Aston Martin’s DBX is the company's first-ever SUV – is it worth the wait?

Slower than a Lamborghini Urus, less luxurious than a Bentley Bentayga and more expensive than a Ranger Rover Sport, will the new DBX finally be the car to reverse the fortunes of cash-strapped Aston Martin?

Priced from £158,000 and equipped with a V8 twin-turbo 3,982cc engine, the DBX will reach 62mph in 4.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 181mph

10 August 2020

Like a villainous Bond girl, the all-new Aston Martin DBX is beautiful to look at but ever so slightly flawed. It turns heads and has curves in all the right places yet you may wonder if all really is as it seems.

In a luxury SUV sector packed with powerful rivals, the first full-size, five-seat car in the company's illustrious history boasts a comparatively ‘modest’ 542bhp and is no faster from the traffic lights than a Volkswagen Golf R. The Lamborghini Urus will leave it for dead in a drag race, the Bentley Bentayga has a more sumptuous interior and if you just want to get noticed, well the outsized Rolls-Royce Cullinan has the presence of an ocean liner.

Not only that, but a standard Range Rover priced at half the cost also boasts street cred and performs much better off-road. The forthcoming Ferrari Purosangue also promises performance bragging rights and the most sought-after of badges.

So was the DBX worth the wait and can it really deliver the volume of sales that Aston Martin’s troubled accountants have been dreaming about for decades? Halfway around the Stowe Circuit at Silverstone in July and I’ve already decided the answer is unequivocally yes.

It’s on Tarmac rather than off-road where the DBX proves its Aston Martin credentials and is license to thrill. Slip into Sport+ – one of six drive modes – and the car lowers 50mm, while the burble from the twin exhaust pipes takes on a more sinister tone.

The twin-turbocharged V8 sourced from Mercedes suddenly comes alive. It isn’t the fastest in a straight line but I’ll wager the DBX can outperform any other SUV and many sports cars barreling around a fast corner.

It turns in perfectly and despite the extra height of a family five-seater that’s also capable of carrying the luggage, drivers will feel totally in control. Precise, crisp and engaging – the DBX offers prodigious grip and minimal body roll.

The Aston is a handling masterclass – way beyond any of the luxury rivals already mentioned. Whether it’s the adaptive, triple-chamber air suspension cast in aluminium or the latest subframe technology, there’s nothing that will come near it on a winding road.

Made at the company’s purpose-built manufacturing facility in South Wales, the foundation of the DBX is a new, dedicated SUV platform. The body structure uses lightweight, bonded aluminium that is strong but also keeps the kerb weight down to a trim 2,245kg.

Off road, the Aston Martin is perfectly competent, with adaptive air suspension raising the ride height by 45mm in Terrain+. Few owners will ever venture further than the pavement but the DBX is more than capable, it will tow up to 2.7 tonnes and is also the first Aston to be offered with a tow bar – for an extra £995.

 

The DBX also looks sensational. A performance SUV has to be jacked up compared to a low-slung Aston Martin DB11 or Vantage but the designers have just about nailed it, especially the front end when fitted with optional bonnet blades, running fore and aft inside the narrowest of snorting vents.

Aston’s trademark, gaping grille is squeezed between bulging front wings that hang over 22-inch wheels. These flow rearwards along heavily sculpted doors with frameless windows. The windscreen is steeply raked and in side profile, the DBX sits low and squat, more Urus than Bentayga.

Less appealing is the rear end. Powerful haunches give way to an upswept ‘flip’ at the base of the rear screen, which is borrowed from the Vantage. Unfortunately, this duck’s arse of a lip spoiler upsets the proportions of the rear profile.

Boot space is a creditable 632-litres, more with electronically folding seats that can be operated via buttons in the luggage area. Controls to lower the suspension height and make access to the boot easier are situated here, too. Just watch your shins on the extended rear wind diffuser – it’s a cursed thing!

Before I step inside the cabin, I need to mention the flush-mount, streamlined door handles. You will find them in other Astons and gorgeous as they may be, they are infuriatingly awkward to pop open.  Aston made a big thing about this being a car designed as much for women as men – expect chipped fingernails and kids who can’t climb into the back seat on their own.

