Aston Martin’s first-ever SUV has landed. How authentic is it?
Honesty is the best policy. This philosophy becomes even more important when you begin pushing your brand into new territory. Or in the case of Aston Martin, controversial territory.
Judging by the comments on CarAdvice’s numerous Aston Martin DBX stories, and gauging anecdotal feedback from during my time with it, many have reservations. Future Aston Martin owners or not, the temperature of the room appears cold.
It’s far from an isolated issue, however. The waft of doubt lingers around all hyper SUVs it seems, no doubt perturbing marketing and product bosses of exotic car brands the world over.
I come back to that point of honesty, however, as some hyper SUVs have reached acceptance more than others. While a Bentley Bentayga has become something obtuse, a Lamborghini Urus still feels juxtaposed. Audi’s RS Q8? Something new and fierce. Porsche Cayenne? Lauded as the segment benchmark.
Sweet irony given all share the same construction. It proves that a thick veneer of brand applied both liberally and correctly – said while not undermining stellar engineering – is critical in succeeding in this segment.
The authenticity of Aston Martin’s first-ever SUV runs deep. A quick peer under the bonnet intrigues, as you’re met with big and strong-looking cast-alloy uprights braced by prism-shaped girdling. Glance deeper and you’ll notice what’s gusseted is also hollow – testament to a weight-saving ethos that’s been diligently followed. Its kerb weight of 2.2 tonnes may appear large in isolation, but precision dieting makes it the lightest in its class.
Aside from an engine plaque stating “hand built in Wales” being located approximately 15cm from a Mercedes-AMG logo, what else you see looks serious and bespoke. True, because it rides on a uniquely designed all-aluminium bonded structure. What’s sourced from Germany is just powertrain related, which makes the DBX’s chassis effort a huge ask from a small manufacturer.
Unlike the other four likely candidates requesting your attention, it’s the only one that’s fundamentally different. Just 5000 examples will be built per year – capped to further create exclusivity. To better understand, Porsche 911s are made at a rate of 37,500 annually.
|2021 Aston Martin DBX|
|Engine||4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8|
|Power and torque||405kW @ 6500rpm / 700Nm @ 2200-5000rpm|
|Transmission||Nine-speed torque-converter automatic|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||12.4L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||19.5L/100km|
|Turning circle||12.4m kerb to kerb|
|ANCAP safety rating||Not tested|
|Warranty||3 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga, Audi RS Q8|
|Price as tested (excl. on-road costs)||$427,370|
Locally, the brand had planned to sell 55 units in year-one. All have sold out, and more since found. The 2021 Aston Martin DBX flew off the shelf with a $357,000 list price. That figure is inclusive of luxury car tax, but exclusive of on-road costs and options.
As you may or may not know, such high-end vehicles are never sold at the base price. Flirting with the extras list is both hilarious and sickening. Alongside some exterior paint treatments costing $36,160, there’s a $550 umbrella (which our car has) and $1940 heavy-pile floor mats.
Our car was stacked in line with how a customer would behave at the sales desk. This saw $70,370 worth of options added, including things like Aston Martin premium audio ($4160), black bonnet blades ($1940) and smoked tail-lights ($1380). Total price before on-roads? $427,370.
So, we know its bones and price are the real deal – what about the drive?
Firstly, we start with the noise. It’s of the utmost importance that an Aston must fire up with gusto. It has its work cut out for it now, as raw output from the Mercedes-AMG V8 power plant has been throttled by turbochargers. Still, it chugs into life, emanating a gurgley timbre. Cold starts are glorious, and the left-right stereo soundtrack is as intact as ever. Once warm, you’re left with a well-timed rumble.
Providing performance is a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine provided by those heroes over at Affalterbach. Outputs are 405kW large, with 700Nm on song between 2200–5000rpm. A nine-speed torque-converter auto accepts engine grunt and passes it to a clever active centre differential. Torque split varies from 47/53 front to rear, to almost 100 per cent at the back axle, where an electronic limited-slip set-up mimics that of a conventional mechanical item.
