In my third consecutive post, discussing the reveal of new cars, I would like turn your attention to one of the world's oldest and most prestigious automakers - Aston Martin, now celebrating their 106th year anniversary.
After years of teasing, the Aston Martin DBX was announced to the world yesterday, being Aston Martin's first production SUV. According to the brand, the DBX is their answer to a new world economy crazed for high-riding SUVs and crossovers. Moreover, the DBX may just be the solution to Aston Martin's precarious balance-sheet, having flirted with bankruptcy 7 times in its history.
A vision of the future, is a look to the past.
If you recall from my previous post discussing Ford's Mustang Mach-E, you'll know that I was hopeful, albeit with a healthy dose of scepticism regarding their use of the Mustang name. On paper, the Mach-E seems to possess the makings of a good car.
Yet, I wasn't so sure if branding it as a Mustang was necessarily the best idea, as Ford had plenty of other brands in their stable that could be more appropriate.
However, I do not feel that scepticism when hearing about, and especially having seen images of Aston's DBX. In fact, I rather liked it, and I do have some justifications for this.
Firstly, unlike Ford's diverse family of vehicle classes, Aston Martin has long relied its business model on selling sports cars and grand-tourers. Knowing the difficulty of maintaining profitability in that segment, I'm more sympathetic towards Aston for keeping up with the trend, and launching a potential best-seller to keep the company from financial ruin.
That same strategy was employed by Porsche once, when they first launched the Cayenne. Despite the somewhat ugly-duckling looks, we know now the effect which the Cayenne had.
Secondly, Aston Martin is not constrained by its product line, as the company has modeled their brand name as a lifestyle choice and bespoke experience, rather than just a maker of cars. Their marketing, and surely its high-end clientele, have made that easier, when compared to Ford.
Aston Martin's trademark wings have been stamped on numerous other things, such as leather goods, boats, submarines, flying cars, and even real-estate. Thus, launching an SUV is simply an extension on that lifestyle, and doesn't have an effect to Aston's traditions.
Third and most important of all, the DBX pays tribute to their expertise in building performance cars. Aston Martin have managed to incorporate much of their traditions and branding onto the DBX. Whereas the Mach-E, and I'm not talking about electrification , is just another SUV/crossover. Without the Pony logo, there's little to think that it's a Mustang at all.
The DBX looks, and certainly sounds like an Aston Martin, even from a distance, and there's no mistaking about which company it came from. Furthermore, Aston has incorporated much of their learnings from engineering some of the world's best sports cars, into the DBX.
That trickles down onto every aspect of the DBX. It sits atop a brand new bonded-aluminium chassis, one that Aston has mastered since the DB11, and is completely brand new - a major undertaking for a small company. The upside of this structure, is that it is (relatively) lightweight, and also very rigid. For the latter, while extremely good for sports cars, translate well into off-roaders as well.
Another neat trick from working with performance cars, is that Aston have accustomed themselves to efficient packaging of componentry. This can be seen when sitting inside the DBX, as Aston made sure to spare as much space as possible. The seats for example, are taken from their grand-tourers. Being sporty seats, they have the advantage of being light and very compact, and that compactness translates to good backseat legroom.
All in all, unlike the Mach-E, which doesn't remind me as a Mustang (a perspective that may change in time), the DBX instantly reminds me of an Aston Martin.
A high-class boxer, in a Saville Row suit.
With all that aside, Aston Martin has been working on the DBX since 2015, and they're making sure it'll be ready to wow the world when it's launched. On the exterior, it’s a treat for the eyes, regardless of one's personal tastes, fact.
The side profile shows a familiar sloping roofline, to maximise its sporty looks. Something worth noticing, is the strong body lines that go along the side, to show off a muscular design trait. Meanwhile, Aston has, in my opinion, the best wheel design of any carmaker in recent times, with a floral pattern shown here.
At the front, you see a distinct and instantly recognisable Aston Martin grille design, and adorned with a slightly enlarged Aston wing, solely for the DBX, to keep them into proportions. Near the bottom, there are two additional auxiliary lights, but within them is a vent to direct cool air to the brakes.
In the rear, Aston has used a similar taillight design as the Vantage, seemingly taken straight from it, including the ducktail spoiler. The rear-windscreen is sloped to an angle, where a windscreen wiper won't be necessary. Further helping with clearing the rain, is the spoiler on top, which directs air onto the spoiler.
Powering the DBX is a 4.0L twin-turbo V8, borrowed and slightly modified from the Vantage, which itself is sourced from Mercedes' AMG department. This wonderfully naughty engine puts out 542hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, allowing the DBX to accelerate to 60mph in 4.3 seconds, and onto a top speed of 181mph. Soon, there is a chance the DBX could get a 3.0L mild-hybrid V6, or even electric motors.
All that grunt is then sent through a new 9-speed transmission, allowing for easy cruising, or hard bruising, at the driver's discretion. The drivetrain, is a clever new AWD system, that can send up to 100% of the power to the rear, and up to 50% to the front. Aiding the sportiness of the DBX, Aston has put in a 48V anti-roll system to keep the floatiness of a heavy, high-riding SUV in check.
While Aston Martin have engineered the DBX with sporty, precise handling, they've not forgotten about its off-road capabilities. The DBX rides on a fancy air-suspension set-up, which can jack up the suspension by 45 millimetres for off-roading, and squat it down by 50 millimetres for fast driving. At the end of the DBX, is a sports exhaust, giving it a traditionally raughty and angry baritone voice of an Aston Martin.
Moving inside, the DBX continues to impress, with a mix of class and practicality. As expected, it has the very best leather and wool from across the British Isles to line the interior. As mentioned before, the supple sports seats translate to better legroom for backseat occupants, with class-leading luggage space in the rear.
Since Aston Martin is selling you a lifestyle, which includes the car, you can specify multiple accessory packs; from a doggy pack, which includes a nice leather leash, bowls, and a bed for your best friend(s); to a shooting pack, which includes a nice leather bag to store your guns and ammo during those hunting seasons.
For technological aspects of the DBX, much of the electronics are borrowed from their good partners at Mercedes-Benz, which is no bad thing. This includes the very latest MBUX infotainment system, already one of the best in the world. Moreover, the DBX even has some advanced lane-keeping and cruise control systems, which are absent from their previous models.
For all that, the DBX will cost you $189,000 minimum, when deliveries begin next year. As with the Mach-E, the DBX's launch does not include any actual driving tests by journalists. That said, my first impressions are very good, and I'm keen to hear what the automotive press might say on the driving experience.