The Aston Martin DBX is a superb super-SUV. This under-pressure company can rest a bit easier; its potential customers can buy with ease. This isn’t a machine that feels like it’s been developed simply because it had to, but because the people there wanted to make a proper Aston SUV. It’s the most convincing car of its type we’ve yet seen. I guarantee, Ferrari will be itching to get its hands on one.
As you’d hope for prices from £158,000, a head-turner, for the right reasons. Long, wide and, for all its size, svelte; even car enthusiasts should admire it. Judging by the heads I turned during 24 hours in one, it’s a genuine ‘wow’ car. The beautiful interior wows too, with loving beauty and attention to detail combined with luxury-grade materials and finishes.
And to drive, it defies conventions not unlike the Porsche Cayenne first did all those decades ago. It’s luxurious, effortless, sporty and agile, impressive on track, and even goes off-road with surprising confidence. All while seating five people with luxurious space and a boot big enough for their stuff.
Of course, as you’ll see, you can nit-pick. No car is perfect. But the Aston Martin DBX, proudly built in Wales, is a fine first SUV from the firm, much more than an SUV simply for the sake of it.
The turmoil in the Aston Martin boardroom means the man who oversaw its creation, Dr Andy Palmer, is no longer at the company to enjoy the fruits of his labour. But what a gift to leave the company: without doubt, the DBX is good enough to secure Aston’s future. Let’s hope it now does so.
Driving the Aston Martin DBX
My first drive of the DBX lasted 0.9 miles. It was around Silverstone’s perimeter road, from Aston Martin’s test facility to an off-road section. It passed this brief test with flying colours: in my notes, I scribbled words including plush… well-weighted… tight… integrity… luxurious. It was already clear this is not simply an identikit big SUV.
Then, without even a breather, I set the air suspension into full off-road mode (raising it 45mm – it looks great with the suspension raised) and went off-roading for 25 minutes. Doing things no Aston has ever done before. Gripping with assurance up muddy slopes, descending steep drops with control, fording through deep water, it was imperious. OK, it’s not a patch on what Land Rover gets us doing, but still no owner would ever do this – yet it can if they want.
Then it was back for a breather before the exciting bit: the circuit. Although it weighs 2.25 tonnes, the big DBX has ample power, 550hp, courtesy of the same 4.0-litre V8 found in the Vantage. It does 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, delivered consistently thanks to permanent all-wheel drive complete with electronic rear limited-slip differential. There’s a nine-speed automatic too, with big, beefy (fixed) paddleshifters for circuit work. Oh, and just like the Vantage, a one-piece carbon fibre prop shaft connects the rear wheels to the gearbox.
Aston’s test track is located within the main Silverstone circuit. I vaguely remembered it – and it all came flooding back during the sighting laps because I was sat up higher than I ever have been on track at Silverstone before. Confident I knew where I was going, I could instead focus on the DBX’s pure and linear steering – none of the fake over-heaviness of some rivals – its roll-free agility (48-volt electronic anti-roll is standard) and, of course, that wonderful engine.
It’s unashamedly V8, with a characterful rort and growl. In full Sport+ mode, the exhausts pop and crackle brilliantly – they are not just loud and antisocial for the sake of it but naturally effervescent and naughty. It rewards you for revving it too, with noticeable extra high-rev punch: a proper sportscar engine in an SUV.
Owners who get to take the DBX on track won’t be disappointed, and probably will be surprised. You can hustle it and it doesn’t cry for mercy. It feels agile and responsive, biting into corners and, once you get the hang of it, power-oversteering out of them. A heavy SUV shouldn’t be this pointily confident; it’s only the wilting brakes that will remind you what an enormous machine it is. Do as I did, have a cool-down lap, then press on again for another 10 minutes of enjoyment.
There was now just one thing left to do: depart Silverstone for exactly 24 hours of driving the DBX in the real world. In, no less, exactly the same car I’d just been harrying around the circuit. How about that for a track-to-town-centre crossover. But first, after such an intense morning so far, I had to pause and take stock of what I had the (glass) key for.
