As Chief Engineer, Matt Becker is uniquely placed to steer, shape and finesse the Aston Martin driving experience. As Becker puts his three decades of experience to good use, hustling a DBX through the twisting ascents and vertiginous descents of Millbrook Proving Ground’s hill course, he explains how this is a critical point in a car’s development. “I’ve spent the past five years effectively 100% focused on this car,” Becker explains. “A car is always an extension of your personality, so it’s a big thing for our team when the media finally drives a car after development has finally finished. You wait with bated breath and then there’s a massive sigh of relief when you see the first reports.”
In spite of the global acclaim garnered by Aston Martin’s first SUV, Becker will barely have time to pause. The DBX launch events are to be closely followed by media drives for Vantage Roadster, with many other projects waiting in the wings for his expert appraisal and guidance. “I’ve worked on more cars in five years at Aston Martin than in all the time at my previous role,” Becker notes, giving some indication of the ferocious pace of development at Aston Martin, as the company introduces a whole new factory alongside DBX, and also continues to prepare the ground for a new generation of mid-engined supercars, heralded by the Valkyrie hypercar.
In the next few days, Becker will be jumping into a Valkyrie for some dynamic testing at Silverstone, giving new CEO Tobias Moers his first taste of the car. “It makes the most incredible sound,” he enthuses. “You can be frightened by the numbers, but it’s actually very easy to drive.” It’s a huge testament to the engineer’s skillset that Becker can channel the essence of Aston Martin into two such diverse machines. “Sometimes engineers will develop the car that engineers want,” he admits, “but at Aston Martin, we have much stronger guidance about the car that customers want.”
While the Valkyrie offers untrammelled performance with a minimum of compromise, DBX is the consummate all-rounder, an impressive grand tourer with space for five as well as extraordinarily competent dynamics. “We have had a female advisory group for many years and we also make use of so-called ‘Field evaluation units’— cars that get loaned out to ‘non-experts’ [by which he means non-engineers] — so they can experience things ahead of the customers,” says Becker.
A car is an extension of your personality. I’ve spent the past five years 100% focused on the DBX.
There is also copious analysis to be done behind the scenes. Whereas a DBS might have an average annual mileage of around 5,000, DBX is expected to go maybe three times as far. “It is a daily driver,” says Becker. “It needs quietness, comfort and engagement.” By the same metric, with Valkryie at the top of the tree, the mid-engined machines that follow will ramp up the refinement. “A Valhalla will, of course, be very focused,” the engineer admits, “but with Vanquish we need it to be usable on a daily basis.” He points out that certain rival offerings might have the poise, but they don’t offer much in the way of luggage space. “You can’t even take them on a long weekend,’ he says. “That’s not what we want for our cars.”
DBX’s all-new platform offered a massive amount of flexibility to Becker and his team, but as he hints, it can also accommodate future change. “In this business you can't have an 'orphan platform,' i.e. one that only delivers one specific model.” For now, DBX will take the accolades and owners will get a chance to sample dynamics that have been honed by one of the industry’s great talents.
Following hot on the heels of DBX is Vantage Roadster. A drop top is a particular challenge for any engineer. “It’s a car that doesn’t lose any of the qualities of the coupe,” Becker confirms. “There’s no reduction in body stiffness, for example.” The only thing the new iteration of the Vantage does lose is the roof. “It adds another dimension,” he says. “It’s about hearing the engine and experiencing the drive.”
Regardless of which model you drive or where you drive it, an Aston Martin should always be an experience. With Becker overseeing exactly how an Aston Martin interacts with the road, owners are guaranteed to enjoy every journey.