Aston Martin already created 200 jobs by opening its new Wales factory located on the grounds of former military airfield

Aston Martin may be late to the SUV party but the British automaker is doing everything it can to ensure that the DBX will be a success right out of the box. It’s even opening a brand-new facility that will, at first, focus only on making the DBX before also assembling all of the Lagonda models. The new factory located in Saint Athan, Wales, will eventually employ up to 750 people, most from around the Vale of Glamorgan area.

While production for the DBX will kick-off in earnest in the first half of 2020, Aston Martin used the unveiling of its new plant to also show to the press what has to be the production-ready version of its SUV, albeit covered in red-and-black camouflage. The version we’ve seen testing at the Nordschleife and the Arctic Circle among other places in the past year or so was a prototype but the body we can see on the new mule displayed at Saint Athan is the real deal that people will see in late 2019 when the official launch event will take place.

The Aston Martin DBX will soon become the newest member of a very popular niche, one that was, basically, made popular some 15 years ago when Porsche launched the Cayenne. The luxury and sports car establishment might’ve laughed at the news that Stuttgart’s sports car maker, famed for building the 911 for decades, lost its way and started building SUVs but, soon enough, the market demanded more super-fast and super-luxurious options and Bentley, Maserati, Land Rover, and even Lamborghini answered the call of the masses and came forth with their own SUVs. Ferrari is also expected to entertain its wealthy clientele with a high-riding Prancing Horse named the Purosangue, so Aston Martin’s decision to create the DBX feels normal once you take a step back and look at the whole picture. On top of that, sales of these models are what enable these manufacturers to continue to make sports cars and supercars.

St. Athan, 90 acres of RAF hangars turned into a high-tech production facility

Aston Martin DBX to be built at St Athan
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Aston Martin went from being that company that produced the DB7 for a full decade to one that rolled out a new grand tourer last year in the Vantage, shocked the world with the Vulcan in 2016 and followed it up by presenting plans for the Valkyrie, a mid-engined marvel that’s just the first chapter of a whole mid-engined chapter for the British automaker. In the light of all this, it’s not strange to see Aston Martin continue to break new ground. The Rapide E reveals Aston’s eco-friendly side but it’s the DBX that should be the company’s next big hit, one that should bankroll the production of all those two-door exotics.

As a small manufacturer, Aston Martin has been relying on only one factory that caters for all of its models. That’s where the Vantage gets built, as well as the Rapide and the DBS Superleggera. Located in Gaydon, Warwickshire, England, this facility is two hours away from Heathrow Airport by car making it an interesting place to add to your list of go-to places once you hit the UK as factory tours are breathtaking and seeing how these exquisite machines are brought to life (almost) is amazing. Mind you, though, you won’t find a production line for the DBX there. Not now, nor in 12 month’s time. Why? Well, because Aston Martin bought three years ago a sizeable plot of land in Wales with a former military airfield on it. That’s where the DBX will be built.

Located in Saint Athan, a 15.5-mile drive away from Cardiff, the new plant "has so far created 200 jobs and is expected to create up to 550 more. Also, as a direct result of this investment, a further 3,000 jobs will likely be created across the supply chain and local businesses," according to an Aston Martin press release. That’s because the DBX won’t be the only car to be built there with the entirety of the electrified Lagonda lineup set to be manufactured within the premises of the ’Super Hangars’ that once were home to army aircraft. By the time the Saint Athen factory will operate at full capacity, it is estimated that it will employ about 1,000 people but this won’t happen before 2025.

The Aston Martin DBX is, in a way, a make-or-break product for Aston Martin, a company that has seen rapid growth since Andy Palmer (formerly the Chief Planning Officer and Executive Vice-President of Nissan) was appointed President and Group Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin Lagonda. While Aston Martin did wake up from its slumber in the five years since Palmer started heading things, it’s clear even to the man himself that the company is, mainly, appealing to well-to-do males. As such, it is hoped that the DBX will change that and, by doing so, it’ll double Aston Martin’s annual sales figure which sat at just over 5,100 units globally at the end of 2017. By comparison, Lamborghini sold 5,750 cars in 2018 while Porsche sold 23,504 units of the Macan alone in 2018.

Aston Martin DBX to be built at St Athan
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"The DBX is seen as being neither male- nor female-biased – it’s neutral," Palmer said, quoted by The Guardian. Indeed, Aston Martin hopes to also attract rich businesswomen that would be interested to pay in excess of $177,000 to own a DBX. If you think the price is a bit too much, then you’re right, if you compare it with a Cayenne Turbo that starts at $124,600, however, a base Bentley Bentayga will set you back $195,000 and, when loaded, it can even make $245,000 vanish from your bank account. It’s clear that Aston Martin thinks the DBX will sell like hotcakes as the Saint Athan plant is capable of making up to about 7,000 vehicles of which 4,000 to 5,000 are expected to be DBXs.

