Marek Reichman has seen bosses come and go during nearly 17 years at Aston Martin. He joined the storied, but often financially troubled British car company in 2005 to lead the design team while Aston was under Ford ownership. Reichman was there when Ford sold the brand to a consortium of private investors. He was also there in 2018 when Aston Martin Lagonda went public and saw its stock sink before being hit by the double-whammy of Brexit and the pandemic. In 2020, Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll and a group of investors threw a 262-million pound ($429-million) lifeline to the struggling firm. Now, everyone is waiting to see if Stroll can follow-through on an ambitious plan to turn Aston into something like a British Ferrari.
“The brand is stronger than all the bosses. That’s one thing that Lawrence recognizes,” said Reichman, who is now Aston’s executive vice president and chief creative officer.
Stroll is many things, including a car collector, former fashion mogul, current Formula One racing team owner, and father to F1 racer Lance Stroll. He races for his father’s team, which last year rebranded as Aston Martin. The elder Stroll also owned one of the world’s largest Ferrari collections, but sold most of it, as well the Ferrari of Quebec dealership, because, “he just didn’t feel it was right,” said Reichman.
“My first impression was, here is a car guy who is the exec chairman, who effectively owns the business – thank goodness,” Reichman said.
So far, under Stroll’s watch, Aston Martin Lagonda has streamlined its product road map by pushing back and/or cancelling plans for fully electric vehicles, as well as halting development of a new V6 engine. The company is, however, pushing ahead with plans to launch an ambitious all-new range of mid-engine supercars to fight Ferrari. There are also major updates coming to Aston’s aging sports car range, and – most importantly for the firm’s bottom line – more versions of the DBX SUV coming soon, starting with the monstrous machine we’re driving here in Sardinia.
The brazen $271,400 Aston Martin DBX707 is a driver-focused super-SUV that guzzles gas, goes fast and costs roughly $70,000 more than the ‘regular’ DBX SUV. Despite all that – or more likely because of it – Aston Martin expects the DBX707 will account for 60 per cent of its SUV sales, which themselves account for roughly half the brand’s annual sales.
On first glance, the 707 has been given the usual smattering of extra carbon-fibre bits, including a pointy new rear spoiler and a diffuser that juts out so far it wouldn’t look out of place on an F1 car. Best not to think about how much that carbon diffuser would cost to repair in the event of a rear-end collision. All of the aerodynamic addenda do actually reduce lift, although a driver is unlikely to notice at any legal speed in Canada.
Threading the big SUV along a spaghetti-like mountain road in central Sardinia, it’s clear the changes made to the 707 are more than skin-deep. The chassis is borderline miraculous, owing to tweaks like a wider rear track, new damper valving and recalibrated electronic differentials, not to mention air suspension and active roll control. On some sections of road, there is only orange construction tape separating the tarmac from a sheer drop off the mountain. It could be terrifying, but it’s not because the 707′s considerable weight feels so well controlled.
It also sounds incredible. Because the exhaust pipes exit so far behind the driver’s seat, it’s like being chased by a lion whose roar sounds suspiciously like a V8 engine. New turbos fitted to the Mercedes-AMG sourced V8 engine help it churn out 697 horsepower (up from 542 in the standard DBX) and 663 lb-ft of torque. In case you’re keeping track, that’s more power than the Lamborghini Urus or Porsche Cayenne Turbo, but slightly less than Jeep’s most over-the-top models.
Thankfully, the 707 doesn’t fall into the same trap as some other fast SUVs, which can be downright punishing. (Imagine trying to drive inside a tumble-dryer.) The 707 though – much like the standard DBX – is genuinely comfortable.
It’s telling that Andy Tokley, senior vehicle engineering manager on the 707, used to work at Lotus, whose cars are the gold-standard for ride and handling. He explained that Aston is hoping to tempt customers away from the Urus, which, last time we checked was flying off dealer lots, as well as the Bentley Bentayga Speed. Tokley felt the Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo GT was actually the benchmark in the super-SUV market though. The German option doesn’t feel as exotic, but it is $70,000 cheaper, and has a vastly superior infotainment system.
The Aston’s old, non-touchscreen Mercedes-sourced infotainment system is its only major letdown. The cabin is beautifully made, but just isn’t as slick or as modern as what you’ll find in the Porsche.
“When we look at headwinds in the core product, it is an aging portfolio,” said Marek Reichman. But, refreshing the sports car lineup and SUVs with new interiors and infotainment systems will take time.
Last year, while Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley and Rolls-Royce posted record sales, Aston failed to do so, despite having a new SUV – the DBX – on the market. “Our most successful year was 7,200 cars, so 6,200 [units sold in 2021] is not that bad,” said Reichman. But, it’s not stellar either.
In January there were reports the company’s new CEO Tobias Moers, who was hired away from Mercedes-AMG in 2020, could be replaced. However, a spokesperson for the company said that wasn’t the case.
On the bright side, Reichman said the company has drastically reduced the number of cars sitting on dealer lots at any given time, and is pressing ahead with development of new supercars meant to go head-to-head with Ferrari. Ferrari, however, will soon be stepping on Aston’s turf with a super-SUV of its own.
Aston Martin’s future is uncertain, but at least it has one, and – whatever happens – it won’t be boring.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.