Aston Martin’s new SUV visits SA for a teaser
British luxury sports car firm finally enters the SUV fray to take on Bentayga and Urus
Aston Martin expects the new DBX, the luxury brand’s first SUV, to become the company’s best-selling vehicle and boost its total sales by two thirds.
The carmaker’s St Athan plant in Wales will produce about 4,000 units of the DBX per annum, starting in 2021 which will be its first full year of production. First deliveries of the DBX will start in June next year, and the SA order books are already open with a base model priced at R3.65m.
The 106-year-old British luxury sports car firm is late to an SUV party already populated by rivals like the Porsche Cayenne, Bentley Bentayga, Maserati Levante and Lamborghini Urus, their makers being quicker to realise the profit potential of high-powered adventure vehicles whose popularity has exploded in recent years.
The DBX is expected to be a major fillip for the company which has seen sales failing to meet expectations and its shares slumping since its flotation in October 2018.
Fresh from its international unveiling last month, the DBX was shown to reporters and potential customers last week at the new Aston Martin showroom of local importer Daytona in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg.
In the metal the DBX is unmistakably an Aston Martin with its signature DB grille which harks back to iconic cars like the DB5 favoured by James Bond in the 1960s. It’s a large SUV but hides its size well with sleek lines that seem to shrink-wrap around its 5m-long frame.
“The low sloping bonnet ensures you don’t feel like you’re driving a tank,” said Philip Eaglesfield, President of Aston Martin UK and SA at the local launch.
Inside, the cabin presents the brand’s typical handcrafted luxury with stretch-out space and a large 632l boot, making this a true family-sized Aston Martin.
“The three things we wanted to achieve with the DBX was the versatility and confidence of an SUV, the dynamic abilities of a sports car and the luxury of an Aston Martin,” said Eaglesfield.
The original idea was to make a coupé-like crossover but the DBX has emerged from the skunkworks as a fully-fledged SUV with the ability to tackle extreme terrain with tricks like all-wheel drive, height adjustable air suspension, a 500mm wading depth, and six terrain modes. The all-wheel drive system has active differentials and an electronic rear limited slip differential which allows drive to be split between the front and rear axles as driving conditions demand, and also across the rear axle.
A formidable adventure package indeed, but will owners really be dashing through deserts in their luxury DBX?
“Customer clinics informed us that we needed a proper SUV, and we needed to open up a market to new customers,” Eaglesfield told Motor News. “The DBX is for people with active hobbies, and not necessarily for tackling the Dakar rally.”
Despite its weight-saving aluminium body the DBX weighs a hefty and very unsportscar-like 2,245kg, but Aston Martin claims the vehicle still delivers on the brand’s sporting promise.
Apart from its ability to raise the DBX’s ground clearance up to 235mm for off roading, the adaptive air suspension has a roll-reducing function designed to make the big SUV handle like an Aston Martin, and a twin turbocharged engine to make it accelerate like one.
Under the clamshell bonnet is a 4.0l Mercedes-AMG V8 — the same powerplant used in the Aston Martin Vantage and DB11 — transmitted through a Mercedes nine-speed automatic gearbox. With outputs of 405kW and 700Nm, the DBX blitzes the 0-100km/h sprint in a claimed 4.5 seconds and tops out at 291km/h. It also has a cylinder deactivation system to make it sip less fuel.
Impressive numbers for sure, but has there been any negative customer reaction to the Mercedes association, which apart from the powertrain includes a Benz infotainment system?
“Not really, not when they take a test drive,” says Eaglesfield. “And we retune the Mercedes V8 engine to give it more of an Aston Martin character.”
In terms of the interior, there is also some minor Benz influence in the switchgear but the rest is all premium Aston Martin fare right down to the traditional glass start-stop button. The demo car’s interior was swathed in luxury leather and open-pore wood and there are personalisation options and accessory packages galore. It is impressively spacious inside too, despite its outwardly more compact appearance.
Being an SUV the DBX has a number of solutions for life’s practicalities, including a Pet package with a portable washer to hose off your muddy Labrador after a walk.
And you know when dirty door sills can soil a pant leg or dress when you exit the vehicle? The DBX has cutaway sills that curve under the car to prevent that from happening.