Aston Martin DBX review: The SUV with the soul of a sports car

Aston Martin’s first SUV is a beguiling mix of performance and practicality, with a specification and price to match its luxury ambitions

Monday, 17th January 2022, 3:30 pm

Whatever your opinion on SUVs, and on performance SUVs in particular, there is no denying that they have had a massive impact on the automotive landscape.

Porsche led the way with the Cayenne and then Macan but other dyed-in-the-wool sports brands have followed. The Lamborghini Urus is the Italian marque’s biggest seller, likewise the Bentley Bentayga and Maserati Levante have blessed these famous sporting brands with success unmatched by any of their “conventional” cars.

So, with Aston Martin looking for a major hit to help launch its second century plan it must have seemed like the obvious route to go down.

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Plans for the DBX started back in 2015 and the all-new model, built on a dedicated all-aluminum platform launched in 2020 promising the “versatility and indulgence” of a grand touring SUV alloyed to the soul of a sports car and the unmistakable appearance of an Aston Martin.

Design and practicality

There are clear links to the rest of the Aston family. Especially from the side, where the sleek profile of the long bonnet, gently sloping windscreen and swept back cabin are most obvious, and the little tailgate flick adds a sporting touch. From the front the broad signature grille is also a clear hallmark of the brand but the car’s overall size means it’s not as elegant or well resolved as the marque’s sports cars and the DBX’s aesthetic is very sensitive to colour and angle.

The size might not aid its looks but it certainly helps the DBX in its ambition to be a grand touring SUV. At 5m by 2m it’s a big piece of machinery, with generous space for four adults and a huge 632-litre boot to carry their luggage. Amble around in its softest, calmest setting and it will cross countries with all the hallmarks of a luxury SUV - impressive insulation from noise and road imperfections, a glitzy interior and plenty of high-end technology. The seats - bound in Bridge of Weir leather - are skillfully designed to be supportive in sportier driving but comfortable for long journeys and only some questionable design touches - the weird ribs atop the dashboard - and some sub-par materials let the cabin down.

Handling, engine and performance

Of course, SUV or not, Aston still wants the DBX to showcase the brand’s trademark handling and driver engagement, so it has adopted some high-tech chassis management, including a triple-volume adaptive air suspension arrangement with active electronic anti-roll.

The result is truly impressive. Set to sport mode, the DBX hunkers down by 50mm and attacks corners with a poise and stability that belies its 2.2-tonne kerbweight. The way the body remains flat tracks true to the claims to offer a “sports car soul” but what’s equally impressive is that the ride comfort doesn’t suffer unduly. It’s clearly firmer than in other modes but never to the point of being uncomfortable. Dial it back to GT mode and it’ll soak up mile after mile of dodgy road surface without complaint.

Staying stable in corners is one thing but being engaging is quite another and the DBX manages this thanks to quick, direct, weighty steering that gives a proper feeling of connection between car and driver. You can’t fully escape the fact this is a tall, heavy SUV but the way it responds and feeds back through the steering wheel leaves you in no doubt of its sporting heritage.

And while you can’t fully disguise the car’s bulk, what you can do is give it a whole heap of horsepower. Beneath the long bonnet lies a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that spits out 542bhp directed to the road via a nine-speed ZF transmission and all-wheel-drive system with an active central diff and electronic rear limited slip diff.

The pace is predictably awesome. Nought to 62 takes a mere 4.5 seconds and the DBX can hit a top speed of 181mph, while a surfeit of torque means you’ll never want for in-gear pace.

Equally awesome is the sound of that engine. Even in the calmer GT mode there’s a wonderfully deep growl that lurks in the background but builds and builds, taking on a higher-pitched mechanical shriek as the revs rise. Select sport mode and everything is turned up to 11, with an aggressive howl that’s supplemented by sports car-like pops and bangs on the overrun.

Verdict

So it sounds phenomenal, drives brilliantly and can ferry your nearest and dearest in opulent comfort. If Aston is looking for a car to carry it into the next 100 years, this could well be it.

Aston Martin DBX

Price: £158,000 (£209,585 as tested); Engine: 4.0-litre, V8 twin-turbo, petrol; Power: 542bhp; Torque: 516lb ft; Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive; Top speed: 181mph; 0-62mph: 4.5 seconds; Economy: 19.8mpg; CO2 emissions: 323g/km