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By Design: Aston Martin DBX Concept

Automobile logo Automobile 2015-07-31 Robert Cumberford

By Design: Aston Martin DBX Concept

I really don’t see the point of luxury utility vehicles like this. If you’re going to run hard over unpaved ground, why would you want an exotic, complex electric drivetrain and beautifully finished, hand-built bodywork? I think Southern California desert racers have a more rational approach to crashing through the boonies. They use readily available and (relatively) cheap mechanical elements and the bare minimum of skin. You really don’t need the impressive ground clearance of the DBX in the natural habitat of Aston Martins, the wide streets of Brentwood and Beverly Hills.

But after all, concept cars are all about “show business, baby.” And like Porsche’s SUVs, perhaps the Aston Martin DBX or derivatives will provide revenue to support Aston Martin’s sports-car operation. Certainly the current product line cannot carry the company into the future in which it will have to meet worldwide safety, emissions, and fuel consumption regulations. The DBX’s electric powertrain indicates that Aston has learned from its Cygnet fiasco and will pursue serious alternatives to high-powered internal combustion powertrains.

In terms of appearance, the Aston Martin DBX is a really well-designed and very good-looking car with a fabulously attractive interior. I don’t think Aston designer Marek Reichman could create anything else, even if you put a gun to his head and told him to restyle the Pontiac Aztek. He’d just do it, and we’d probably like it. But Aston Martin’s continued existence in today’s demanding environment depends on more volume than can be achieved by cars costing $125,000 to $300,000 and up. One route might be to create a rival to the Porsche Boxster, the market area in which Aston Martin came to prominence long ago: high-quality (and expensive), relatively small cars with engines of 2.0 liters or less that were class winners at Le Mans and respectable road cars.

Aston Martin DBX Concept © Provided by Automobile Aston Martin DBX Concept

That’s the direction my brother and I intended to take when we tried to buy struggling Aston Martin in the 1980s. When our exclusive option expired, Ford made a higher offer, then poured millions into the storied but moribund firm trying to maintain the luxury GT line that began in 1947, when David Brown paid 20,500 pounds sterling for the whole company. Ford took losses that must have seemed trivial compared to the billions it unwisely dropped on Jaguar, Rover, and Volvo.

Aston is at a critical point. It can’t continue on its present path, and a new path hasn’t yet come into view. ston Martin is all about performance, quality, and beauty, and the firm has that covered. If it is to continue to exist, the missing ingredient in its entire 102-year history—profitability—must be found and nourished. Hoping for big sales in China won’t help. New and more appropriate products—perhaps like this one—will have to do the job. I hope we’ll see more, and more varied, concepts from Aston Martin and that one of them will catch fire in the market.

Bydesign Astonmartindbx Front Three Quarter © Provided by Automobile Bydesign Astonmartindbx Front Three Quarter

1. It’s hard to see where the bumper strike face is in this composition. The regulated strike height would appear to be in the rather fragile grille.

2. The grille leans forward from the bottom, a resolutely anti-aerodynamic choice. It does allow a longer hood surface, and it looks distinctly “tough,” as befits an off-road vehicle.

3. This is one of the nicest, most elegant LED headlamp schemes I’ve seen, integrating three intersecting surfaces and generating a nice fender profile line.

4. The short chrome flash above the engine compartment vent justifies the sharp surface break in the door, establishing a base for the unobtrusive flush door handle.

5. Notice that the highlight breaks downward as the body side swells outward to meet the perimeter band of the wheel opening.

6. The bright A-pillar trim piece widens as it moves aft and inboard, covering the C-pillar without actually touching it or the side glass.

7. From the front, one sees the surface changes brought about by the hard horizontal break line across the rounded rear fascia.

8. This bulge carries the body side out to the wheel opening, as does the swelling above, the two separated by...

9. ... the substantial indent in the side, principally in the door skins.

10. Another subtle chrome flash is indented at the bottom of the door, leaving a nice little hook at each end, framing the door.

11. The wheels and tires are huge, and the nine-spoke design is simple and straightforward. The concave center section is elaborately worked like a piece of jewelry.

12. The pointed driving lamps at the outer edge of the front end finish off a composition clearly expressing brand identity.

Bydesign Astonmartindbx Rear Three Quarter © Provided by Automobile Bydesign Astonmartindbx Rear Three Quarter

13. Someday, we’ll all enjoy tiny cameras instead of huge view-blocking mirrors. Not yet, alas. Showing possibilities is what concept cars are all about.

14. This long, detached-from-surface strip reminds me of a Roman helmet.

15. This kink is an artful recapitulation of the classic Aston grille shape.

16. To me, the least successful part of the total design composition is the taillight graphics, which make me think of an older mid-range Chrysler product.

17. The full-width transverse chrome accent carries the same pointed ends as the strips at the bottom of the doors and aligns with them perfectly.

18. The rear underbody is carefully modeled without any trace of downforce-improving trickery, but it does nicely finish the rear composition.

19. This whole indent-outlet section is difficult to understand. Is there evacuation of driveline and exhaust heat, or is it just pleasant decoration?

20. This hard surface break line is one of many on the car, including the fender profile peak, front to rear, the hard line across the tail, and the breaks coming off the upper grille corners.

21. In this view, the sills seem to intersect with the wheelhouse bulges, but in fact the surfaces flow together without a hard break.

Bydesign Astonmartindbx Interior © Provided by Automobile Bydesign Astonmartindbx Interior

22. A nice, thick rim with a touch of color surrounds a complicated set of spokes and switches, the functions ofwhich are not completely evident. The touch areas are apparently well thought out and quite subtle.

23. I don’t know what this button does, but I hope it’s one used often, because it entices a finger or thumbto touch it.

24. This rotary knob is the transmission control with P, R, N, and D available.

25. Leather-faced pedals? Why not? I was once in fashion designer Rudi Gernreich’s home, and his whole dining room floor was leather. He was always years ahead in design.

26. Using thick saddle leather to make a thin seat is a classical approach and a good one. It looks good, feels good, and with appropriate framing is enormously strong.

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