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First drive: Aston Martin DBX. Image by Max Earey.

First drive: Aston Martin DBX
New products are rarely as pivotal to their parent manufacturer’s ongoing success as the DBX is to Aston. How does it stack up?

 



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Aston Martin DBX V8

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

This SUV is the product which must 'save' Aston Martin. So is the DBX good enough to accept such a mammoth and vitally important task? Short answer: yes. Yes, it is. Longer answer? Well, allow us to explain...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Aston Martin DBX
Pricing: DBX from £158,000
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive with active centre diff and electronic rear limited-slip diff, nine-speed automatic
Body style: five-door prestige SUV
CO2 emissions: 323g/km (VED Band Over 255: £2,175 first 12 months, then £475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 19.8mpg
Top speed: 181mph
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Power: 550hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 700Nm at 2,200-5,000rpm
Boot space: 632 litres (+62 litres underfloor storage)

What's this?

The Aston Martin DBX and, you would imagine, that Dr Andy Palmer is sitting at home, watching how the world receives this new hyper-luxury SUV with very mixed feelings indeed. You see, Dr Palmer led Aston successfully for six years, overseeing a transformation in its product line, ensuring the marque can transition to a mid-engined future involving the likes of the Valkyrie and Valhalla, and seeing Aston Martin floated on the stock exchange in 2018. However, downturns and Covid crises have left the British company once again in a familiar position of financial peril and, once Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll invested in the firm, it seemed the writing was on the wall for Dr Palmer. He was unceremoniously bundled out in May, before getting to see this - arguably his 'baby' - reach fruition.

He's sure to want the DBX and, by extension, Aston Martin succeed, but it is surely bittersweet that he's not there to be a part of the SUV's oh-so-crucial launch. However, here it is and initial take-up is good. Aston is claiming more than 2,000 orders have already been placed worldwide for the DBX, and if the public response to this car during its 24 hours in our care is anything to go by, those numbers will rapidly increase from there. Terrible clunking name-drop here, but the four days immediately prior to our test-drive of the DBX, we'd had a matte purple Lamborghini Huracan in for evaluation and it's fair to say the Aston SUV drew even more positive attention from other road users and onlookers than the dramatic Italian supercar did.

OK, some of that will be down to the DBX's novelty value, but a large part of it is because the DBX is a machine which looks better in the metal than it does in photos. Like, a lot better. Matt Becker, the chief vehicle attributes engineer for the SUV, reeled off a list of competitors that were benchmarked in creating the DBX and they included (but were not limited to) the Bentley Bentayga, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, the Lamborghini Urus, the Porsche Cayenne and, natch, the Range Rover, and with the exception of the last of these, we reckon the Aston looks better than all of them.

Chief creative officer Marek Reichman talked us through the DBX's design strengths, including its tapering glasshouse which leads to broader shoulders at the back and an aerodynamic teardrop shape from above, as well as the fact the Aston has a socking great three-metre-plus wheelbase (3,060mm) in a body that is 5,039mm from tip to tail. There's obviously also the DBX's signature 'ducktail' rump, which not only visually ties it in with the Vantage coupe but which also, when working in conjunction with that vented, roof-mounted spoiler, keeps the air from separating from the body and means the DBX doesn't need a rear windscreen wiper. Reichman is clear when he says this aerodynamic cleaning system isn't as effective at degunking really grotty rear screens as a rubber blade on an arm, but for the majority of the time and weather conditions, it's more than suitable for maintaining rearward visibility. Suffice it to say, in Satin Xenon Grey and with lots of black detailing and external carbon fibre, the DBX is a real looker. It has presence and stance, without giving the impression of being bloated and gargantuan, and you could pry every winged badge off it you could find and yet people would still know without a shadow of a doubt that it's an Aston.

That long wheelbase and Aston Martin's efforts to give the DBX low sills means that getting into and out of the SUV is easy and elegant, and the space inside is vast. Rear-seat room is so generous that very tall people (like Reichman himself) will be most comfortable back there, despite the standard-fit panoramic sunroof (which doesn't eat into headroom as it can on other vehicles), and the door apertures themselves are nice and wide. There's also a whopper of a boot, measuring 632 litres with all seats in play and boasting an additional 62 litres of underfloor stowage. Aston doesn't quote what the DBX will carry ultimately if you fold the back seats down, but we're ready to bet it would be knocking on the door of 2,000 litres, all told.

It's also impressive up front, with beautiful materials used, excellent ergonomic layout and a (praise be!) round steering wheel, rather than the, um, unusual squared-off effort you'll encounter in a DB11. The driving position is also focused and pleasing, high enough off the ground to make you aware you're in an SUV but low enough relative to the vehicle that you feel like you're in a sports car. However, our main observation here is that, while we accept the DBX's cabin is very lovely and high quality, it doesn't feel anything like as grandiose as the interiors you'd get on the Urus, the Cullinan and (most importantly of all, as it's the one Aston hopes to steal sales from) the Bentayga. Indeed, the DBX's previous-generation Mercedes-sourced infotainment is not touchscreen capable and you'll also notice the Mercedes control wheel on the transmission tunnel, as well as a single Mercedes column stalk residing behind the large, metal (and wonderful) paddle shifts. In truth, we'd have to say the Aston's interior feels no more special than that of a third-generation Cayenne and even then, the far cheaper Porsche still has the technological edge on the Aston. So if that's a major drawback for you, on a car costing nearly £160,000 in its most basic form, the DBX might be off to a rocky start. Especially if you're also one of the many people who clearly don't like the exterior styling, although as that's a purely subjective matter we're going to leave this section there for now.

