs, and inside the daytime running lights are vents to help keep the brakes cool and keep excess air out of the front wheel arches. Not seen is a very flat floor, which Aston Martin says played a big role in achieving its 181-mph top speed. On the opposite end is a very visible and standard glass roof, as well as a rear wing out back.
In addition to the powertrain, Mercedes-Benz also provides the electronics, so don’t be surprised if some of the infotainment gadgets look familiar. The center of it all is a 10.25-inch screen that controls the three-zone climate control and 800-watt, 14-speaker stereo system. More traditionally, the DBX gets its leathers from Scotland and uses real wood in the interior that is milled from one solid piece. And part of the interior trim is made from a fabric of which 80 percent comes from wool. Generally speaking, the interior is also gorgeous.
Aston Martin built a new factory in St. Athan, Wales, and hired 750 people to assemble the DBX. And it anticipates building as many as 4,000 a year. Worldwide, that’s a very low number. And Palmer is happy about that. “You’re not going to get tens of thousands of these on the road; therefore, anybody buying into this is going to get a rare asset.” If you want to be one of those people, pricing starts at $189,900 before destination.
And for the first 500, they receive the “1913 Package”: unique fender badges, sill plaques and an inspection plaque detailing it’s a limited-build run. Each of these examples will be personally endorsed and inspected by Palmer and include a build book signed by Aston Martin’s CEO and COO, Marek Reichman. Finally, you receive an invitation to a regionally hosted Waldorf Astoria celebration cocktail party. Swanky.
I understand the urge to bemoan Aston Martin’s move, but it’s much better to simply accept the fact that it had to happen. BMW, Porsche—hell, Lamborghini—already build SUVs, and Ferrari claims to have one on the way. The cool part is how immediately and obviously this still looks like an Aston Martin. More than anything, I just want to know how it drives.
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