AUSTIN — An Aston Martin executive once told me that 87% of its buyers admitted that James Bond played a role in their purchase decision. Then he joked that the survey also showed that 13 percent of its customers are liars.
But what would Mr. Bond think of an Aston Martin SUV? We’ll soon find out, as the company officially unveiled the new DBX, the company’s first-ever SUV, which starts at $189,900 and will begin deliveries next year.
At a secret press event last month before the Formula One race in Austin, I chatted with Aston CEO Andy Palmer about the DBX and noticed perhaps a touch of nervousness in the veteran auto executive. The decision to build the DBX was made his first week on the job and it’s a company-defining moment. He’s bet the company on it.
“I can’t emphasize enough how incredibly exciting and significant DBX is for Aston Martin,” said Palmer in a press release. “Through its development alone, this beautiful SUV has already taken the company into new territories and in inspiring directions.”
It’ll be assembled at a brand-new, purpose-built factory in St. Athan, Wales, that should be able to pump out 4,000 units a year. If they don’t sell, that’s the ballgame. But it’ll sell: It’s an Aston SUV after all, and the company says — correctly, I’d wager — that it’s the most beautiful SUV on the market.
It looks smaller than it is, until you get up next to it and realize it’s really quite large. The rear seats are very roomy, even with the front seats slid all the way aft, and it’s easy to climb in and out. The infotainment and customer-facing electronics are sourced from Mercedes, which is great because that means they’ll work and aren’t weird.
The engine is a four-liter, twin-turbo V8 built by Merc’s AMG division (and already found in the DB11 and Vantage, making 542 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. When pressed, Palmer reveals that Aston’s marvelous V12 engine just-so-happens to fit under the DBX’s hood. Handy, that.
We didn’t get to drive it or ride in it or even hear the engine turn over, but none of that matters. It’s an Aston and the design is king here. At the front it looks like a DB11 and about two-thirds of the way back it turns into a Vantage. Only it doesn’t look like a fat sports car in the way that the Porsche Cayenne looks like a fat 911. It looks like an Aston SUV and it’s just right.
It looks far better in person than it does in pictures — and it looks great in pictures. Starting under $190,000 ballparks it with the Bentley and Lamborghini SUVs that are its most direct competitors, though plentiful feature packs and customization options will get you into the $200,000’s very quickly.
Those other ultra-lux SUVs are nice and sales are very strong. But few cars are as special as an Aston Martin. James Bond knows it, and so does everyone else. And that’s why the DBX is a hit before it even goes on sale.
The Aston Martin DBX order book is open now.