Wizardry and Dragons… are we in Middle Earth?
An impressive opening gambit for the Aston Martin DBX, the company’s first attempt at the ever expanding luxury crossover sector. Made in St. Athan, near Cardiff, Wales: 542bhp, 516 foot pounds of torque from a four litre, twin turbocharged V8, permanent four wheel drive on 22” wheels and available in 42 subtly named hues.
Sheffield born chief creative officer, Marek Reichman appears proud of his design team’s baby. This car has to succeed. One cannot really blame Gaydon for mining such reserves; they’re all at it. Urus, Bentayga, Cullinan, not to mention the faintly believable, and as yet unseen Purosangue. Still, even with the immensely deep pockets of new chairman, Lawrence Stroll, Aston Martin maintains the presence of financial hangers-on. Now with a technical deal with Mercedes-Benz, along with former AMG supremo, Tobias Moers running the day to day, an upturn is surely imminent?
Starting with size, DBX is a full five metres in length. At two metres wide and 1.7m high, the scales tip according to Aston at 2,245 kgs whereas AutoCropley found the car heavier at 2,328 Kgs (in old fashioned imperial read 5,000 Lbs). Quite some mass. Luckily, the engineers’ revisions were deep, practicing what they preach with bonded aluminium alongside hybrid materials to lessen not only that mass but provide what Aston Martins are about – luxuriant, powerful motoring.
The Affalterbach-produced mill consists of many exotic sounding names and numbers. 32 valves of variable timing nature, an 8.6:1 compression ratio, 90 degree V8 aluminium alloy block with a zirconium head. Bores of 83mm, a stroke of 92mm, those bores are spectacle-honed, existing within yet more aluminium – connecting rods and pistons, coated with arc-sprayed Nanoslide®. Will the average DBX driver ever know or care of such engineering matters? As much as they’ll care about petrol prices.
Cushioned by air (adjustable by 95 mm), the suspension also comprises hollowed double wishbones at the headlight end with multi-links underneath the brake lights. The aluminium subframes are hollow, allowing for driveline cooling. A 48v electric system powers the anti roll bars, assisting the handling which could very well be Welsh wizardry to this layman.
Steering derives from a rack and pinion system with electrical assistance. A nine-speed automatic is snugly protected in its magnesium case and comprises six modes; four on-road and two never-to-be-used off-road. The braking system contains more acronyms than a NHS meeting; you’ll be requiring their services should the worst happen.
Reichman stated that to succeed in this now heavily populated market, “I searched for the golden proportion as the design process edged on. A proper stance with a unique offset between side glass and wheels from both front and side views. That we made DBX less boxy helps decrease the physical size.”
Comprising the largest grille to front any Aston Martin, the DRG is unmistakably bold, those small DRLs widening the stance but not overtly. The elliptical headlights almost replicate the newer version Ford Puma – not necessarily a flattering reflection. The side view is handsome; I’d offer a more striking Velar outline. And the doors. The doors are quite the signature of DBX. Swan wing opening front, Aston’s design chief eluding to the pleasing attribute of the frameless door having infinite opening angles until the driver or passenger closes them. In-and egress front and rear were top priorities, the rear H-point allowing for class leading access.
And to the sumptuous interior we tarry awhile. The material quality is how one might expect yet also borderline vulgar. No-one really needs contrasting or mirrored stitching but nevertheless some tasteful results can be had. Laughably, a standard DBX has 12-way adjustable, heated seats but the steering wheel remains cold. Most internal colours are black.
Perusing the interior menu becomes as difficult to navigate as the Welsh valleys or indeed pronouncing village names. One can opt for CREATE, ACCELERATE or INSPIRE where each trim level can have mono-or duotone colours with leather, alcantara or a blend. One must have contrasting seat belt colours, mind. Reichman’s team was looking into vegan friendly options of silks, ceramics and natural woods. As the site configurator contains no prices, guess high. The cabin actually contains some physical buttons to press but perhaps a few too many, being picky. Overall, the DBX (on screen, at least) appears an ingratiating interior.
Jumping outside once more, the body colour lower package is the one to have, heathens opting for the glossy black door sill covering. That grille can be Light or Dark, whereas if standard wheels just don’t cut the mustard (not an available body colour but will Cosmopolitan Yellow do?) a satin black/bronze combination on 22” rims are there. An inch bigger fills the wheel arches, if nothing else. Brake calipers can be coloured too, leaving your weekend free to head to hills by mountain bike. And that other, rearward signature, the duckbill lights – red or smoked glass? Difficult decisions.
So difficult in fact that vehicle attribute engineer, (and former Lotus dynamics chief) Matt Becker has just left Gaydon for McLaren. Following Becker out the door were head of special vehicle operations, David King (believed America) along with design director, (and Reichman’s erstwhile deputy) Miles Nurnburger – off to Bucharestand. The merry-go-round of senior positions revealing that loyalties count for little when cold, hard cash is offered.
Reviewers in the main are accepting of the idea that DBX is a true Aston Martin, packaged in a believable, useable manner whilst having the grunt of their, nowadays, more niche products. One must take their words as gospel, having no opportunity to drive anything DB related.
Now for the caveat. On sale some eighteen months, hands up if anyone has seen one in the metal? European figures say 305 sold in 2020 with (as of writing), another 360 this year. With a sticker price around £160,000 (before options) and monthly payers shelling out at least £1,700, just who are buying these hand crafted, chrome-plated, brass and enamel Aston Martin badges placed front and rear?
Forget them being the F1 medical car. Lawrence, Tobiers and Marek need to shift more X’s, else the spectre of Aston’s financial heritage crosses back over into the red.
Editor’s note : Miles Nurnburger, who carried out most of AML’s design heavy lifting has since taken up a position as chief designer at Dacia cars.
Editor’s note : Some observers have characterised this apparent exodos in a less than positive light. DTW quite naturally, remains entirely agnostic on the subject.
Data sources: Forbes interview with Marek Reichman, 17/08/20/ Autocar.com/ Aston martin.com
Sales figures from carsalesbase.com