The 0–100km/h dash takes 4.5sec, but CarAdvice timing clocked it at 4.9sec repeatedly. Its slower-than-claimed time also speaks more broadly to how the DBX evinces a relaxed nature. Fast isn’t accurate. Ingolstadt’s positively bananas RS Q8 is, and requires you concentrate and focus when giving all it’s got.
The Aston is more calm and maybe more dignified with its approach to dropping the hammer. Let’s call it laying the gavel, instead. From 60km/h in third gear, maximum torque is theoretically offered as soon as the accelerator meets the shaggy floor mat.
However, instead of being besieged by torque, you’re instead greeted by a politely fierce wave of forward progress. The physical sensation of its might is manifested via a graceful lean on your upper body, which gently makes you aware that maximum motion has commenced. It feels as if it builds, as opposed to feeling relentless like the paper figures suggest.
With its powertrain set in default GT mode, gearshifts are peppy but doughy around the edges. Dialling up to Sport or Sport+ introduces jarring, more sporty shifts. It also adds crackles to its soundtrack, which work in conjunction with the opening of its exhaust valve. Here in this mode, the DBX sounds most reminiscent of AMG products, or like a high-tech hot rod, as to use professional terminology.
Its vocal track, from zero to redline, sticks to a single octave. The higher you spin it, the more rolling thunder that follows. Its volume increases, but its pitch does not. While not the earworm that an Aston Martin V12 is, it’s still brutish and imposing, like an East End bouncer would be.
Fuel consumption, regardless of the driving style applied, sat at 19.5L/100km. The official combined figure is a comical 12.4L/100km, which is unlikely to be achievable.
The Aston Martin DBX rides on air suspension as standard. Some settings are linked to drive modes, like the off-road-oriented ‘Terrain+’, which raises its height to 236mm. In turn this creates a 25.7-degree approach angle, 27.1-degree departure angle, and 18.8-degree breakover angle. Also, if you need to cross a moat when accessing your weekend gaff, a wading depth of 500mm is also realised in Terrain+.
Other settings include the GT as default, Individual, Sport, and Sport+. Like Terrain+, these modes unlock new levels of suspension height. From its utmost setting, a total of 63mm is shaved off its stance in Sport+.
As is expected with air suspension, ride quality is bliss. GT mode will see the DBX flatten most surfaces, doing its part to prevent the haunts of our shocking roadways from ruining your day. Some frequently scattered and less severe road deterioration does cause unsettling – a result likely of the huge and equally heavy wheels it flaunts.
Measurements say they’re 22 inches in diameter, 10 inches wide at the front and 11.5 inches at the back. The rear wears a meaty 325/35-section tyre, which alone would be incredibly heavy. I have no doubt they’re at detriment to ride quality to uplift kerbside appeal.
Dialling up through the various settings does reduce body roll, but it’s the party trick of active anti-roll bars that creates the difference. It works as expected by applying torsional stiffness in line with inputs like steering and speed. The calibration has been well thought out, as in the most basic road-going setting, the DBX maintains a strong, planted front end.
Initial steering input is met with a strong bite and virtually zero yaw instability. The steering is very well thought out, too, feeling incredibly natural and in line with the suspension and active roll-bar tune. Flossing the DBX through my favourite section of road was surprising, as the end of the tyres’ capability reared itself on the first pass.
It’s easy to trust, in short. Tighter sections did make the 2.2-tonne SUV feel cumbersome and prone to some understeer, but overall it’s an impressive package. More so when you factor in its off-road capability, or to paraphrase Mike Duff on his initial prototype drive: “Rough gravel tracks, even the sort of washboard ruts that turn traditional off-roaders into tumble driers, were digested without complaint; a point made by spending time over the same tracks in the rented Toyota LandCruiser that Aston was using as a support vehicle”.
