“Aston Martin is not a car, Aston Martin is an emotion”, Stuart Lord mentioned during my first-ever visit to the Aston Martin Lagonda facility in St Athan, Wales. Stuart Lord works as a Director of Manufacturing with the 110-year-old British carmaker specializing in luxury sports cars and now sports utility vehicles as well. The brand is known for many things, but their association with the famed James Bond movie franchise made them more popular than ever. Then came the 2023 Formula 1 season where Aston Martin F1 Team surpassed everyone’s expectations to reach at the top spots, with legendary F1 driver Fernando Alonso at the helm of the affairs.
Behind all this fame and popularity, Aston Martin is a thoroughbred automaker that has given the world some of the most fabulous, luxurious, and fast vehicles. Aston Martin was founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford in London and is now headquartered in Gaydon, an area known for its rich motoring heritage. Aston Martin manufactures all its cars at two locations in the UK – Gaydon and St Athan; with Newport Pagnell being the brand’s heritage and restoration centre. I recently got a chance to visit the brand’s St Athan facility in Wales, where the DBX SUV is manufactured. The visit was facilitated by the Welsh Automotive Forum.
St Athan Facility
The St Athan based Aston Martin Lagonda plant is the brand’s newest manufacturing facility. While Gaydon continues to be the home of the company’s sports car production, St Athan is the home of Aston Martin’s first SUV, the DBX, including the most powerful SUV – the Aston Martin DBX 707. The facility was purchased from the Ministry of Defence (MOD), as it previously served as the RAF’s plane hangar.
The 90-acre St Athan base was home to 14,000 personnel during World War II and was used for training both ground and air crew. St Athan has undergone a three-year transformation from Royal Air Force base to state-of-the-art manufacturing facility of the Aston Martin DBX, one of the most luxurious and fastest SUVs in the world.
Aston Martin DBX
The Aston Martin DBX made its debut in November 2019 as the British marque’s first SUV, based on a dedicated SUV platform. As told by Stuart Lord, the brand is utilising bonded aluminium technology, a construction method where Aston Martin has reduced the use of rivets and screws, making the body structure very light and incredibly stiff. It gets Adaptive triple volume air suspension, along with 48v electric anti-roll control system (eARC) and electronic adaptive dampers to provide the new SUV a luxury ride quality.
The DBX is powered by a 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine found in DB11 and Vantage, with 550PS and 700NM of torque. The engine can push the SUV from 0-62 mph in 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 181mph. While the DBX is the very definition of practicality meets performance meets luxury, wait till you sit inside the Aston Martin DBX 707.
The new DBX707 is an SUV like no other, and I got to experience it around the final test track of the facility, with one of their test drivers. Right before the car is deemed ok for shipment, every SUV passes through a rigorous test course, where the driver looks for any defects. This is where we got to experience the most powerful DBX – the 707. The DBX 707 gets the same 4.0-litre V8 engine, but the output is lifted to an immense 707PS and 900Nm, increases of 157PS and 200Nm over the DBX (V8).
The performance SUV also gets a 9-speed ‘wet clutch’ automatic transmission. The DBX707’s 0-62mph acceleration time stands at 3.3 seconds. Apart from the engine and performance itself, every single Aston Martin DBX is hand made at the St Athan facility. As told by Stuart, they recognize their cars inside the plant by not chassis numbers, but by the name of their owners. Every single owner can choose whatever interior and exterior colour they want, an epitome of customization, quipped Stuart.
While the DBX is the first SUV from the brand, the Aston Martin has delivered some of the most recognized names in the past and continues to do so. Trust me, I won’t be talking about the famed Aston Martin DB5 from the James Bond series. Aston Martin is currently retailing its flagship DB12, DBS (again a regular in the Bond movies), and Vantage, apart from the DBX.
But there are two other models that made quite a headline when they were introduced – Aston Martin Valkyrie and Aston Martin Valhalla. Both are special edition sports cars and promises an otherworldly feeling to the owners. I won’t be going into the details of both the cars, as this article was meant to highlight my experience at the Aston Martin’s St Athan facility.
At the end of our tour, as we entered the reception area, two giant boards on either side of the entry wall welcomed us, with hundreds of names written on them. As I asked Stuart about the names, he quickly jumped on one of the boards, and pointed out his name mentioned there. These are the names of all the workers who have worked in the Aston Martin production facilities ever, giving people the ‘Aston Martin Smile’ concluded Stuart Lord.