Aston Martin heads in a new direction with first SUV
Five years in the making, the DBX is the iconic manufacturer’s answer to SUV demand
If you’d have canvassed the typical supercar owner a decade ago, chances are that the idea of an off-roading Aston Martin didn’t feature on anyone’s wish list. However, as Britain’s most famous sports car manufacturer is all too happy to acknowledge, times have changed. Whatever we think of big cars, they dominate the contemporary market. No manufacturer can afford not to have a crossover or SUV in its line-up, whether it’s a mass-market model or a seriously premium machine.
Aston Martin’s answer to automotive upscaling is DBX. Over five years in the making, DBX was designed and developed during a feverish period for the company and the industry as a whole. Covid-19 has decimated production and sales across the board, while AM has weathered a financial storm and been bolstered by the arrival of a new CEO, Tobias Moers, formerly of Mercedes-AMG. In some quarters, DBX is being heralded as a latch-ditch saviour, but that’s slightly hyperbolic. It is true that the new car required a new platform and new factory (at St Athan in Wales), and it’d certainly be nice to recoup the hundreds of millions spent on development.
But rather than represent a sign of desperation, DBX is more far-sighted. As we noted, car buyers want SUVs. There is an inherent contradiction between the urgent need to minimise the eco-footprint of the auto industry and consumers’ seemingly insatiable desire for bigger and bigger cars. The silver lining is that bigger platforms are a better fit for the hybrid and battery tech that’ll smooth the transition to pure electric cars. The cloud that continues to loom is that although bigger, heavier cars are cleaner than ever before, they’ll always be less efficient than small, lighter ones.
For now, the world of luxury still demands a certain heft. DBX has been meticulously proportioned and detailed so that a good deal of its weight is masked, like a well-cut suit. On the road, the combination of power, active systems and dynamic feedback all conspire to make the car feel much smaller than it actually is. The long wheelbase helps, creating short overhangs, with large wheels that minimise the scale of the body (its close competitor, Bentley’s Bentayga, is a long car with a slightly shorter wheelbase, which does it no favours in terms of looks). DBX also has a socking great example of Aston’s famous grille, just one of several key details that (successfully) give this car its essential dose of brand identity.
The interior makes the most of the added volume; this is the first time an Aston Martin has ever been able to seat five adults and their luggage. On the road, the clever engineering does indeed ‘shrink’ the car around you, although you’re never going to mistake it for anything but a substantial GT. Still, it feels smaller than immediate rivals like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, the Lamborghini URUS and the Bentley Bentayga. It certainly drives more like a sports car than some of its peers. The seating position is relatively low (although the view is still commanding) and the weight and feel of the steering is quick and reactive. There’s none of the lorry-like feedback you get from higher-riding rivals at low speed.
If truth be told, DBX suffers slightly in a straight performance comparison with these other cars, even though its own stats go far beyond what can be achieved anywhere other than an empty autobahn or a stretch of private desert road. As a cross country machine DBX is superb, cruising in effortless near silence with a fluid, gliding ride. Suspension can raised or lowered depending on the terrain, but some words of caution – this is not a city car, or rather, it is not a car for European cities. Give it the broad pavement, wide open spaces and valet parking of the States instead.
To be blunt, this car is about winning beauty contests, not top trumps. Of all the cars in this sector, DBX has a credible claim to being the best looking. Although the Bentley’s cabin is a more traditionally luxurious, you can delve deep into Aston Martin’s almost limitless options (both off the shelf and through the company’s Q by Aston Martin personalisation service) to transform DBX into anything from a high-tech-infused gothic cruiser through to a Jermyn Street dandy. The tastefulness of the result is entirely up to you. As a first foray into an unfamiliar space, Aston Martin DBX is a triumph, a machine that puts the Sport back into SUV while keeping brutishness at bay. §