The quality of various materials designed to strip away noise and vibration are first-grade. Dropping any one of its four windows reveals a double-skinned sheet of glass, which improves isolation levels. The seat foam also feels dense, which no doubt soaks up further nonsense found outside. Travelling at 110km/h with all windows up feels no different to a Bentley.
Which leads to more high-quality British traits. After acknowledging the outdated interior tech, one realises that outright processing power and screen clarity are not key purchase drivers at this level. What does is a roof lining, dashboard, and even lower centre console all wrapped in nappa leather.
Even the bottom section of the seat, that’s hard plastic in most high-end exotics, is decorated with the same unique perforated leather that stylises its seats. Attention to detail here is high, and well suited to the most discerning of clientele.
General functionality does come off second-best, however, and its previous-gen Mercedes-Benz infotainment system remains fiddly. It features two interaction points: a touchpad with gesture operation and haptic feedback, as well as a rotary dial.
Times where you wish to tab from the bottom of the screen upward can be irritating, and there’s no touchscreen functionality to speed up the task. Also, its control system is located 5–7cm too far rearward in the centre console, which makes for awkward hand positioning with a deep-set seating position.
The 10.25-inch screen is clear enough, despite featuring a software design that looks old-school. Directly in front of the driver is a larger 12.3-inch screen, which feels more upmarket and in line with expectations.
Tactility is an odd smattering of high-quality and bargain-basement. Its huge alloy paddle shifters, cold to touch, feel grand when pulled. Even the hardware related to its sun visors is made from genuine aluminium, including the illuminated mirror housing itself.
However, the ball is utterly dropped with chintzy-feeling air vents better suited to a car worth less than 10 per cent of the purchase price. The balance of all favours expensive rather than cheap, thankfully.
Inside the centre armrest you’ll find a 12-volt outlet and two USB ports – one of which is responsible for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. It’s big enough to house a small clutch, or child’s drink bottle and your wallet.
Despite embracing design over practicality, visibility is excellent. The tallish glasshouse seemingly vanishes into its overall exterior design; a point that only becomes apparent once behind the wheel. Slender pillars all round also improve line of sight in a downward arc – key to keeping those fancy wheels unchecked.
A huge glass roof is standard on the DBX, which all passengers will love. Those in the back get a wonderfully uninterrupted view of the sky as there’s no obstructing middle beam. There’s plenty of space in the second row, and I found myself sitting behind my own 183cm driving position creating 3–4cm of knee room, ample toe room, and satisfactory head room.
Air vents can be found in the side pillars. Temperature controls and two more USB ports are located on the back of the centre console. Fitting a child seat is easily conducted with either outboard ISOFIX point, and there’s plenty of room for a capsule base, too. Those sitting in the front need not adjust their seats to cater for support seats behind.
Behind all occupants lies 632L of boot space, which is bigger than most families will need. A pair of smaller canine friends will have no issues hanging out here. The load sill is quite high, but there is a button to lower the car’s air suspension from the back that helps.
The only other buttons electronically de-latch the rear seats for the acceptance of longer than usual cargo. Under the boot floor lies a temporary spare wheel and some equipment to change a punctured tyre.
It’s easy to fall for exotic plushness, V8 performance and brand prestige. When spending a week with an Aston, regular grounding is required to deplete the build-up of mental charge. If not arced, you’ll likely be diagnosed with what us experts call starry-eyed syndrome.
Simply looking at the bill acts as a big lighting rod. Notions of ‘how good’ are quickly discharged when you realise it’s a near on half-a-million-dollar experience. Another conductor would be viewing the competitor set. None appear rational, and all wildly as expensive.
However, against the other big four, the Aston Martin DBX stands apart. Not the architect’s Audi, nor the gaudy Italian. Definitely not old-money British, and far from the tabulated, Germanic Porsche E-Hybrid.
All of those are one and the same, too – something that creates a unique and, most importantly, authentic selling point for the newcomer.