Inside my test car is acres of light tan Caithness leather, beautifully double stitched. Sumptuous but a little overpowering, especially with a matching Alcantara headlining. The quilted seats are multi-adjustable and perforated for cold air in the summer.

The back seats are low to the ground and despite a low roof will easily accommodate six-foot passengers, helped by impressive legroom. Oddly, the rear seats are incredibly firm, I can't imagine anyone would find them comfortable on a longer journey.

Overall, the cabin is more spacious than you might imagine, with a high centre console bridging over an open storage area large enough for a shoe box. The infotainment system is sourced from Mercedes but annoyingly can’t be operated via a touchscreen.

The mouse-style infotainment controller – another Mercedes offering – falls easily to hand but it far less user-friendly than the system found in a BMW hatchback.

Meanwhile, the leather-clad dashboard has been overworked, just like the hide seat design. There are bumps, ridges, stitches and curves all over the place – more bling than classy.

The crowning glory is a huge glass roof which brightens up the cabin and give a sense of space missing in some rivals. It doesn’t open but an automatic blind will glide forward when needed.

That gigantic glass roof helps to compensate for the view through the front windscreen, which is severely impacted by the rain-sensing unit for the wipers. It’s so big you will need a humungous pair of fluffy dice to hide it from view.

Director of design, Miles Nurnberger says: “The luxury inherent in every Aston Martin interior has been carried into DBX, but added to this is a new sense of airiness and visibility. “Combined with the adventure that we have been on in creating new materials for the interior, it feels like DBX is a car that truly breaks new ground for SUV design.”

As this is the company’s first genuine ‘lifestyle’ vehicle, Aston Martin has gone to town with no less than 11 optional lifestyle packages. Golf, skiing, cycling, field sports – the salesman will be sizing you up the minute you walk into the showroom.

In the same way that the DBX offers heated seats as standard, the Snow Pack includes a boot warmer to make the first ski run of the day a bit more pleasurable. Pet Pack comes with a portable shower for muddy hounds, while Event Pack boasts a picnic hamper and matching blanket.

My personal favourite is the Field Sport Pack, complete with a gun cabinet crafted from solid aluminium and a shooting stick. This all adds to the bill, of course – a Hyper red paintjob is £4,000, the Oxford tan special leather £2,200 and even the leather-bound floor mats £700.

By the time you sifted through the extensive DBX options list, I imagine the average customer will be paying in excess of £180,000.

Aston Martin director, Andy Haslam, says: “The fresh approach that the engineering team has brought to creating an SUV has not only produced a body structure that is benchmark for the class, but also brings new advancements for our company. “This model is truly a product of great British innovation, delivering class-leading interior space and storage and a unique luxurious design proportion, despite maintaining a shorter overall length than its competitors. The DBX perfectly balances everyday practicality with true Aston Martin sports car character.”

So, there it is. The DBX really is a brilliant driver’s car that also happens to offer enough space for a family and still looks amazing. It also comes with several flaws. Pick your favourite Bond girl, add a cheek scar and that’s Aston Martin’s first-ever SUV summed up.

Thankfully, it’s such an engaging drive that the annoying bits hardly seem to matter.

Aston Martin DBX

Price: from £158,000
Engine: 3,982cc V8 twin turbo
Transmission: nine-speed automatic
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 181mph
Power: 542bhp
Economy: 19.8mpg (combined)
astonmartin.com

 

What the DBX has to beat...

Lamborghini Urus (from £160,000)

The Rambo Lambo is the prettiest high-performance SUV for my money – although not everybody would agree. It will do 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds, making it the fastest way to make the school run. Power comes from a 4.0-litre V8.

Bentley Bentayga (from £140,000)

The second generation Bentayga has just been launched – thankfully they’ve given the styling a major overhaul. The V8 powers from 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds and has the best interior of any SUV.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan (from £264,000)

Big, fast, heavy – all words that’s fit the blingest Rolls ever built. Love it or hate it, the Cullinan gets you noticed and has enormous presence. Attractive it isn’t.