The DBX is a critical car for Aston Martin since it marks a new adventure into the ever-popular SUV market. It is also part of the company’s “seven cars in seven years” business strategy which will include the evolution of Lagonda as an all-electric ultra-luxury brand.
The DBX is the first product to be made at the new facility in Wales, UK. The design is clear, with its flowing volume, swooping shoulder line that dips a little at the rear, clean sides graphics and tapered coupé-like roofline. The wheelbase stretches as far out as possible for the wheels to sit at the very corners which, together with the low roofline, gives the illusion of a smaller sports car and helps make the SUV as Aston Martin as possible.
I caught up with executive vice president and chief creative officer Marek Reichman to understand the design challenges of sketching an Aston Martin SUV.
Nargess Banks: The luxury world had been changing even before the pandemic crisis. Some luxury brands are now talking of a post-opulence, post-hedonist era on the horizon. Do you feel the DBX answers to this brief?
Marek Reichman: Yes, in that the car uses lightweight construction technologies to be a more efficient product, it has a bonded aluminum structure and we used hybrid materials to reduce its weight. All this gives the DBX greater performance, too. It also helps the car appear smaller and less like a square box – which is how you would normally associate the visual language of an SUV.
NB: Aston Martin makes eloquent sports cars. How did you initially approach sketching an SUV which requires a whole other approach to proportion?
MR: We wanted to maintain beauty through proportion, making sure the wheelbase was in the right place to overhang the height of the car and the driver and passenger position. This is why the DBX has a longer wheelbase than its competitors, with a shorter overhang to maximize the interior volume.
NB: And how much did the design progress as the project developed?
MR: I often refer to the “golden proportion” and how it evolves through the process. On this car we stayed true to the initial sketch which had that feeling of an Aston Martin having a very dynamic visual appeal – a sense of movement even when static. We used the established design and modeling to transfer the Aston Martin DNA to the surface language and feeling of an SUV.
NB: What were the challenges of translating a design theme which works so well with your sports cars – that exotic drama – to a bigger, bulkier SUV style?
MR: The challenges was getting a great proportion – the right stance and a unique offset between the wheels and side glass from the side and front view. Creating our own platform-bonded aluminum structure was one of the most important factors in forming an incredibly dynamic and exotic looking SUV with the right Aston Martin proportions.
NB: You’ve maintained elements from the sports cars – the trademark swan-hinged doors, for instance, are so very Aston Martin. Why introduce this on the SUV which doesn’t practically need it?
MR: Yes, we maintained elements from the sports cars. The hinge doors are still there because it is an Aston Martin signature. They are not included just to avoid the door hitting the curb, but also to make sure that the door stays open and still whenever the driver or passenger opens then.
NB: The grille is pretty impressive too, as is the rear.
MR: It is the biggest grille we have ever created on an Aston Martin! This was important because this is our first venture into the world of SUV, so it had to look like an Aston Martin. The DBX rear is very much about mixing the dynamic language with a lot of unique aerodynamic surfacing.
NB: Inside appears to offer a traditional sporty, luxury environment with the abundance of soft leather and intricate stitching and Alcantara elements on the sunroof. What were the challenges of translating a sports car environment to a bigger family car?
MR: It was important to maintain the sports car feeling inside the DBX so we worked with materials that we are confident with, such as leather and Alcantara. There is also unique stitching and hand carved wood inside to help create a natural setting. Central to the interior design is ingress and egress – making it easier to get in and out of the car and having the correct H-point so the rear door opens to a class-leading angle for passengers to access the rear seats easier.
NB: And your design approach for the luggage compartment?
MR: We wanted to have a very simple boot that is straightforward and sits low in a position. It allows us to apply the technical advantages that we already have incorporated in our sports cars.
NB: Going forward, would you approach the interior to express a more sustainable and progressive take on luxury materials?
MR: Yes, this is very important for us in the future. We’ve shown with the Lagonda project that we are very open to working with sustainable materials. We are investigating vegan materials such as silks and ceramics, natural woods, natural wools and non-animal-based materials. We have also looked at the use of technical fibers within our future Aston Martins and in Lagonda vehicles.
NB: What did you learn from the DBX project that will influence your future cars?
MR: We conducted in-depth research into usage patterns since an SUV has a broader scope of functionalities: studying the needs of both male and female customers, as well as families to see how the DBX would be used in different scenarios on and off-road. Some of the findings will be applied to future sports cars.
NB: Aston Martin recently partnered with Airbus on a helicopter and you are increasingly involved with lifestyle projects from outside of the auto industry. How do these inform your design work with cars?
MR: Non-automotive projects allow designers to express themselves in very different ways. We learn about different materials and discover constraints within those materials, as well as various usage patterns. It is a good way to learn how we apply our automotive knowledge into other sectors, too. In many ways we are always learning from the cross-fertilization of ideas from different sectors – all within the high-net-worth individual arena.
Read about the latest Aston Martin Airbus partnership and see the marque’s vision for an autonomous flying machine. Also take a look at Rolls-Royce’s coining of a new era of post-opulence and Bannenberg & Rowell identifying the future of yacht design as post-hedonism