Now listen carefully 007, we have the new Aston Martin for you but you’re not as young as you used to be, and what with the family and all we thought you might like something a little larger and more practical…
And so it is that the ubiquitous SUV comes to the coolest brand of them all. If the Aston Martin DBX – the name is confirmed now – doesn’t double already booming Aston sales in its first year there will be something amiss.
Unstoppable Aston chief Andy Palmer has SUV form, from Nissan, and fired the starting gun to develop the 105-year-old firm’s first sport utility vehicle on only his second day in the job. That was four years ago and now here, for the first time, we see the prototype showing what it can do on forest tracks in Wales, close to where the DBX will be built from the end of next year.
A larger and more practical breed of Aston it may be – more friendly towards women, children, dogs, things pulled along behind, Ikea flat packs and unmade roads than any previous Aston – but it still promises to be as dynamic as you’d expect, as demonstrated by chief engineer Matt Becker as he charges over the loose surfaces for what we are told is the start of DBX real-world testing.
“We have already developed and tuned DBX in the driving simulator,” says Matt. “Still, it’s always a big day when you get to put the first actual miles on an early prototype.
“As an engineer, it’s genuinely exciting to get a feel for the car you’re working to create. DBX is a very different kind of Aston Martin, but we will be testing it in all conditions and across all terrains to ensure it delivers a driving experience worthy of the wings badge.”
The odds are it will go well but what will it look like? That’s been the big challenge for companies like Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce as each in turn has ventured down the SUV route for the first time. Can you really have a bulky, high-riding five-door hatch that captures the sporting elegance of an Aston sports car?
The pictures and video released by Aston today aren’t much help in knowing the answer to that. The car is wearing its prototype wrap which makes for a particularly effective disguise.
What we can say is that it doesn’t look anywhere near as tall and bluff-fronted as Bentley Bentayga or Rolls Cullinan (or Range Rover), but neither does it appear as aggressively rakish as the Lamborghini Urus. The traditionally-shaped Aston grille outlined in red is the only obvious clue to which manufacturer it has come from, that and perhaps the Vantage-slender headlights. The window shapes, air intakes, feature lines and body ‘jewellery’ are all effectively hidden.
Inevitably neither does it appear much like the DBX design concept we saw at the Geneva Motor Show in 2015. That was a two-door and looked it. It was a also a four-seater (production DBX will surely have room for five) and was purely electrically powered. The DBX will get a battery electric drivetrain at some point – it is after all being built in Aston’s new assembly plant in St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan which is to be the brand’s “home of electrification”. But to start with at least, there’ll be a big and – judging by the video sound effects – booming petrol motor under that high bonnet.
After Welsh rally stages Matt Becker, his team and the DBX will be off around the world to prove the Aston SUV’s mettle. All the normal haunts are on the agenda – frozen Arctic wastes, scorching deserts of the Middle East, high Alpine passes and the high-speed German autobahn and Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Aston says while the car will “perform with the verve and poise of a true Aston Martin, its dynamic envelope has to extend into areas previously off-limits to the marque’s sporting roots. Naturally this includes impressive multi-terrain and towing capabilities as befits a state-of-the-art SUV.”
Aston Martin Lagonda chief Andy Palmer adds: “Seeing a DBX development prototype in action is a momentous chapter in the story of our first SUV. DBX is so much more than ‘just’ an SUV and very much the start of a bold new era in the company’s long history.”
The DBX is scheduled to be unveiled in quarter four 2019, with first deliveries expected in 2020, which is exactly the timetable laid down four years ago. Andy Palmer – and James Bond - wouldn’t have had it any other way.