ASTON’S XPLORATIVE MEMBER

Aston Martin’s epoch-making ultra-luxury SUV, the DBX, jettisons the British brand into unchartered territory, and Lerato Matebese reckons it has all the right elements to make it an accomplished sports utility vehicle in the true sense of the word, at least at face value.

Following the recent global unveiling of the model, we were given a first look-and-feel opportunity, albeit in static, pre-production guise, and coinciding with Aston Martin’s recent new showroom opening in Johannesburg.

A great departure for the luxury British marque, Aston Martin in 2015 set out to build its interpretation of an SUV that would not only pander to the brand’s sports and GT cars ethos but also blend this with uncompromised utility and off-road capability. What truly makes the DBX an even greater departure for the brand is that there was no SUV history or heritage to look back to and draw inspiration from, but rather use a blank canvas to paint world-firsts for the brand. For starters, the DBX doesn’t share a platform with any existing models in the stable and rather uses a bespoke architecture replete with 48-volt technology, hinting at electrification also being spawned from it.

STYLING

Boasting the largest cheese-grater-like DB grille and largest Aston Martin badge in the stable, the designers seemed quite intent to bring forth the company’s design language and DNA into the DBX, although viewed from the front three-quarter angle, you would be forgiven for thinking it borrows some cues from the Porsche Cayenne.

In fact, according to Philip Eaglesfield, Aston Martin Regional President – UK & SA, the Cayenne was the vehicle that the DBX was benchmarked against for the most part but giving it an unequivocally Aston character. Viewed side-on, it cuts a distinct silhouette, while the rear, which mimics the Vantage sportscar, is arguably its most flattering angle yet.

There are some clever aero design cues integrated into the overall design, like the front valance’s daytime running lights that feature an air duct on each one that channels air into the wheel arch and out behind the wheel, thereby creating an air curtain that reduces air turbulence at higher speeds. Meanwhile, the roof’s rear spoiler has two functions; firstly, to keep the rear windscreen clear – as there’ no window wiper – and secondly to draw the air towards the rear spoiler to create additional downforce.

“I can’t emphasise enough how incredibly exciting and significant DBX is for Aston Martin. Through its development alone, this beautiful SUV has already taken the company into new territories and in inspiring directions. DBX also marks a key moment in the delivery of the third and final phase of our Second Century Plan, not only representing the promised expansion of our portfolio but also signalling the start of production at Aston Martin’s second manufacturing plant. We have both delivered this model through our expertise, but also by garnering invaluable experience and knowledge from external counsel, including our Female Advisory Board. This is a real landmark for this great British brand, and I promise that DBX will reward all who experience it in their everyday lives,” says Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin.

CABIN APPOINTMENTS

Personally, however, it is the cabin that truly turns up the visual venom to lofty heights. There is an air of sophistication and luxury that makes the cabin a really nice place to be. There are swathes of high-quality leather and open-pore wood that would not be out of place in a high-end boutique furniture shop. There’s ample room, particularly in the rear quarters where even the lankiest of individuals can comfortably sit. Boot space, meanwhile, is a generous 632 litres that is commodious enough to swallow some sizeable suitcases for your adventure off the beaten track.

There are very plush touches like the speaker atop the dash that is concealed in leather with just the leather perforations visible. It looks and feels expensive in here and the standard panoramic roof means there’s a sense of airiness about the cabin that gives a feeling of being cocooned in a much larger cabin than is the case. A 10.25” TFT screen sits elegantly flush in the centre console, while a huge 12.3” TFT screen provides a wealth of information to the driver. Apple CarPlay comes as standard, as does a 360-degree camera system and ambient lighting that offers 64 different colours in two zones.

DRIVETRAIN

Powering the DBX is a similar 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that also motivates the Vantage and can trace its roots back to Mercedes-AMG although fettled somewhat for the DBX application. Pushing out a credible 404 kW and 700 Nm to all four corners of the vehicle via a 9-speed automatic transmission, the DBX can breach 100 km/h from standstill in 4.5 seconds and keep accelerating up to a top-end of 291 km/h, which is quite brisk by any standard.

There’s a three-chamber suspension affixed to each wheel and the DBX can raise its ride height by 45 mm and lower it by up to 50 mm, making it a versatile vehicle to traverse any would-be terrain with the utmost confidence. Two active differentials are featuring, a central differential and an electronic rear limited-slip differential (eDiff). This allows the torque to be moved precisely both fore and aft in the vehicle and across the rear axle. According to Andrew Haslam, Vehicle Line Director of the DBX, the vehicle has a very distinct rear-wheel-drive character that is accentuated by the rather wider rear tyres with 325 width sections.  

Being an Aston Martin, it also needs to sound the part and the company has two options, a standard and sports exhaust – the latter said to offer a richer note like the Vantage in its overall timbre.

SPECIAL EDITION

Further adding to the desirability of DBX, the first 500 owners of this landmark model will benefit from an exclusive ‘1913 Package’. Fitted with a unique fender badge, sill plaques and an inspection plaque detailing its limited build-run, each of these first examples will be personally endorsed and inspected by Andy Palmer. In addition, each customer will also receive a unique build-book signed by both Aston Martin’s CEO and Chief Creative Officer, Marek Reichman and an invitation to a regionally hosted Waldorf Astoria celebration cocktail party, hosted by a member of the Aston Martin Lagonda executive team.

LAST WORD

With order books opened and a starting price of R3.64m, initial DBX models are expected to arrive in SA in June 2020. We cannot wait to get behind Aston’s maiden SUV to see how it fares both dynamically and off the beaten track. As Aston pushes firmly forwards with its Second Century Plan and its St. Athan, Wales plant that will be instrumental in the company’s growth spurt plans, the DBX looks set to take on the establishment and the right product to move Aston Martin into a more competitive global arena.

 

Report by LERATO MATEBESE | Images © ASTON MARTIN / DIVIO DAJEE PHOTOGRAPHY