It was at some point in early 2015 that Matt Becker's path crossed with Miles Nurnberger. As Aston Martin's newly appointed Chief Engineer, Becker had arrived at Gaydon with a broad remit, a host of responsibilities that seemed to be growing by the day and responsibility for a number of secret projects that were especially pertinent to his skills. Nurnberger is now Aston Martin's Director of Design, having started at the company back in 2008. By 2015, he was overseeing interior and exterior design. Nearing completion in the Gaydon design studio was the full-size model of the DBX Concept, a two-door SUV that was due to make a bold statement of intent at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show: Aston Martin would be building an SUV.
The two men met to discuss the very first DBX mule. While the Geneva Show car previewed elements of the then-forthcoming DB11, it also determined the ethos of an Aston Martin SUV as a high-riding sports car. Behind the scenes, preparation for the car had been underway for a while.
"We'd actually started work even before Dr Andy Palmer became CEO in 2015," says Nurnberger. "We'd done a load of research, with a team tinkering away in the corner of the studio. When Andy came along, he saw the sketches and models and approved the development programme straight away."
With the concept almost ready to go, the six themes that had emerged in the design development were still being narrowed down. "At this point, we had created the first driveable model," Becker says. "It was a result of what we'd done with our benchmarking research - which was more than the company had ever done before." Becker and Nurnberger got together to deconstruct the rough and ready electric-powered mule.
"This machine was about whether you sit in the car or on it, how you look out of it, how easy it is to manoeuvre - all key questions for the design and engineering teams," says Nurnberger.
"We'd never done a car like this before at Aston Martin", Becker points out. "We had to create and invent new ways of running our test procedures. For a start, there were different test cycles, like towing trailers and ascending very steep hills - not something you need to assess for a GT car." Becker set out expanding his team to accommodate the new skills required. "We had people who understood the limitations of adopting existing platforms, for example", he says, "but as we had a clean sheet of paper we had an advantage."
"Things are always being learned throughout this kind of process," says Nurnberger. "When you step into real physical cars you discover that some things are better than you expected - and some things not. As with most companies, these things can go right down to the [production] line. But I remember vividly the first time I drove th car - I came out absolutely buzzing. It was just like a sports car in the way we had hoped for right at the start of the process."
This interview is an extract from an article featured in the AM46 issue of Aston Martin magazine, out now. If you're not already a subscriber, visit magazine.astonmartin.com/magazine-subscription so that you can read the full story.