Palmer looks towards the Chinese market as being the most welcoming towards the DBX since it’s also been the one that has been the keenest to buy Aston Martin products throughout 2018, a year that hasn’t been as kind to the British carmaker as 2017. According to The Guardian, "the company has been hit by higher than expected marketing costs" and these are beside the "considerable costs" that came with the public offering of the company (Aston Martin remains U.K.’s only listed carmaker). Then there are the $38 million that Palmer is said to keep as Britain is expected to finally leave the European Union later this year. Overall, Aston Martin is down by $21.92 million in the first quarter of the year before taking into account the taxes. This has also been seen in the price of its shares that hovered around $24 each in October and have since dropped to just under $13 each at the beginning of this week.

Still, Aston Martin is better off than other manufacturers that own plants in Britain. Take Ford, for instance, who’s announced it will shut down its Bridgend in September, 2020. In the process, some 1,700 people will lose their jobs and it’s expected that some of them will be hired by Aston Martin with Saint Athan being just 20 minutes away - but only a few as already 100 candidates fight for every available spot at Aston’s second factory. Ford isn’t alone in its decision to slash costs by closing a significant plant, Honda also coming forth with the announcement that the Swindon factory will close its doors forever in 2021 while Nissan decided against building the next-generation X-Trail in the U.K., at its Sunderland plant. This all paints a very grim picture for the British auto industry that’s only compounded by poor sales amid tougher pollution regulations that are aimed at diesel-engined cars and also the palpable uncertainty around Brexit that pushes investors away.

2020 Aston Martin DBX - Design

Aston Martin DBX to be built at St Athan
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Aston Martin didn’t only treat media with the sight of its state-of-the-art facility but also with a first look at the production version of the DBX. As you’d expect, the test mule parked on the driveway in front of the factory was covered by an intricate camouflage pattern but what matters is quite easily distinguishable, especially in the back.

Of course, the signature Aston Martin grille, here of massive proportions, is in its place, complete with the colored contour (a tradition that first appeared on the Aston Martin racing cars but has since been transferred to many road-going models).

Below this main grille, there’s another, frowny-looking, one just below and two vertical inlets on either side, below the teardrop-shaped headlights. The hood features a bulge in the middle, as the whole nose is shaped by the main grille. There are also two air vents that carve through this bulge on the hood, again, nothing new and very typical of any Aston Martin product.

When viewing the DBX from the side, you can easily spot the frameless windows and the flush door handles and you can just about spot a vertical air vent (to let hot air from the brakes to go out) aft of the front wheels. The prototype seen at Saint Athen featured a panoramic sunroof and roof rails but Aston Martin fitted it with what seems to be a pair of faux ridges across the sides to hide the widening hips of the car. On top of that, there’s camouflage everywhere just past the rear window all the way to the back where the C-pillar is. There should be an additional rear quarter window there too.

From the sole image of the SUV’s rear end, we can see that the cabin actually narrows down towards the tail section to emphasize the effect of the ducktail trunk lid. The design of the back, then, is basically a copy-paste job from the company’s Vantage grand tourer and you should expect to see a strip of LEDs following the outline of the ducktail all the way to the extremities of the rear end. The other prototype we’ve seen before, pictured dashing through the Welsh countryside to prove that the DBX isn’t just an asphalt queen, featured a pair of circular taillights mounted one above the other on either side of the trunk lid.

Another thing we notice from the picture showing the rear of the DBX is that there’ll be a mesh grille across the entirety of the lower bumper. On the earlier prototype, the two exhaust pipes were exiting straight from the bodywork but, on this one, they exit through holes cut in this curved grille that narrows down extremely much in the middle to make room for the number plate.

2020 Aston Martin DBX - Powertrain

Aston Martin DBX to be built at St Athan
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All reports suggest that the DBX will be powered by the Mercedes-Benz-sourced twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V-8 that also powers the Vantage and the DB11. The mill, that puts out 503 horsepower and 505 pound-feet of twist, will probably be mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission that will send the power to all four wheels through some sort of an AWD platform. For the sake of context, a Cayenne Turbo, that’s also motivated by a twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V-8, cranks out 542 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 568 pound-feet of twist from 1,960 rpm. This engine is also shared by the base model Bentayga while the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is powered by a monstrous 6.75-liter, twin-turbocharged V-12 churning out 563 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 627 pound-feet of torque from 1,600 rpm.

While the Cullinan won’t go past 155 mph, the Bentayga and the Cayenne are both quicker and the DBX should be too. Also, I’d think it’s likely to see the DBX be offered in AMR trim sooner rather than later since Aston Martin will surely want to at least be at the top of the pile in native Britain where Land Rover’s models and, particularly, the Bentayga Speed are more powerful and a lot faster. The Bentley, for instance, puts out 626 horsepower and is touted as the fastest SUV on the planet as it’s (officially) faster than the Lamborghini Urus by 1 mph with a top speed of 191 mph. Aston Martin doesn’t like losing in the arena of the GTs so I don’t expect them to want to take a beating in the SUV world.

Further Reading

2015 Aston Martin DBX Concept High Resolution Interior
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Read our full review on the 2015 Aston Martin DBX Concept.

2020 Aston Martin Lagonda SUV Exterior AutoShow
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Read our full review on the 2020 Aston Martin Lagonda SUV.

2020 Aston Martin DBX

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