Following the unveiling of three landmark concept cars at the Geneva motor show, Aston Martin has released new images and a video of its upcoming DBX SUV undergoing extreme weather testing in Sweden.
Testing is taking place at tyre manufacturer Pirelli’s Flurheden proving ground as part of the two brands’ ongoing partnership.
Aston Martin chief engineer Matt Becker said: “Testing these prototypes in cold climate conditions helps us to assess the car’s early dynamics and, crucially, ensure confidence-inspiring sure-footedness on low-grip surfaces.
“This car propels Aston Martin into a new segment and our engineering team are enjoying the challenges of developing a quality luxury SUV experience through this robust testing schedule. Progress is on track and I am confident that we will deliver over and above what our customers would expect from an Aston Martin SUV.”
The DBX is the first Aston Martin to go through a new dedicated test programme, to ensure it can produce the kind of dynamic on-road performance on which Aston has always made its name, allied to some credibility off road. Testing is also due to take place in the deserts of the Middle East, on German autobahns and at the Nürburgring.
The DBX was recently seen on UK roads testing the brand’s AMG-sourced twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, which is expected to be the first engine offered in the SUV when it arrives before the end of the year. Expect a similar power output to the DB11’s 503bhp.
The new images from Sweden show the same five-door body shape as the official ‘spy shots’ released by Aston Martin last year. The model is expected to retain this profile for production.
Unlike the concept, the production DBX will feature a more conventional five-door layout rather than the sleeker three-door design that was originally expected.
The DBX is one of the most important models in Aston Martin’s history and the next phase of the company’s turnaround plan under boss Andy Palmer. While every Aston produced under Palmer to date as part of his ‘Second Century’ plan has been a replacement for an existing model (DB11, Vantage and DBS Superleggera), the DBX breaks new ground by having no direct predecessor.
As well as being the first Aston SUV, it is also the first Aston to be produced in a new purpose-built factory in St Athan, Wales. During its life cycle, it will introduce hybrid technology to Aston and it will also play a key role in trying to attract female buyers to the Aston Martin brand.
The DBX is built on an Aston Martin architecture that will be closely related to that set to underpin the Lagonda saloon and Lagonda SUV, which Aston also has in the pipeline. The new Lagondas will be built alongside the DBX in Wales, starting from 2021.
However, whereas the Lagonda models will be electrically driven, the DBX will start life with petrol power before getting Mercedes-sourced hybrid technology early in the next decade. Aston Martin’s own V12 and Mercedes-AMG’s V8 engines will both find their way into the DBX, with Mercedes also donating the car’s electrical architecture.
The DBX will compete against the likes of the Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga, Rolls-Royce Cullinan and upcoming Ferrari SUV. Given the broad appeal and rise in popularity of SUVs, the DBX is expected to quickly become Aston’s best-selling model.
The DBX was first seen in its distincitive prototype camouflage on the gravel stages of the Wales Rally GB, for the first time giving hints of the final production car’s design. There’s little left of the DBX concept in the camouflaged test mule, although the sleek silhouette does remain, albeit with an extra pair of doors.
Sharp body creases and a pronounced shoulder line help reduce the overall visual bulk of what is the most high-sided Aston yet produced, while a new integrated grille design performs a similar role at the front of the car.
It will also be the first all-new Aston Martin model launched after the company’s stock market flotation, after the firm returned to profitability last year.
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Aston Martin has changed significantly as a company under the leadership of Andy Palmer, who joined as CEO in 2014. He has brought financial stability to the company and returned it to profit.
In 2017, the company was in the black for the first time since 2010. Aston’s first-half results in 2018 showed that it recorded a pre-tax profit of £20.7 million.
Palmer has underpinned that growth with his so-called ‘Second Century’ plan, which is formed of seven models being launched over seven years at the rate of one per year, each then on sale for a seven-year model cycle with various derivatives and special-edition versions launched within that.
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Hybrid powertrains to arrive later in DBX’s lifecycle
Daimler will provide Aston’s hybrid technology and is also one of two routes for sourcing full-electric drivetrains, according to Palmer, with other external partners also being explored.
Aston has sourced an 800V system for its first electric car, the limited-run RapidE due in 2019, and Palmer said 800V and access to the latest chemistry is key to any future EV powertrain from the firm. Although hybrid versions of the DBX are a long way off, the car will be launched with a Mercedes-sourced 4.0-litre V8 and Aston’s own 5.2-litre V12 as core engine options.
Palmer said that although he lists the DBX’s rivals as the Bentayga, Urus, Cullinan and upcoming Ferrari, each model performs a very different role in the super-luxury SUV segment. “Those minded towards a beauty of execution will move to Aston,” he said.
First-time Aston customers are expected to be found in China and North America in particular for the DBX, but Palmer said plenty of existing Aston owners will be interested, too. “It’s fascinating to me that 72% of Aston customers also own an SUV, and normally these are Cayennes or Range Rovers,” he said. “If you’re converted to Aston, it’ll be easier to convert buyers to an Aston SUV.”
The DBX is expected to sell at around 5000 units per year, which would comfortably make it Aston’s most popular model. Last year, the firm sold 6441 units in total, with the long-term goal of up to 14,000 split between 7000 each from Gaydon and St Athan, plus additional sales of two special, limited-run models each year.