Aston Martin DBX Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Aston Martin DBX

810
Published: 09 Aug 2020
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Usefully, the DBX has six drive modes (GT, Sport, Sport+, Individual, Terrain and Terrain+), so the air suspension system has a decent chance of dealing with whatever you throw at it. On A-roads and motorways its a companionable - if not entirely fuss-free - cruiser, never quite aping a magic carpet thanks to a slight undercurrent of big-wheeled thump to the ride. And yes, the wheels are massive 22s, which don’t actually look too big. Saying that, it reveals overtaking opportunities unavailable to more mortal vehicles, and the noise is nicely judged - a muted grumble in the more socially-acceptable ranges, a bassy bellow with a hard-edged buzz when you reach for the faster arcs of the rev-counter and the exhaust valves. The way the Merc-sourced 4.0-litre makes torque and power has been modified to better suit the X’s characteristics, and it’s pretty much spot-on. Similarly, when surfing around, the nine-speed auto seems to manage perfectly well. You don’t really notice it, and that’s a compliment.

Given the opportunity to push (and drop the ride height a little for schporty reactions), it reveals a generally very safe balance with leanings towards rear-wheel drive responses, a tidy, not-very-SUV set of dynamic traits. Basically it’s pitched somewhere between a full fat fast SUV and an actual AM GT car. Some of that is the fact that it’s quite low - at 1,680mm, it’s some 60mm lower than, say, a Bentley Bentayga - but there’s a keenness that’s surprising. It’s also marginally less satisfying on the track. Now, circuits are not where SUVs of any stripe feel comfortable or even rational, but the DBX really can lay claim to being a properly sporting thing. It’s not slick with speed, mind. It doesn’t feel like it slices through the air like a supercar, more a battering ram of performance with less barn-door aesthetic than the usual fast SUV. But it roars and bellows in all the right ways, making it feel properly rapid. The ‘box isn’t the happiest going full-bore either, despite the paddleshifters behind the wheel. Its responsive enough on upchanges, but really doesn’t want to hammer a gear unless it’s down in the comfortable end of the rev-range.

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In its most extreme mode, there’s a defined sharpening of the responses, and the active centre transfer case can vary drive from 47/53 front-to rear to 100 per cent rear-wheel drive, with the electronic diff in the back then pushing torque from side to side between the rear wheels on demand. There’s also brake-actuated torque vectoring, and a 48-volt electronic anti-roll control (eARC) system replacing traditional anti-roll bars. Now this could make the DBX feel a bit stilted and digital, but it doesn’t. There’s a little lean, a little oversteer, and a feeling that whomever set the car up arranged it so that it felt like a real GT car - albeit one that’s levitating a foot away from where it should be. But, and this is an interesting one, when in one of Aston Martin’s more traditional products you disable the traction control and have at it, you get lots of oversteer. You also get reliable amounts of it, all the time. The DBX, on the other hand, has a tendency to second guess you, and tidy up your worst excesses even with the minders switched ‘off’. That’s safe. That’s rational. But it’s not the usual Aston way. What it means is that while the DBX can dance, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it flows as well as a rear-wheel drive Aston product. Not a huge surprise, and it’s not a disappointment as such, but you’ll find the DBX more satisfying on an actual road - albeit at less warp factor.

It’s also more capable off-road than you might imagine given that wheel and tyre combo. Yes, the car is on all-season tyres and no, it’s not a hardcore off-roader, but dropped into Terrain+ mode, which raises the suspension 45mm from standard ride height, tweaks the various differentials and throttle maps and generally sets the cars up for lumpy country, it really can potter across some properly muddy geography. It’ll wade to half a metre  - there are breather pipes on the diffs - manage hillocks and rock scrambles and generally mountain goat itself about. No, most owners won’t do it, but like most expensive and pointless things, it’s nice to have the element in reserve. After all, not many supercar owners test their 200mph capability, but that’s not to say that they don’t like the bragging rights.

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