These days the luxury SUV market is huge. Countless manufacturers are all clambering to get a piece of the pie. However, in recent years we have seen a new “Super SUV” niche of that market really take off. Maserati, BMW, Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini have all offered their rendition of a luxury SUV which goes like a supercar.
This brings us to the Aston Martin DBX, by far the most “real world” Aston ever. While some fans aren’t too impressed that, in their minds, Aston Martin would “stoop” to such a level as to offer a practical SUV from within a family of supercars, the numbers do not lie. The DBX is shaping up to be a huge cash cow for Aston Martin. I have been waiting for some time to have a play with Aston’s new SUV and thanks to the owner of this particular example, it finally happened.
The base price for the DBX is $330,000. This is significantly less than its nearest rival, the Lamborghini Urus. Unlike the Lambo which shares much of its underpinnings with the Audi RS Q8, the DBX has been designed on a bespoke Aston Martin SUV platform. However, like the Urus, the DBX’s beating heart comes courtesy of another brand.
Said beating heart is a 4.0L twin-turbo V8 largely sourced from Mercedes-AMG. Power is rated at 405kW and torque at a quite substantial 700Nm. Drive is sent to all four wheels via a new nine-speed automatic transmission and an electric limited slip diff. Aston claim the DBX can reach the New Zealand open road limit from a standstill in 4.5 seconds and is good for a top whack of 291km/h. No 250km/h limiter here. You want speed? You got it.
The DBX certainly isn’t bad to look at. Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s Chief Creative Officer has left his trademark design touches everywhere. Things like the sleek and swooping roofline, frameless front and rear doors, the Vantage inspired rear light bar, rear diffuser and the signature Aston front grill with LED daytime running lights either side. When you see a DBX up close for the first time, you realize photos really don’t do it justice. It also sits at nearly five metres long and 2.2m wide.
Get in via the flush-fit carbon door handles and you are greeted with one of the most opulent cabins around. Quality is here in abundance, from the lashings of red leather and alcantara spread throughout, the real wood on the floating centre console and the switchgear making just the right clicking noise when you press them. There is plenty of room to get comfy. The rear seats also have acres and acres of head and legroom. Open the power tailgate and you have 625L of boot space.
The 10.25-inch infotainment screen takes centre stage up front. It is by far the best system of any Aston Martin on sale today giving clear and concise screens and displays. Despite not being a touchscreen system, the Mercedes sourced selector dial and touchpad makes it easy to use. Ahead of you sits the 12.3-inch instrument cluster which displays all your in-car data. The steering wheel feels good in your mitts and the driving position is more akin to a sports car than an SUV. So far so good then.
The DBX is stacked full of kit that you would expect a car of this price bracket to have. There is Apple CarPlay, Sat Nav, a full panoramic sunroof, 360 degree reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity, hill start assist, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning and rollover stability control.
This example also has just about every single optional extra thrown at it. These included solid walnut inlays, premium audio system, red seat belts, premium paint, carbon pack, diamond 22-inch alloys, red brake callipers, bespoke Q interior treatment, etc etc.
The owner says it has around $140k worth of extras added. Gosh, it isn’t long before you get further and further away from that $330k base price if you spec your car up. The DBX is also the first Aston you can spec with a tow bar, fancy that.
Hold down the Aston Martin embossed starter button for a second and that bi-turbo V8 wakes up. Despite being an AMG sourced power unit, it doesn’t shout under revs like its German contemporaries, but offers more of a spirited growl. It sounds much smoother and when you lift off, you do get a few crackles but it certainly isn’t ostentatious. Also, due to a soft limiter, it won’t let you rev beyond 4000rpm while idling.
Time to select drive and get moving. The drive select buttons are not the slickest around, giving a slight delay from press to engaging drive or reverse. Move off and that V8 soundtrack makes itself known but when you settle into a cruise, it fades into the background.
In fact, at low rpm, you struggle to hear any engine note at all. This is down to the DBX’s cylinder deactivation. Plus, with combined fuel consumption figures of 14.1L/100km, it’s a welcome addition. Then again, if you buy a DBX and start complaining about filling its 85L tank, then this car really isn’t for you.
This being an Aston, it isn’t long before you get the double takes from passers-by. I swear I could have heard one lady say “wow, that’s an Aston Martin!?” It would take a trio of Range Rover Sport SVRs to get the same level of attention the DBX gets in daily traffic on its own.
The nien-speed automatic gearbox is a real peach offering crisp shifts the way up and down and the same can be said for flicking through the gears via the paddles yourself. The old Touchtronic set up in Astons from days gone by required lifting off between changes to smoothing things out, but with the latest autos, you can keep your boot on it.
You have the choice of five drive modes, GT, Sport, Sport Plus, Terrain and Terrain Plus. You even have downhill descent control. The opportunity to engage in serious off-road tom foolery never presented itself during my time with the DBX. This was something I was quite glad of actually, as this DBX, despite being once a thoroughly tested Australian press car, is now someone’s daily driver.
Terrain mode was tested while negotiating a farm paddock just out of Darfield. In this and Terrain Plus, the air suspension raises the car up to give between 190mm and 235mm of ground clearance. The dampers, suspension and four-wheel drive system work well together allowing the farm trails in said paddock to be dealt with easily.
Back on the smooth stuff, does it perform well as an automotive adrenaline pump? In a word, yes. Despite being five metres long and tipping the scales at 2245kg, the DBX is no Heffalump. A fact which becomes very obvious when you decide to give it welly. Change over to Sport mode or Sport Plus, and the fun can begin. Mash the throttle into the firewall and that curvaceous bonnet rises leaving you pressed firmly against the seat back.
With the bi-turbo V8 singing its baritone bellow, the DBX surges forward. Moments later you find yourself arriving at the next corner a lot quicker than first thought. It isn’t scary fast, but very brisk nonetheless. It is also quite manageable and not intimidating. I reckon anyone could jump in the DBX and have a play without fear of it biting back.
With the air suspension lowering the car by 50mm, things become as planted and as slippery as possible. In the corners I was expecting a smattering of body roll given its dimensions but no, it corners flat and it isn’t long before you are pushing harder and braking later. Here is an SUV which is can make mincemeat of all manner of twisting country lanes. When you are in the zone, the DBX sort of shrinks around you. It ceases to be a big roomy luxury SUV and becomes a bend devouring sports car.
Keep the revs between 2000rpm and 5000rpm at any given moment and the DBX is a hoot. Thrown in that V8 score coupled with untold levels of grip and chassis balance and the adrenaline well and truly starts to flow. It really is a very entertaining way of snaking through Ashley Gorge.
The Aston Martin DBX is better than I thought it would be. Despite having to take out a second mortgage when it comes to options, the DBX is still a terrific package. Part supercar, part SUV and all charm.