How we think the Aston Martin DBX will look
Aston Martin, like Ferrari, is chasing unprecedented sales growth and profits by launching an SUV, due next year
First previewed as a concept in 2015, the DBX’s development is now nearly complete ahead of a planned world debut in around a year’s time, with sales due to start in early 2020.
The DBX — which will compete against the likes of the Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga, Rolls-Royce Cullinan and upcoming Ferrari SUV — breaks new ground for Aston in several areas It’s the firm’s first SUV, the most controversial of body types for such a brand but also potentially the bestselling and most profitable. Indeed, so significant is the DBX that Aston has acquired a new factory in St Athan, Wales, in which to assemble it.
The DBX will also be the first all-new Aston Martin model launched after the company’s stock market flotation, a formal intention for which was finally confirmed in late August after the firm returned to profitability last year. In a long-rumoured move, Aston Martin is set to offer more than £1 billion of shares, which equates to some 25% of the company, on the London Stock Exchange in the autumn. The initial public offering (IPO) values the British manufacturer at around £5bn and would place it in the FTSE 100. Following its own IPO in 2015, Ferrari’s value doubled to around £15bn a year later.
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.
Last year, it 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.
The DB11, Vantage and DBS Superleggera have already come out as the first three models in that plan and now the focus switches to the fourth, the DBX, which Palmer says “will shine a torch” to the future of the brand.
The middle model of the second century plan has the greatest potential to bring further growth to Aston, in terms of both volume and profits. It will enter at the heart of the fast-growing luxury SUV segment, aiming to mix performance and luxury like no rival before it.
The design of the car has been finalised, the engineering is almost complete, the tooling is under way and the paint shop at St Athan is around 80% complete. The first pre-production models are due to emerge from the production line in the first quarter of next year.
Palmer said the DBX bears little relation to the 2015 concept car, which was a dramatic two-door with four seats commissioned on Palmer’s second day in the job in 2014, in his words “to get the company aligned to the idea of Aston doing an SUV, which was not obvious then. It was controversial internally and externally but not any more. Others have moved into that space, and Ferrari will. The idea of one has moved with it. You’ll see elements of the design language [from the concept] but it’ll be four doors, not two.”
The DBX will be made more practical than the concept by the switch to four doors, but it will keep the concept’s sloping roofline, albeit a higher one.
Following the trend of the DB11, Vantage and DBS Superleggera, the DBX will get its own distinct front grille design and bespoke styling touches. Sharp lines and creases are understood to be a feature of the side bodywork, to draw the eye as much as possible away from the fact that this is ultimately a more bulky Aston than any before it.
The underpinnings of the DBX have a close relationship with the all-electric Lagonda models that Aston is also preparing as part of the second century plan. The first electric Lagonda is due to be a saloon launched in 2021 and it will be followed in 2022 by an SUV. To that end, the DBX and Lagonda will share their suspension componentry.
“Part of the new vocabulary here is ‘coca’: ‘carry over, carry across’,” said Palmer. “Never start a design with only one application in mind. The DBX suspension goes across to Lagonda.”
Whereas the Lagonda name will be used for all-electric models in the Aston Martin Lagonda family, Aston Martins will adopt hybrid technology by the middle of the next decade, with the DBX understood to be taking the lead in that.
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 …read more