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Welsh-built Aston becomes the market’s most powerful luxury SUV – for now

Times remain challenging for Aston Martin Lagonda, even with a new management administration at the helm and a fresh business plan on the table.

Its financial losses, quarter by quarter, continue to mount in spite of former boss Tobias Moers’ best cost-cutting efforts, and now it faces a potentially expensive legal challenge to boot.

But the company’s greatest asset continues to be the last model introduced under the bold and expansive management of Andy Palmer: the Aston Martin DBX SUV. It’s a model that is still selling strongly, just as the car itself gets stronger. This week, then, we run Autocar’s road test rule over the new derivative that, according to Aston, takes the DBX to the pinnacle of the performance SUV segment: the Aston Martin DBX 707.

Having gone into production in summer 2020 at St Athan, Wales, the DBX has never known life unafflicted by either a global pandemic or a major supply shortage – and yet it sold more than 3000 examples last year.

This new 707 version is intended to boost the car’s critical standing as well as underpin demand. The new flagship derivative brings significant technical enhancements to the DBX’s powertrain, suspension and braking systems, all of which we are about to describe in close detail. Until Ferrari’s 715bhp Purosangue arrives in showrooms, it’s also likely to remain the most powerful factory-warranted performance SUV in the world.

And yet the 707 doesn’t exist solely to smash benchmark acceleration times, says Aston, but to show that exceptional performance can be kept in proper proportion in a usable, drivable, communicative and well-balanced luxury SUV. It describes this car as “a sabre in a segment of sledgehammers”. So now, to find out just how much cut and thrust it really offers.

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Range at a glance

The DBX 707’s standard equipment includes plenty of on-board tech: adaptive LED headlights, three-zone climate control, 360deg parking cameras, wireless device charging and a 14-speaker audio system. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spend extra on optional exterior styling packs and special ‘interior environments’. Aston’s ‘Gloss 2x2 Twill’ carbonfibre trim can be added separately to the car’s upper and lower body. You can also go for either a comfort- or sport-themed ‘Inspire’-pack interior if the standard materials don’t quite suit.

Versions Power
Aston Martin DBX V8 543bhp
Aston Martin DBX 707* 697bhp

*Version tested

TRANSMISSIONS

9-spd automatic                    

DESIGN & STYLING

02 Aston Martin DBX 707 RT 2022 front corner

The upgrades of the regular Aston Martin DBX, which remains on sale alongside this new version, focuses mainly on what’s under the bonnet.

The car is named after the peak power output (in metric, rather than imperial, horsepower) of its revised ‘M177’ 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine. Ostensibly a widely upgraded version of the same V8 that serves in the regular DBX as well as the Aston Martin Vantage and Aston Martin DB11 V8, thanks to some internal revisions and a pair of new ball-bearing twin-scroll turbochargers, it produces 697bhp at 6000rpm and 664lb ft: a sizeable chunk more, in both cases, than even the new Lamborghini Urus Performante. On paper, it’s quite the statement.

The DBX’s radiator grille has been enlarged in order to supply the new engine with cooling air. Double vanes and split horizontal bars are also unique to the 707.

Downstream of that engine, the car swaps the regular DBX’s nine-speed automatic gearbox for Mercedes-AMG’s nine-speed Speedshift gearbox, which uses a wet clutch to transfer its power instead of a normal torque converter and has a higher torque capacity with faster-shifting and enhanced launch control performance. Drive finds its way to the road via the standard DBX’s electronically controlled clutch-based four-wheel drive system (which can put up to 100% of torque at the rear wheels), but also via a new and reinforced electronically locking rear differential with a shorter final drive ratio.

Suspension is via a double-wishbone front axle and a multi-link rear one, under a recalibrated version of the regular DBX’s multi-chamber air suspension system that has revalved adaptive dampers and recalibrated active anti-roll bars. And at each corner, the DBX 707 has carbon-ceramic brakes as standard within 22in alloy wheels, which can be optioned up to 23in in diameter (as fitted to our test car).

The carbon brakes and new wheels are claimed to save 40kg of unsprung mass, and on our test scales, the 707 weighed 2278kg – exactly 50kg lighter than the regular DBX we tested in 2020.

Lighter bodywork is not part of the 707’s design, but it does have an enlarged radiator grille for greater cooling to that enhanced V8, as well as quad exhausts to the standard car’s twin pipes, an enlarged rear spoiler and a new rear diffuser.

INTERIOR

10 Aston Martin DBX 707 RT 2022 dash

The DBX’s primary mission statement, as the most spacious, versatile and luxurious car that Aston Martin has made, hasn’t been altered here. The 707 comes with the same three-seater rear bench as the standard car, and it offers second-row space that’s comfortable and easily accessed even for taller adults.

The car doesn’t have Range Rover-sized back seats to stretch out in, but those that it does offer are still decently accommodating, with shortish but well-shaped and well-angled cushions. The 638-litre boot, meanwhile, offers plenty of loading length and width, though perhaps not luxury-dog-box-swallowing height. Under the boot floor is space for a spacesaver spare wheel, though our test car didn’t have one.

The driving position is more straight-legged than is typical in an SUV but not quite sports car cocooned. Seat could do with a little more under-thigh support. A three-seater rear bench is standard fit. Heated outer positions are standard and ventilation is optional. Space is sufficient for most adults.

New 16-way-adjustable sports seats are fitted up front, which somehow still lack a little under-thigh support but are otherwise good. You sit semi-recumbently, in a position that juggles cocooning lowness with boosted visibility. The primary ergonomics aren’t quite sports car-like, but they are more so than the majority of SUVs can claim.

