Aston Martin DBX review: super-SUV is the height of ambition
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Aston Martin DBX
- Brilliant driver’s car
- Brilliantly practical SUV
- Undeniably high status
- Outdated infotainment tech
- Polarising design from some angles
- $100k more than an AMG GLE with the same V8
Aston Martin has come very late to the premium SUV party and some might say that as a maker of very fine Grand Tourers (like the DBS Superleggera, pictured with the DBX below) and supercars, it shouldn’t have come at all. You don’t see any off-roaders in a McLaren showroom now, do you?
Still, it’s a road well travelled by Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and those downmarket brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. More to the point, such a vehicle is a path to profit in markets where super-wealthy buyers love the credibility of an exotic brand blended with the practicality of an SUV. Which is all of them these days.
So the concept is nothing new. But the Aston Martin DBX is very different to top-end SUV rivals like the Porsche Cayenne, Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, and the cream of the BMW M and Mercedes-AMG SUV crop. While all of those have shared platforms to draw upon, the Aston Martin DBX is a bespoke creation. It’s not based on anything and is therefore an incredibly costly and risky exercise for a small company like Aston, which even had to build a new factory for the DBX, in Wales.
The DBX does have Mercedes-AMG technology to help it along. The German company is set to be the second largest shareholder of Aston and its engines and electronics power many new-generation models, including the DBX. So there are high expectations.
High expectations from buyers, too, for good reason. Make no mistake, this is next-level SUV stuff. The base price of the DBX is $330,000 and by the time a few choice option boxes had been ticked, our test car crossed the line at $378,115.
Financially troubled Aston has to go big or go home with the DBX, and right from the start it said the new SUV would be both a highly sporting machine and a very practical family car. Might as well aim for the most difficult combination of talents.
It certainly looks the part. Definitely an Aston, from the long bonnet to the pinched rear with a “boomerang” Vantage-style light bar. Not entirely graceful perhaps, but for a super-luxury SUV we reckon purposeful beats pretty any day.
Auckland | Auckland City
$1,123.30 p/w $4,493.21 p/m
Canterbury | Sockburn
$604.97 p/w $2,419.88 p/m
Probably no point debating the authenticity pros and cons of using a Mercedes-AMG powerplant. Aston Martin has been doing it already with the Vantage and DB11 and it’s certainly the way forward for the marque.
It’s undeniably good hardware: fruity, strong and very sonorous if you like old-school V8 noises – although it’s much louder on the outside than in the DBX’s cabin. One doesn’t always like to be disturbed when the pace is building.
The German biturbo V8 certainly suits the edgy character of the DBX and there’s no denying the rest of the dynamic package feels quite unique. You have to admire the audacity of Aston: it would have been quite easy and much more cost-effective to heavily re-engineer a Mercedes-AMG GLE platform for the DBX, especially given the shared engine, but instead it’s chosen to go it alone – and presumably in the process create a basis for future SUV variants.
The DBX is fast… but not crazy-fast like a Lamborghini Urus, with 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds. The emphasis is on balance and simply brilliant handling, which the DBX delivers. We inevitably drone on about heavy, upright premium SUVs handling like conventional cars, but the DBX is an especially high achiever.
The steering is superb, the chassis astonishingly nimble during quick changes of direction. The wheelbase is long but the overhangs short, meaning you can place the car with a high degree of accuracy. Some of the handling ability is thanks to high technology like active anti-roll bars. But some is surely just down to virtuoso engineering from Aston Martin, because there’s a very analogue feel to the way it responds to driver inputs. There’s no other SUV that’s as dynamically adept.
It’s not at the expense of ride, either, despite the 22-inch wheels. You’re always aware of urban bumps but the DBX is never less than dignified at low speeds, thanks partly to a very clever adaptive triple-chamber air suspension system.
Speaking of dignified, the DBX interior is exactly as you’d expect: swathed in leather, to the point where the aroma can be quite overpowering. This is the redolence that posh people need, apparently.
We could dwell on the in-your-face Oxford Tan Leather colour scheme of our test car (which is very much a hero hue for DBX if you look at overseas press images), but that’s a matter of taste and in fact you can have pretty much any interior look you want within reason. At a price. Our car’s colour was standard-fit, although the matching carpet (including the boot), mats and seatbelts are all extra-cost.
The biggest disappointment in the DBX is the Mercedes-derived infotainment architecture. Benz stuff is great stuff, but this is very much last-generation equipment, with the funny centre-console touchpad/wheel combo (which the German maker has long since abandoned) and no sign of a touch screen. So please excuse the fingerprints Aston, but I've got a $20k Suzuki and I'm used to touch operation. You do get Apple CarPlay phone projection though, which puts the DBX one-up on the DBS Superleggera coupe we tested last month. Same goes for adaptive cruise.
That long wheelbase means the DBX is a genuinely capable family machine if you want it to be. It’s comfortable, with good legroom and a good view out for Tarquin and Felicity.
And of course Aston has famously pulled a bit of a Land Rover by creating a series of very specific options, including the Pet Pack (partitions, paint protection for the bumper), Event Pack (picnic hamper, seating), Touring Pack (cabin saddle bags, lockable stowage) and an Essentials Pack aimed more at the school run, with a centre console organiser and rear-seat entertainment mount. And yes, the boot is genuinely useful at 632 litres, although you might want to tie stuff down.
So the car is fantastic, but has it done the job? It seems so. The DBX now accounts for over half of Aston Martin sales and the company’s profits are improving. Or at least it’s becoming less… lossy by the quarter.
The V8 is epic, but that’s only the start of the DBX story. It’s 2022, after all. The Mercedes-AMG connection will provide the hybrid connection the DBX needs to move forward. There’s already a six-cylinder mild hybrid (MHEV) for China and the company has been spotted testing a plug-in variant. That might be the real X-factor Aston need to flourish.
ASTON MARTIN DBX
ENGINE: 4.0-litre biturbo petrol V8
GEARBOX: 9-speed automatic, AWD
0-100KM/H: 4.5 seconds
PRICE: $330,000 ($378,115 as tested)