Few car brands carry a worldwide reputation as strong as Aston Martin, nor a legacy as long (108 years and counting!). For decades their vehicles were known as THE James Bond cars, with magnificent styling and a glorious engine note. Known primarily for producing sports cars.
Aston has decided to take on board the current vehicle trends and branch out into the world of SUVs. Typically tall, heavy cars, they’re not the kind of profile you’d usually associate with Aston Martin, so the question is. Have they managed to produce an SUV whilst still remaining loyal to the brand?
For those sitting on the SUV fence. This is No Time To Die but try the Aston Martin SUV DBX.
My name is Koflach, Thomas Koflach. Let’s get some shaken and stirring in this SUV.
First Things First
So before we dive into dissecting the car itself, it’s important to have a look at the paper stats. Upfront we have a tuned variant of the Mercedes 4.0 litre Bi-turbo V8; access to the legendary AMG lineup of engines is granted thanks to a technical partnership between the two brands, and that’s no bad thing.
Pumping out 542bhp, the V8 engine can propel the DBX to 60mph in just 4.5 seconds, then onwards all the way to 181mph. Not many SUV’s can tout figures like that!
Then there’s the suspension; which reads more like a gadget description from Q-branch than something off a road vehicle. eARC’s (electronic anti-roll bars), triple volume air suspension and adaptive dampers are all employed to provide the DBX with all the tricks it requires to offer dynamic handling capabilities, without sacrificing driver comfort or off-road capabilities. The air suspension gives some useful adjustability to ride height, with the ability to lower the car by 45mm or raise it by 50mm, depending on the scenario at hand.
The gearbox continues the impressive stats; with a slightly mind-boggling selection of 9 forward gears to choose from. Nine!
This should allow it to not only exploit the engines formidable power but also deliver improved economy figures by consistently operating the engine in the efficiency ‘sweet spot’.
On paper then, it’s fair to say Aston has gone all-out in the mechanical department, in an impressive effort to maintain the Aston Martin feel and minimise the typical SUV effects. Time to get under the skin of the DBX and explore the model on the test.
It must be all too easy for PR teams to play it safe with vehicle colour, but I’m so glad Aston Martin didn’t go down that route on this occasion. The DBX as tested was dressed to impress with a glorious ‘Golden Saffron’ paint, which drew attention like no car I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving. The up-close sparkle afforded by the metallic element to the paint was one of the best I’ve seen, glistening fantastically in the sunlight.
It’s no surprise the DBX attracted admiring glances though because even without the stunning paintwork, she’s a bit of a looker.
Having explored photos of the vehicle prior to delivery, the DBX somehow manages to impress more in person than in print.
The glorious curves and sculpted shape make this car a feast for the eyes and one that only grows on you more and more over time. There are so many details that take time for your mind to ingest, but the finished article is a fantastic looking car which is unmistakably Aston Martin.
The rear lights are my personal highlight, creating a duck-bill shape over the rear boot which not only looks fantastic but also like they could have been formed by the very air flowing over the body as it travels along.
Cabin and Technology
With glorious looks outside, it’s fair to say cabin expectations were high. Thankfully, the DBX didn’t disappoint. Fit and finish were top-notch, with a mixture of carbon fibre, aluminium and leather inter-woven seamlessly around the cabin, offering a variety of textures and an all-around premium feel.
The centre of the cabin is home to a large 10.2-inch display, with the engine start/stop button and gearbox drive select (P/D/R/N) buttons above. The start-stop and gear selection buttons are all manufactured from an acrylic-type material, which feels solid and satisfying to press.
Their placement is perhaps a little odd, particularly if you’re doing a forward-back type manoeuvre, as reaching over to the top of the centre console is a little clunky.
Even more odd is the omission of any touch input for the central screen, as visually everything about it seems to scream ‘touch’. Touch aside, the Apple Carplay integration is seamless and general UI performance seemed very good.
Considering the SUV proportions, it’s probably no surprise that the cabin feels very airy and open, despite the large transmission tunnel through the middle. The air vents are neatly packaged and well-positioned to provide excellent heating/cooling. These are further complimented by the seats, which offer both heating and ventilation for the occupants, even those in the back. The well equipped rear seats (further USB ports and climate buttons are offered) surely create appeal to DBX owners looking to be chauffeured in style.
