It’s time for another instalment in my slightly unconventional series of luxury SUV drive stories, and following on from my recent Rolls-Royce Cullinan feature we have another submission from the UK.
This time, however, there is definitely a bit more ‘sport’ in it all. A mix of class and performance that Aston Martin does very well.
To me, Aston Martin has always been amongst the best at mixing an upper-class feel with just the right amount of power, but when the automaker announced it was launching an SUV, there was only one thought that came to mind…
‘Here we go again… a sports car manufacturer selling out and trying to win over a slice of the lucrative ‘truck’ market.’ Porsche, Lamborghini and Maserati have all done it, and so to will Ferrari and Lotus soon. But really, what’s the harm? Is it wrong?
Initially, I was a little horrified at the prospect, however, if like Porsche with the Cayenne, Aston Martin’s SUV ends up being so profitable that the company can continue to develop proper sports cars well into the future, well, how could you possibly be against it?
Then I saw the DBX and my whole outlook changed – and not for the worse. It looked sensational in pictures.
For the first time, I remember thinking here’s an SUV that actually has all the right proportions. Most SUVs have a slightly awkward look about them, but the Aston Martin DBX does not.Setting The Stage
This said, I was rather excited when offered an opportunity to drive one for a weekend. And the DBX looked even better in person with its glossy black exterior and gigantic 22-inch wheels. It was truly menacing.
Exterior design isn’t the only thing that Aston Martin has got so right with the DBX. The way they’ve appointed the interior – which follows recent updates throughout the entire Aston Martin model range – ensured the DBX hit the market with all the features and gadgets you can think of. And given that this thing is priced at the equivalent of US$200K here in Japan, you’d absolutely want it to be fully loaded.
While it ticks all the spec boxes, the DBX looks and feels like no other SUV out there. That’s not something easily achieved in this segment.
I had the DBX parked up for 20 minutes or so on Ginza’s main road while I shot these images, and the number of positive comments I overheard from passersby was quite telling. In Tokyo, reactions like kakkoi (read: cool) are not easy to get, and especially so in upmarket Ginza where exotic and luxury cars aren’t really anything out of the ordinary.
What seals the deal for me is the engine mounted up front – a 545hp ‘hot-vee’ twin-turbo 4.0L V8. We all know that Aston Martin gets its engines from Mercedes-AMG these days, but like in the Vantage that I drove last year, this adds to the experience rather than taking anything away from it. Simply, this is one of the best force-fed production V8s around.
Stick the drive mode into ‘Sport’ and you have an SUV with the soundtrack of an AMG GT that effortlessly machine-guns through its nine gears with immense acceleration from any speed. Despite the DBX’s 2.3-ton heft, it will go from zero to 62mph (100km/h) in 4.5 seconds. Drive it peacefully, and that V8 rumble subsides to a relaxing low-frequency burble.
Underneath its well-executed proportions, the DBX is built on a bespoke platform that like other Aston Martins is constructed with bonded aluminum panels and extrusions. It’s impressively stiff and remarkably throwable around corners given its heft, and thanks to a 48v anti-roll bar system and active dampers, it stays flat through corners at speed. Like all vehicles of this type, the DBX is equipped with air springs, allowing it to sit at different ride heights depending on which of its five drive modes are selected.
Like the engine and transmission, the infotainment system comes from Mercedes-Benz too. It’s not a bad thing – something I touched on in the Vantage post – as I’d rather see lower-volume manufacturers like Aston Martin go this route rather than attempting to build their own systems and completely messing it up. It makes total financial sense too, as modern systems are complex and ever-evolving. What’s in the DBX might be one generation behind the current Mercedes system, but it’s better than an antiquated unit that’s glitchy and frustrating to use.Beauty On Its Side
If you’re in a position to purchase a high-end SUV, you will be looking for something that checks every box. The DBX would surely come close to doing that.
Such is the pace of innovation and engineering today, you can turn a vehicle that shouldn’t really perform at this sort of level into a package that does.
In fact, that might be the very definition of these vehicles. They’re able to be this good thanks to the decades of development that have gone into camouflaging the fact they’re far too big and heavy to actually be sporty.
The Aston Martin DBX’s party trick is its beautifully proportioned and unique exterior.
It might not be for everyone in the market for this type of vehicle, but it would probably be the perfect choice if you want something that stands out in the sea of high-end SUVs. The fact that the DBX as of this month is already outselling every other model in the Aston Martin line-up speaks volumes about how right they got the concept.
Stay tuned for my next SUV drive, whatever it may be. Any requests?
Dino Dalle Carbonare