The name Aston Martin generally conjures up images of luxurious sports cars with elegant, sweeping lines and roaringly loud engines.
In contrast, the phrase “sports utility vehicle” brings to mind bloated estate cars with spongy suspension and the turning circle of an oil tanker, albeit disguised behind some 4×4-esque features like greater ground clearance and a more rugged aesthetic.
Admittedly, these cliches aren’t always accurate. Aston Martin doesn’t have an unblemished record of producing beautiful vehicles; anyone remember the angular nightmare that was the Lagona? And some SUVs are terrific. For instance, Jaguar’s all-electric I-PACE was deservedly voted best car at the 2019 European Car of the Year Awards.
Still, we’re finding the idea of an Aston Martin SUV hard to get our heads around. But it certainly seems like the boffins at Aston Martin are taking the whole thing pretty seriously, as they’ve recently put the DBX – the luxury marque’s first-ever sports utility vehicle – through its paces in a gruelling test in Sweden.
Held at Pirelli’s official test facility, the heavy-duty workout represents the latest step in the vehicle’s intensive development. As you might expect from its location near the Arctic Circle, the R&D Sottozero Centre at Flurheden Proving Ground presents a range of challenging environments, all of which are cold.
Ice-handling courses and snowy roads formed a key part of the test programme, giving Aston Martin’s vehicle dynamics specialists – led by chief engineer Matt Becker – the chance to find out more about the DBX prototype’s true capabilities.
Apparently, they liked what they saw, as Becker says he is confident that the car will deliver “over and above” what customers would expect from an Aston Martin-engineered SUV.
He adds: “The Aston Martin DBX needs to be ready for a wide range of multi-terrain surfaces, so in addition to testing the car in normal day-to-day situations, we need to test it in extreme conditions such as these.
“Testing these prototypes in cold climate conditions helps us to assess the car’s early dynamics and crucially ensure confidence-inspiring sure-footedness on low-grip surfaces. This car propels Aston Martin into a new segment and our engineering team are enjoying the challenges of developing a quality luxury SUV experience through this robust testing schedule.”
The Gaydon-based company first unveiled its foray into the world of the SUV back in 2015, showcasing the DBX at that year’s Geneva Motor Show. At the time, it insisted the vehicle would challenge “the nature of luxury GT travel”.
It took two-and-a-half years from that point for the DBX to enter testing, with Becker chucking the SUV around on the demanding terrain of a Welsh Rally stage. Every stage of the car’s testing programme has been deliberately gruelling, with other locations including a Middle Eastern desert, high-alpine passes, and the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife race track in the heart of Germany’s Eifel forest.
Itching to get your hands on the DBX? You don’t have too much longer to wait. The SUV is due to go into prototype build in St Athan, Wales midway through this year, before the start of a full production run in 2020.