Beyond climate options, there are buttons aplenty along with the centre console. It took a good few hours of driving and exploring to fully grasp their functions, with the sheer plethora of buttons a little daunting at first. Beyond the odd omission of the touch screen, this would be my only gripe, in that it does feel a little cluttered in places. Despite the wide range of buttons on offer, for the James Bond fanatics, it’s also worth pointing out that a flip-button for ejector-seat operation is sadly omitted from this model.
The boot is large (630 litres), with the opening for the hatch extending the full width, making loading and unloading a breeze. To further aid this, some nifty control buttons have been placed just inside the boots rearward edge, which allow the user to raise/lower the suspension and even fold the rear seats down with just a button press. The suspension move is a real party trick and highlights just how much suspension travel Aston have packed into this vehicle.
Up/down movements are met with the quiet hiss as the pneumatics move compressed air around the vehicle, whilst the boot lip moves to the desired height. Neat.
Something I hope to see in the James Bond Movie this month, No Time To Die.
Plenty of space for James Bond, gadgets, tuxedos and wine and dine his ladies.
On The Road
Owners of Aston Martin’s are obviously sold by the good looks of the vehicles, but the major pull is the driving experience, so how does the DBX fair in this regard? With all that mass and the high body, I’m pleased to say it’s a genuine surprise just how good the DBX is on the road.
A selection of driving modes (as well as the option to customise your own) allows you to dial the characteristics of the car all the way from supple ‘GT’ to hardcore ‘Sports+’. In GT, you’d be hard pushed to find a more relaxing and capable long-range cruiser. The ride is simply sublime, whilst the thick glazing and well-placed sound deadening ensure road noise is well managed. With plenty of poke on tap, the engine also provides a smooth swell of torque which effortlessly moves the DBX through traffic. The 9-speed gearbox and valved exhaust ensure that engine noise and the vibration is always kept in check, even returning modest economy figures on longer runs (for a vehicle of this size/performance, ~25mpg was seen during testing).
Where it gets really impressive though, is when you dial things up to the max and push the DBX into Sports+ mode. Engine response is sharpened, the exhaust valves opened and the whole vehicle feels like it goes into a squat position ready to devour anything that you can throw at it. The AMG motor comes into its own here, with the 542bhp put to good use and creating a frankly ludicrous level of acceleration for such a large vehicle. The gearbox is responsive and quick without being overly harsh, allowing for the fast-paced squirts of power required to overtake traffic.
Point the DBX towards some bends and suddenly all that engineering magic and acronym-filled suspension begin to make complete sense. Body roll is managed to an unbelievable degree, keeping the body flat and stable even at speed. Despite all the engineering and computational magic going on, the DBX doesn’t feel removed either, with plenty of steering feel and a real sense of connection to the road. The only letdown is the slightly mushy feeling brakes, which fail to inspire the sort of confidence you’d ideally like in a vehicle weighing over 2,200kg! Despite this though, it’s hard to take away from the fact that Aston has managed to engineer some real fun and enjoyment into the SUV driving experience, for which I must commend them.
I always find my feelings towards a vehicle tend to come to the fore when handing back the keys, so considering how painful it was handing back the keys to the DBX, it’s safe to say it made a good impression! In terms of attracting admiring glances, very few could top a DBX in Golden Saffron paint, making it a great conversation piece when arriving at a venue. Ostentatious? Perhaps a little, but then if you’re going to drive around in an Aston Martin SUV it kind of goes with the territory…
The chassis exceeds expectations and the drivetrain is equally superb. The V8 engine up front offers up plenty of punch whilst producing a raw growl under heavy acceleration which is very in-tune with the rest of the vehicle. The styling is equally on point and only grew on me more through my time with the DBX. The only real niggles?
With James Bond at the forefront of the brand which no other car in the world can claim. Aston Martin has the luxury to command an SUV Bond price.
The infotainment lacking a touch screen, and fuel consumption. In a world where fuel prices seem to go up almost daily, it’s certainly not the cheapest SUV to run. But with a starting price of £158,000 (and totalling £210,000 as tested), fuel prices aren’t likely to be an issue for the expected clientele. For those lucky enough to own one, I can’t help but feel envious (as should you).
Thank you to Aston Martin UK for supplying a loan vehicle for the test.