The DBX is an ‘event’ car. It has presence because of its size, and its lines, and its incredible paint quality, but flipping out the same doorhandle as on Aston’s sports cars immediately ties it to the rest of the family (as do frameless windows front and rear). Door sills are cut away and flat, so it’s easier to get in and out (and help keep your trousers clean when stepping out) and the immediate impression is one of pure luxury.
It smells delicious, because of all the leather, which extends far beyond the seats to virtually the entire dashboard. I love the pinched, stitched lines and it all has a hand-crafted feel that’s very hands-on (hand sanitiser at the ready, please). The centrepiece is the oval centre console with Aston’s smartest touchscreen integration yet, complete with bright widescreen display, although, infuriatingly, it isn’t touchscreen. Blame the Mercedes-Benz-derived tech for that (and curse the fiddly trackpad and rotary wheel).
It’s such a stylish and intricately-designed interior, you can’t help but admire the craftsmanship. Everywhere you look, there’s an interesting detail to enjoy. This is all-bespoke and the driving position feels sports-like too, with the pedals stretched ahead and a feeling you’re sitting within it, not perched atop. The steering wheel is beautiful to hold. Being an Aston, it also has a multitude of fiddly touch-sensitive buttons on the centre console, because nothing’s perfect.
In the rear, it’s airy and accommodating, helped by a huge panoramic glass roof. It’s easily the most spacious Aston ever, with a wheelbase of over three metres serving up loads of legroom. The 632-litre boot is accommodating too, if a bit shallow (and also so richly trimmed, you won’t really want to put a muddy dog in there…).
And so, into the real world, for the day-to-day DBX experience. The wonderful engine continues its V8 hum in the background, ever-present but in the right way. Steering continues to be natural as well – responsive but not grabby, with a very natural, sog-free response and careful accuracy. This is a good thing, as the DBX feels wide on the road, a large car that needs precise placement.
Ride quality has firm undertones at lower speed, and it can crack audibly into potholes. This grumbly knobble is due to the 22-inch wheels, and it does have a more flowing air-suspended feel as speeds rise. There can still be an audible thud at times, though, perhaps just to remind you this is a sporting SUV rather than a wafting Range Rover.
But it still has waft-along effortlessness to make long journeys a breeze. Refinement on the motorway is excellent, and the high seating position feels very elegant – the view down the creased, curvaceous bonnet is regal. Body control is excellent and you can fling it around curving A-roads without unsettling your passengers thanks to the uncanny lack of body roll. The general poise is excellent.
Back home, we loaded up for a day trip. The kids loved it: they had acres of space, a great view out and the high end luxuries were unlike anything they’d ever seen. It was the first time we’d ever been able to go out in an Aston Martin as a family and I lost count of how many times they exclaimed ‘whoa’. Not to mention the squeals when I squirted it.
The drive was brilliantly soothing, and I just wanted to carry on. The DBX is a car you won’t tire of in a hurry (particularly if you can swallow the 16mpg average I recorded). The family who stopped me in a multi-storey car park said it all: “What a magnificent car.” You wouldn’t get that reaction from a Bentayga.
Some posh SUVs feel a bit like a mongrel. The Aston Martin DBX is a thoroughbred, as purely focused on being a super-SUV as a Range Rover is on being a luxury SUV. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered. He can consider it a job well done.
Verdict: 2020 Aston Martin DBX
Five years in development, and you can tell. The Aston Martin DBX feels a cut above other posh SUVs – and convincingly feels like a genuine sporting super-SUV. It looks striking (wait until you see it in the metal), and the interior is magnificent, while practicality is like nothing the company’s ever made.
Yes, the ride can be a bit too sporting, and Aston still hasn’t fully resolved its fiddly infotainment and scattered buttons. It feels very big on British roads at times, too. But the highs outweigh this: a magnificent V8, surprisingly entertaining handling, impeccable refinement and an overall feel of in-built, high-end luxury. The car that had to be right, is right.
2020 Aston Martin DBX specs
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo
Torque: 516lb ft
Gearbox: 9-speed automatic
0-62mph: 4.5 secs
Top speed: 181mph
Fuel economy: 19.7mpg
Length / width / height: 5,039 / 1,998 / 1,680mm
Boot capacity: 632 litres