It’s an Aston Martin SUV that feels like one, handsome, noisy and fun, genuinely well packaged, spacious
Multimedia not up to scratch, heavy on fuel, some quality and refinement niggles
What is it?
The DBX is Aston’s first SUV in its 100-plus years of history – and more importantly for its future, an attempt to wedge open the tall car-centric doors of global markets such as China, the Middle East and the USA. Places deeply attached to the idea of Big Vehicle Status.
It’s also a stab at making a genuinely useable, practical, everyday Aston – unlike the four-door Rapide. Remember that? It’s built at a brand new production facility at St. Athan in south Wales, and despite only being launched in 2020, already accounts for 50 per cent of Aston’s global sales.
There’s now two engine options for the five-seat, four-wheel drive DBX – although both are Mercedes-sourced 4.0-litre biturbo V8s. In the entry-level car it has 542bhp and 516lb ft, while the flagship DBX 707 uses different turbos with additional cooling to develop a mighty 697bhp (707PS) and 664lb ft. The world’s most powerful luxury SUV is the claim. Or rather was until the 715bhp Ferrari Purosangue came along.
Surely a hybrid is more important?
Yes, but also more costly to develop, and there’s the question of whether the world’s wealthy actually want a hybrid SUV, or if they’d prefer to carry on burning hydrocarbons until the exhaust starts gargling in the rising sea levels. Now, Aston has done a 430bhp mild hybrid V6, but it’s for China only. Expect more news on DBX variants in 2024.
What else goes on underneath?
There’s a Merc-made nine-speed auto ‘box (further uprated for the 707), triple-chamber air-ride, a suite of electronically-controlled differentials, electric ride control and a host of other up-to-date tech that means this unique-looking Aston can cope with everything life throws at it – be that mud or racetrack kerbs. Or possibly a little of both.
Layered over the hardware is a striking bit of design work by AM’s design overlord Marek Reichman, featuring elements you don’t usually see in the toolkit of blocky SUV design tropes, and the DBX is all the better for it. There’s a long bonnet that butts up against a generously-raked ‘screen, a low roofline and a pinched ducktail at the rear that apes the Vantage. There’s muscle and tone in the side profile, a long wheelbase and plenty of detail. Aston always manages to hit the spot with this stuff, where Bentley, and especially Rolls, have struggled.
The 707 gains a bigger grille at the front, larger diffuser at the rear and a load of other detail. If that’s the one you’re most interested in, click on these words for a separate review.
Is it a convincing car?
We’re assuming you mean is it a safe place for your money, when you could be putting it into a Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus or top end Porsche Cayenne. Aston as a company is not as stable as its rivals, and the DBX as a product doesn’t quite have their depth of engineering and quality. But it’s close. If you want to read a group test on all four of them, click here.
The biggest issue has nothing to do with the way it drives or feels. It’s the lack of a touchscreen interface (clickwheel operation only here). This alone makes it feel outdated, especially since the launch of the wonderful new DB12 with its overhauled interior. Expect the DBX to be similarly enhanced soon, which will hopefully take it closer to the final polish that characterises its rivals. However, in terms of driving well and looking good, the DBX is right up there.
Does it out-handle an Urus? Out-comfort a Bentayga?
Neither. But then an Urus is pretty aggressive and tough on passengers, and the Bentayga isn’t the sort of SUV you’d ever hustle down a twisty road. You might have a go, but if ever there was a sports SUV that after four corners tells you it’s had enough, that’s it. The DBX sits in a very happy place between them. The 542bhp entry model is plenty fast enough, makes a great noise and is one of those cars that is happy in its own skin. It’s very well blended, so it drives exactly how you imagine it should.
And then there’s the DBX 707, which drives exactly as you imagine it shouldn’t. It’s a proper hoot. Even naughtier exhaust note, wild acceleration and a lust for life (and the far horizon) that is genuinely surprising and thrilling from an SUV. As far as 4x4s go, only the Purosangue is more addictive.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
It’s a tough one, this. In a sector crying out for some difference, the DBX provides it. It looks interesting, goes really very well and hits all the targets. It does feel like an Aston Martin product, and is a really very practical and well packaged SUV (running costs aside). It can manage off-road, feels suitably sporty even on a track – if you must – and generally has the chops to make light work of the grind.
The 707 is the really interesting one. Yes, it’s faster and more aggressive if pushed, but when you back off it’s every bit as comfortable and undemanding as the regular car. And not a lot less efficient. If you can afford the £35k uplift to £198,000, it’s the one to have.
But the DBX is a polarising thing – yet another brawny, bawdy V8 petrol SUV in a world increasingly turned on by efficiency. But saying that, it’s a very decent translation of Aston Martin into the cash-generating sector that is the SUV market. It was a little late to the party, but if this is Aston’s Porsche Cayenne moment that allows the company to settle and produce ever more decent GT/sports cars (and the DB12 suggests it does), then that’s a good thing.
It’s noisy and fun, practical and interesting, imposing and challenging. Nobody ever bought an Aston from a spec sheet – they buy them because of the brand, the heart, the passion. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a decent brew.