RE: Aston Martin DBX | PH Meets

RE: Aston Martin DBX | PH Meets

Wednesday 6th November

Aston Martin DBX | PH Meets

Driving impressions will have to wait, but we've had the view from the passenger seat...



Different decade, familiar perspective. It's almost 20 years since I first sat next to Matt Becker as he demonstrated how one of his projects could be made to behave beyond the limits of lateral grip. That was a Lotus - an Elise 111S from memory - and the playground was the track at Hethel, the car's modest power output sufficient for the sort of yaw angles that had me looking at straights out of side windows.

Now the venue is Silverstone's dinky Stowe Circuit in a prototype DBX which weighs more than twice as much and has almost four times the power. But from the loftier perch of the Aston's passenger seat it feels equally sideways, and although Becker and I are both bigger and balder there's a similar amount of laughter in the cockpit. "You never get too old for this," Becker admits, "well you do, but you don't stop anyway." In the back seat photographer Dean Smith is having less fun, trying to get a shot to show how easily Aston's chief engineer is coaxing this sizeable SUV into big, lazy slides and then holding them on the rainswept surface.

It would be hard to over-estimate the importance of the DBX to Aston right about now. The company has been suffering from both sliding sales and a slumping share price since its flotation last year; the DBX has to sell strongly for Aston's ambitious 'second century' plan to have any chance of succeeding. That means a series of hype-building PR activities all the way to the start of customer deliveries next year, with the opportunity to ride in a prototype with Becker one of the early ones - niftily timed to coincide with confirmation of the Β£158,000 starting price.


While there was no chance of me saying no, I acknowledge that little of significance is normally learned from the passenger seat of a non-finished car. This certainly isn't going to be the story that breaks the mould on that one, but an hour in the DBX gave plenty of reasons to be optimistic and also to chat to Becker about the sheer complexity of what he admits is the biggest project he has worked on yet.

"Sports cars are easy, that's my conclusion," he says when asked to sum up the last three years, "with a sports car you only have to make it do a few things really well, but with an SUV you have to make it do much more stuff. It's got to be able to do 300km/h safely, lap the 'ring, head off-road, carry five people and tow a boat or a horsebox."

Early in the project Aston assembled a group of key rivals to help establish engineering benchmarks: a Cayenne Turbo, a Bentayga, a BMW X6M and a Range Rover Sport SVR. Becker and his team drove them both on the Nurburgring Nordschliefe and the surrounding roads. "My respect for this type of car increased enormously when we started to drive them properly and realised just how much engineering had gone into them," Becker says. Subsequent rival-testing has included newer models, including the Lamborghini Urus.


Yet Becker says the DBX is pretty much exactly where he wanted it to be. There's an element of he-would-say-that, of course - but his pride in both the near-finished product and what his team has done is obvious. Getting to deliver on the broad set of dynamic targets has required a huge amount of technology and work on getting the different parts to function together.

Some bits are familiar. The bonded aluminium structure is Aston's favoured way of making cars, while the bought-in AMG 4.0-litre V8 is obviously related to the engine used in the Vantage and lower-spec DB11, here in 550hp guise. But even before the power reaches the road, there are big changes; the DBX uses Merc's nine-speed auto instead of the eight-speed ZF (or manual) of the sportscars. Although best thought of as being natively rear-driven, up to 47 percent of torque can be sent to the front wheels through a centre differential; it also uses the Vantage's torque biasing rear diff. Springing is on air, allowing the DBX's height to be varied by up to 60mm on the move, and it also gets a 48 Volt electric anti-roll system. For a company of Aston's modest size, getting all that to play nice has been a colossal challenge.

The PR team are keen to limit impressions to the way the car drives with the prototype wearing dazzle wrap outside and having thick covers to hide trim and switchgear within. The digital dashboard is visible but, in the manner of prototype vehicles everywhere, seems to be relaying lots of reports of non-working sensors. Time on track at Silverstone is brief, enough to demonstrate both the DBX's reluctance to roll under hard cornering, but also the friendliness of the handling balance. Becker admits his team briefly considered a pure drift mode, but decided it wasn't right for the vehicle; allowing it to slide also meant lots of work with the roll-over mitigation protection within the stability control, which has to be able to allow slip but still step in hard and fast on spotting proper instability.


From inside the cabin it sounds good, more muscular than the Vantage with a relaxed wuffle at a gentler pace and a nice, bass-heavy rasp under harder acceleration. Out of the circuit and onto Northamptonshire B-roads I quickly find I'm not noticing the engine as much as I'd expect, only really on the brief bits of hard acceleration allowed by wet roads and everyday traffic. At 2,245kg the DBX will be one of the lighter cars in its segment, but it's still a bruiser compared to the rest of the company's portfolio. It is seriously fast - Becker says it can manage a 4.5-second 0-62mph time and reckons the official 181mph top speed is actually slightly pessimistic - but it doesn't feel muzzled when travelling slowly.

Ride quality is good, plush in Comfort and still refined when Becker turns the dampers into Sport and Sport Plus. The lack of lean is also more evident on road than track, with motors able to apply up to 1,400Nm of torque to the anti-roll bars to oppose roll. Becker admits the development team actually opted to wind the system back to allow a small amount of lean: "it felt too unnatural without it."

Back at Silverstone there's a chance to tackle some of the circuit's various off-road courses. Becker cheerfully admits that the early expectation for the DBX's abilities to plug mud weren't high: "we originally focused on matching something like an Audi Allroad, but we've ended up with something as good as a Porsche Cayenne."