How does it drive?

Becker reeled off those dynamic benchmarks earlier and you can't help but feel, given his Lotus background, that the SUV he'd want the DBX to be likened to most in terms of driving characteristics would be the Porsche Cayenne. So here's the good news for fans of Aston: buy the DBX and you'll be getting one of the best kinematic experiences you can have in an SUV. Seriously, Aston Martin's all-new, high-riding product - sitting, as it does, on a bespoke platform - is easily up there with the Cayenne, its little-brother Macan and also the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio as one of the most gratifying SUVs going. There are obviously a number of factors relating to why the DBX is so sharp and rewarding, but two key parameters are its heavily rear-biased all-wheel-drive system and a kerb weight that, for a large, V8-powered, luxo-SUV like this, is remarkably svelte at 2,245kg.

These two facets alone would explain its deeply assured and enjoyable performance as it hammered around Silverstone's tight and challenging Stowe Circuit as if it were about 600 kilos lighter than it actually is. There's precious little understeer and really keen turn-in, and that lovely taut, limber feeling about the damping, which makes the DBX feel more 'sporty' than 'utility', more 'lightweight' than 'lumbering'. The steering is superb, clean and accurate, while the AMG-sourced 4.0-litre drivetrain and nine-speed torque-converter automatic (ironic, given that former AMG boss Tobias Moers is the man who will replace the ousted Dr Palmer at Aston Martin) react beautifully on track, the transmission never failing to respond to reasonable clicks of the paddles (i.e., ones which wouldn't make all the V8's valves ping through the bonnet) and the engine providing sufficient accelerative urge. On the flipside of that, the DBX's 410mm front (these gripped by six-piston callipers), 390mm rear steel discs work brilliantly at hauling the big SUV down from high pace time and time again, with little evidence of brake fade.

It's unlikely, though, that - as talented as it is on track - DBX owners will be pounding the circuits of the world in their new purchases. And nor will they likely ask this SUV to do a huge amount of off-road work, either. Although Aston has you covered on that score - granted, maybe the DBX won't match up to the go-anywhere abilities of the class leader in rough-track riding, but it has various tools at its disposal that mean it can do more than simply traverse a wet field. All-terrain tyres and Hill Descent Control are the bare minimum requirements for a spot of tame mud-plugging and scampering up and down rubbly inclines (which Aston laid on for the DBX to challenge, and it managed to go round the provided course with some aplomb), but it has two off-road settings on its air suspension, that can lift it up to 45mm above the standard ride height and give a maximum 235mm of operational ground clearance. It'll wade through 500mm of water, it'll tow 2,700kg of braked trailer (much more likely to be a horsebox or light boat, rather than a Bailey Senator twin-axle four-berth, given the car's clientele) and it has approach, departure and breakover angles of 22.2-, 24.3 and 15.1 degrees respectively. So while well-heeled types who regularly like to plunge deep into inhospitable terrain are still going to be better off in a Mercedes-AMG G 63, if you do decide to venture away from metalled roads then the DBX won't let you down.

But it is on-road where the DBX shines the brightest. Still making all the right noises, thanks to the charismatic AMG V8 (this is a belter of an engine, it really is), it is nevertheless an imperious cruiser. Its air suspension and adaptive dampers work wonders at negating any bad behaviour that the Aston's standard 22-inch alloys might bring to the party, while the cabin is clearly swaddled in reams of sound-deadening that negate noisy rumblings from the wide tyres at all four corners. Reichman's earlier claims of aerodynamic prowess hold true, because the DBX cuts through the air in an effortless and quiet fashion, and that rear screen does stay relatively clear even in fairly heavy rain. Finally, its 48-volt electric anti-roll control (eARC) and Sport/Sport+ modes (which lower the SUV by 15mm and 15mm again on the triple-volume air suspension) make the DBX very adept in the corners; having shown its true dynamic colours in extremis at Silverstone, a couple of testing bends on the public highway are no problem for the Aston. All in all, it's a glowing report for the way the DBX drives, in a wide variety of situations.

Verdict

There's no denying that the Aston Martin DBX is extremely late to the prestige SUV party and we're not convinced the interior, capacious and practical though it may be, is glitzy enough to tempt people out of their Bentleys, Rollers, Lambos and even Maseratis. That aside, though, the DBX is pretty damned good - it's more lissom and rewarding than a Bentayga, prettier, lighter and waaaaay cheaper than a Cullinan, suitably more refined and discreet than an Urus, and a good few steps above a Cayenne or Rangie in terms of exotic status and head-turning ability. If you like the looks of the DBX (and we do, although we admit it's a rather spec-dependent piece of design inside and out), then you're going to love the way it drives. The car to save Aston? On this cultured and assured all-round display, it has absolutely everything it needs to succeed in its most noble quest.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

5 5 5 5 5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 10 Aug 2020









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2020 Aston Martin DBX UK test. Image by Max Earey.2020 Aston Martin DBX UK test. Image by Max Earey.2020 Aston Martin DBX UK test. Image by Max Earey.2020 Aston Martin DBX UK test. Image by Max Earey.2020 Aston Martin DBX UK test. Image by Max Earey.

2020 Aston Martin DBX UK test. Image by Max Earey.2020 Aston Martin DBX UK test. Image by Max Earey.2020 Aston Martin DBX UK test. Image by Max Earey.2020 Aston Martin DBX UK test. Image by Max Earey.2020 Aston Martin DBX UK test. Image by Max Earey.








 

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