Since the SUV's first announcement at the 2015 Geneva motor show, the model has been referred to as the DBX – the name of the concept that previewed it. It is due on roads in 2019 and the production model is currently under development. Its design was signed off late, last summer with intentions of drastically boosting the 105-year-old firm's sales volumes.
Varekai looks set to adorn the final version, following the application of a new trademark for the moniker. It sticks to the brand's naming convention of names starting with a V – like the Vantage, Vanquish and Valkyrie. The British luxury carmaker declined to comment when contacted by our sister publication, Autocar UK.
When the DBX production model arrives, it will rival the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, Maserati Levante and top-end Range Rovers and Porsche Cayennes in the luxury 4x4 segment. However, CEO Andy Palmer has previously stated that the DBX will stand apart from them “because it has not sacrificed any beauty to achieve its practicality or performance”. The SUV project was envisioned by Palmer before he took up his role at Aston Martin in 2014 and it was officially kick-started on his fourth day in the job.
Palmer indicated that the final car will carry much of the DNA hinted at by the concept. “There are aspects of the car that have changed dramatically,” he said. “But in terms of the pure lines and the fundamental core principles of the car – you’ll recognise them.” Reichmann has suggested the roofline will have to be much higher than that of the concept in order to give the production car an extra layer of practicality.
The DBX concept of Geneva 2015 was a two-door, four-seat model powered by electric motors mounted inboard of the wheels and powered by lithium-sulphur cells. The car featured several other high-tech concept flourishes – such as an F1-style kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) – in order to emphasise that it would be at the cutting edge of powertrain technology when it was launched. However, Marek Reichmann, Head of Design, and his team also made a point of highlighting some of the SUV's more practical elements such as cabin and load space.
The DBX will be built on a new bonded and riveted aluminium architecture that is closely related in principle to that used by the DB11. There had been speculation that Aston would lean on part-owner Mercedes-Benz for its chassis technology, but Palmer said Aston preferred to make use of its own expertise – albeit turning to Mercedes for some sub-systems and V8 power – as it will do with all of its next-generation vehicles. The DBX will also be the first Aston to be sold with four-wheel drive, although it’s not clear if every model will have the function.
The SUV's Range-topping power will come from Aston’s 5.2-litre V12, to be re-tuned from the 600bhp and 516lb ft unit found in the DB11. There will also be an AMG-sourced 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8 that makes 503bhp and 498lb ft and, in time, an all-electric powertrain that will be developed as proprietary technology by Aston with the input of Williams Advanced Engineering.
Palmer has ruled out diesel versions of the DBX. However, he confirmed that a hybrid version of the car will be developed sans plug-in hybrid technology, since research suggests that luxury car buyers do not consider the experience to be premium enough.
This revelation raises the possibility of Aston using the high-performance powertrain from the Mercedes-AMG GT Concept that was revealed at the Geneva motor show, last year. Its hybrid unit combines AMG’s twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 with an electric motor to deliver a combined 800bhp. In the GT Concept, that figure equates to a 0-100kph time of less than 3sec; the DBX will be heavier, though. The battery is charged as the car is being driven – both, through brake energy recuperation as well as with the aid of the petrol engine. However, Palmer also highlighted the learnings the company had made while developing the hybrid KERS-style system with Red Bull Technologies for the Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercar, suggesting the firm could use a modified version of that instead of turning to Mercedes.
In terms of ride and handling goals, Palmer highlighted the characteristics of the Porsche Macan. “It is probably dynamically the best car in the SUV category,” he said.
The interior of the DBX is set to take a new approach, with the design team having to focus more than ever on practicality. Aston has created focus groups of existing customers to provide input, including the much-vaunted female focus group, which was instigated on Palmer’s suggestion as soon as the concept car was revealed after it emerged that just 3,500 of the firm’s lifetime sales of 70,000 cars were to women. “This is not an Aston Martin that is exclusive to any one type of buyer and these groups really help us get into and understand some mindsets that we have never focused on before,” said Palmer
Preparation for DBX production at Aston’s new facility at St Athan in Wales is well under way. The location's role in Aston’s growth will be pivotal as the firm continues to grow its line-up, following the launch of the new Vantage last year. A significantly more potent new Vanquish is due this year, while the DBX is due in 2019 and a mid-engined supercar in 2020. The automaker also re-launched its Lagonda moniker recently, as a standalone luxury electric division. The Lagonda sedan is due in 2021, as well as an SUV in 2022.