The reason, he reckons, is how much of the technology that's been put on the car to improve road manners also works away from tarmac: "we've got the wheel travel, the active ride height and the differentials to move torque quickly - it's all the tools you need." Certainly the DBX doesn't find anything to stop it or even slow it down much on the bits of the course Becker throws it at.

By the time we return to Aston's Silverstone engineering centre I can't claim to have had any huge revelations, but the fact the DBX feels as fast and secure as its key rivals seems like a good omen for how it will feel from the other side of the cabin. Owners are unlikely to regularly try to summon Beckeresque drift angles, or even to risk the underside on off-road obstacles, but it is good to know that it can do such things when called upon.

Leaving the question of what Becker will be driving sideways in another 20 years. I wouldn't be surprised if he could get some serious yaw angles out of what was meant to be an autonomous electric pod.


Click here for the first official pic of the DBX's interior

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Author
Discussion

GTEYE

Original Poster:

1,442 posts

157 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
I fear Aston are 5 years too late with this. The world and the market are now moving in a different direction.

NFC 85 Vette

2,553 posts

183 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
GTEYE said:
I fear Aston are 5 years too late with this. The world and the market are now moving in a different direction.
And yet nobody questions the timing of Ferrari's Purosangue, which hasn't arrived yet either...

In any case, DBX looks to be a great piece of kit, and the interior looks excellent IMO (and might go some way to stop complaints about non-integrated infotainment systems). I expect now the complaints will be about using a Merc transmission, such is the nature of the internet biggrin

Nightshade

58 posts

133 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
Probably the only time you'll ever see one of these going offroad..

oilit

828 posts

125 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
GTEYE said:
I fear Aston are 5 years too late with this. The world and the market are now moving in a different direction.
I suspect you, like I, are based in the uk/western europe?

Sat in Dubai for the past three days and there is definitely no shortage of cash and or appetite for 4x4's, and fast cars here.

I am not doubting that BEV is the future, and early adopter markets exist - Norway amongst others, but there are still plenty of markets who will happily buy and who do not currently have legislation against vehicles like this - and they will continue to be bought for the lifecycle of normal cars.

The next gen of this will have to be hybrid and or BEV.

The success of this V1.0 is a big bet but I believe the market is bigger than for AM sports cars in a lot of markets - and the UK is not as important to AM as perhaps it used to be.

Edited by oilit on Wednesday 6th November 08:21

housen

1,629 posts

139 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
this is going to be soo much want !

NJJ

196 posts

27 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
First time I've looked at the pictures of DBX and thought it may actually look good in the right spec. If building this allows them to fund the next generation of sports cars then best of luck to them and the team behind it. But like others, I think an ultra luxurious BEV should next be in line, possibly under the Lagonda badge.

sxmwht

90 posts

6 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
Well that's not a good looking car, is it? Particularly from the back yuck

NFC 85 Vette

2,553 posts

183 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
sxmwht said:
Well that's not a good looking car, is it? Particularly from the back yuck
Have you seen the production one then? Because the photos above aren't that car...

CharlieAlphaMike

419 posts

52 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
Market demands and all that, will probably ensure it sells but the look of it (exterior look), makes my skin crawl vomit

ArmouredBiscuit

1,117 posts

181 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
To me, that looks a damn sight nicer than the earlier protoypes; I'd go as far as saying it's one of the nicest looking SUVs if it keeps that general appearance.

GranCab

1,644 posts

93 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
Launch is in China and for a good reason. It will be one of AML's biggest markets. I'm sure they don't really care that a few non-customers here in the UK don't like it ... even though they have neither seen it or driven it !

DoubleD

9,568 posts

55 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
This will get some folks on here very angry, and angry over a type of car they would never buy anyway, which is always very odd.

saxy

183 posts

71 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
looks like a 40-50 grand SUV with a catfish grill.

Ares

8,907 posts

67 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
Nightshade said:
Probably the only time you'll ever see one of these going offroad..
Classic PH.

"These will be crap off-road..."

Goes off road

"Whats the point of these being able to go off off-road, they'll never have a need to go there"

laugh

krisdelta

4,047 posts

148 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
It's shaping up really well in my view, looks like an Aston, interior shots (not in this article for some reason) look great too, if the back end isn't a mess this will surely be a hit in the context its intended. If this gives Aston some financial stability to continue it's range of models then it's win-win for petrol heads, surely?

benjidog

6 posts

8 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
Looks like a Toyota C-HR from the back.

bakerstreet

4,229 posts

112 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
Are Aston the only car company that have to resort to sponsor logos on the camo equipped test cars (IE the Tag and Pirelli logos)

As I said in previous threads on the DBX, they are about 10 years too late with this and they must know that. However, I am pleased to see that they have used the right cars as a bench mark.

If the tech is all bespoke, that pretty impressive as surely would have been some arguments internally to partner up with Merc and build something on the ML platform ala what Jeep have done with the Grand Cherokee.

nickfrog

10,523 posts

164 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
DoubleD said:
This will get some folks on here very angry, and angry over a type of car they would never buy anyway, which is always very odd.
True. Where is he?

chelme

679 posts

117 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
Hmm, looks like a melted Ford Focus ST, over a Porsche Macan body...

I'd rather walk up that hill, thanks.

Leftfootwonder

39 posts

5 months

Wednesday 6th November
quotequote all
£158k base price! The Cayenne saved Porsche because it was relativelty affordable. I know this is an Aston Martin, what what old chap, but after that re-badged Mitsubishi Cygnet a few years ago, I think Aston can afford to lower the entry point a bit moan