Aston ups ante
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Aston ups ante

British marque is exploring the potential for a go-anywhere SUV with supercar pace

SOCIAL & LIFESTYLE
Aston ups ante

Aston Martin is considering a rugged, high-powered super-4x4 to rival the Mercedes G-Class, Autocar can reveal.

Design proposals for the shock new model are being evaluated internally, Autocar understands, but no decision has been made yet on whether to go ahead with what would be Aston's second SUV.

Tellingly, the Gaydon firm's 4x4 concept is said to be dubbed "Project Rambo" internally, a moniker that echoes the nickname of Lamborghini's seminal LM002 -- a radical, go-anywhere 4x4 pick-up truck with a V12 lifted from the Countach supercar.

Like the Lamborghini, Aston's 4x4 is expected to match supreme off-road ability with supercar levels of performance and luxury credentials that befit a lofty price, should the car make production.

Aston chairman Lawrence Stroll will not give the project the green light unless it has a solid business case, but the firm has no doubt been inspired by not just the success of its own DBX SUV -- which is now comfortably its best-selling model line -- but also the continued prosperity of the long-running G-Class.

Mercedes' off-roader remains highly popular and profitable in its fifth decade on sale and has just been heavily updated for 2024, with an EV option for the first time. Autocar has heard that a build run capped at 2,500 units is possible for the Aston 4x4, in a bid to preserve exclusivity.

It is not yet known where Aston could build it, but the DBX factory in St Athan would be an obvious choice given the likelihood of both SUVs using the same architecture.

V12 LM002 was dubbed the 'Rambo-Lambo'.

A source at the company suggested to Autocar that such a niche model would not have its own platform. That means it would be likely to be closely related to the DBX, which already has two driven axles and substantial power reserves courtesy of a Mercedes-supplied V8.

Notably, that engine -- a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre -- is already deployed in the AMG version of the G-Class, where it makes 577bhp and 850Nm to facilitate a rapid 4.5sec 0-100kph time, figures surely befitting any Aston-badged luxurious dune-basher.

Launching a new V8 SUV would tie in with Aston's renewed push on combustion cars. The Gaydon firm has recently delayed its debut EV by a year in light of sustained demand for ICE power. Stroll said recently that consumer demand for EVs "is not what we thought it was two years ago" and, as a result, will use hybrid powertrains as a "bridging" technology on the path to full electrification between 2025 and 2030.

He said: "What we are feeling is that there are people who still want some electrification to drive around in the city for five, 10 or 15 miles on electric power but still have the sports car smell, feel and noise when you get out onto the autoroute."

Conveniently, Mercedes-AMG has already paired its V8 with an electric motor on the rear axle in plug-in hybrid versions of the GT, SL and S-Class -- with power lifted to as much as 819bhp and, perhaps more pertinently in the case of a super-4x4, torque boosted to more than 1,355Nm. Whether or not Aston could use this exact set-up remains to be seen, but it does not currently offer a PHEV version of the DBX and recently took the China-only mild hybrid off sale due to a lack of demand.

Switchover to the new DBX has caused a big dip in Aston sales.

As Aston mulls the viability of potential new model lines, it is about to complete a wide-reaching overhaul of its sports car line-up with the introduction of the new V12-engined Vanquish in the coming months, joining the V8-powered DB12 and Vantage.

It will also launch the mid-engined Valhalla supercar, its first plug-in hybrid, later this year. The wraps are expected to come off Aston's maiden EV -- a high-riding, four-seat GT -- in 2025 and the firm says it has designed three more to follow over the coming years.

Each is based on a variation of the same modular platform and equipped with drivetrain hardware supplied by Lucid. Autocar

 

G-Class shows the concept is profitable.

Low-volume super 4x4 could be built with DBX at St Athan.

Falling Aston sales tipped to rebound this year

Aston Martin's sales figures took a heavy knock in the first quarter of this year, as production of the DBX was wound down in Wales to make way for the updated version.

The brand's total wholesales were down 26% year on year from Jan 1 to March 31, caused by a 63% decline in DBX output to 250 units, more than offsetting a 12% uptick in sports car sales as production of the DB12 ramped up in Gaydon.

Deliveries of the new DBX, now equipped with a touchscreen and available exclusively in hot 707 guise, will begin by the end of June alongside the fresh-look Vantage. With the launch of those models -- plus the new Vanquish in the fourth quarter of 2024 -- Aston predicts "significant" increases in revenues and profits in the second half of the year.

The company also said it will start deliveries of a new "ultra-exclusive" special in the final months of the year, following in the footsteps of the limited-run DBR22 speedster from 2022 and last year's Valour GT. It has not given any details but has already confirmed plans to use the Vanquish's new 824bhp V12 in further "limited-availability" models.

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