The digital instrument display isn’t a graphically ambitious one but its conventional presentation of analogue-style clocks is clear and readable, and its central trip computer easy to master.

However, it’s part of an infotainment offering that is already ageing faster than Aston Martin would no doubt prefer. The central infotainment system is operated by Mercedes’ old-style rotary input device and separate touchpad. It works tolerably well when you’re sticking to the native system, but it still offers only wired smartphone mirroring for Apple devices, and doesn’t provide even that very well (see ‘Multimedia system’, right). Responses to button inputs, both from the main infotainment system and the trip computer, can be annoyingly slow. In a £200,000 luxury car, better is expected.

Aston’s enduring preference for transmission selection buttons positioned high on the dashboard, where they are a bit tricky to reach, continues to bemuse some drivers. But it has at least redesigned the DBX’s centre console for the 707, providing a large, easily grabbed rotary controller for the selection of drive and gearbox modes, and new smaller buttons to tally suspension and exhaust settings individually.

Multimedia system

14 Aston martin dbx 707 rt 2022 infotainment 0

The now several-generations-old, Mercedes-Benz-sourced 10.3in infotainment system fitted to the DBX was hardly a selling point for the car two years ago when it was first fitted. These days, it’s looking decidedly like a liability.

That the system isn’t touchscreen-enabled might not seem like a problem to those, like us, who prefer tactile input devices in cars. But when it comes to navigating an Apple CarPlay set-up, or zooming a map using the separate fingertip input pad, it really does feel like old technology. The system is slow and unresponsive, too, often needing a couple of prods of a button to do as instructed. It’s also lacking in connected functionality, offering only wired smartphone mirroring for Apple devices and nothing for Android. There is voice control, but its scope and effectiveness are a long way short of the latest-generation systems from rivals.

Aston fits an 800W, 14-speaker audio system as standard, which does at least produce a punchy and crisp sound.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

18 Aston Martin DBX 707 RT 2022 engine

By its maker’s own definition, nothing less than best-in-class outright performance will do for the DBX 707. That’s an unforgiving standard, though – and a slightly problematic one for the car, as it turns out, as a result of Aston Martin’s choice of tyre.

On an admittedly more autumnal day than the one on which its key rivals were tested, the DBX 707 hit 60mph from rest in 3.3sec and 100mph in 7.7sec, and covered a standing quarter mile in 11.6sec. That makes it a tenth quicker to 100mph than the Lamborghini Urus we tested 2019, and slightly faster across its quickest in-gear increments too. But the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT, tested earlier in 2022, was quicker still across all those benchmarks, actually posting the 3.1sec 0-60mph that the Aston claims, but ultimately missed.

The V8 dishes out its venom with a real wallop. This is one hell of a hot rod.

Despite there being a few slightly damp patches on the test track, the big Aston didn’t struggle at all for traction, taking off on a launch-control start with genuinely eye-opening potency – and just enough rear-axle squat to add to the drama.

But while both the Urus and Cayenne wore Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres to boost their outright grip levels, the 707 comes on standard P Zeros. And that fact alone might have cost it the missing tenth or two on a standing start: because, pulling through the gears from 50-100mph, the 707 proved a tenth quicker than both of its competitors.

Benchmark-setter or not, this is one hell of a hot rod. Its generous power and torque reserves ultimately tell at higher speeds, making it two-tenths quicker from 100-150mph than the Porsche, and quicker still than the Urus.

The V8 dishes out its venom with a real wallop – and through a bit of turbo lag, though it’s not really noticeable above 2500rpm. The engine is loud but not annoyingly so. It’s characterful, too, and amiably naughty-sounding, with little if any digital engine sound enhancement detectable. But wind the drive and exhaust modes back and it can be decently refined on a relaxed cruise.

The 707’s brake pedal showed decent bite, and consistent fade-free stopping power from close to 100mph. Its transmission operates smoothly and fairly smartly on the run, but it doesn’t shift quite as quickly in manual mode as you would expect from a twin-clutch system, and it can also have rougher, slightly shuntier moments when engaging gears at low speed.

RIDE & HANDLING

19 Aston Martin DBX 707 RT 2022 front corner

The Aston Martin DBX 707’s naughty-boy, hot-rod charm is suffused throughout its dynamic character. A little like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT, it’s markedly more communicative than the standard car on which it is based – almost to a fault. It puts its torque in the right place when cornering. It likes a bit of rough and tumble. And it’s happy to take a slur of attitude if you get away from a T-junction quickly, or around a wide second-gear bend, once you begin to get the measure of it.

It’s a lot keener to entertain and engage generally at everyday speeds, in fact, than a great many fast SUVs are – although not always with much in the way of predictability. A car this size sliding around and expressing itself like a sports saloon on the limit of grip is still a novel thing in its own right – and much of this car’s dynamic appeal flows from the unlikely juxtaposition of its size and bulk with its lively handling balance. But that predilection for the dramatic doesn’t dominate the 707’s character, or compromise it in other ways.

The way the 707’s active roll stability control system ‘learns’ how much weight is in the car at any given time is the key to how permissive its limit handling can be, apparently. It knows when you have a loaded roof box attached, or not, just by the way the car corners. Clever.

This is no monster. It rides with a well-struck blend of compliance and control in its everyday driving modes, and with vertical body control that keeps close tabs on the car’s mass, but doesn’t bristle or pierce the aura of on-board luxury. It steers with moderate pace and incisiveness, but nothing close to nervousness or at all unbefitting of a big luxury car. It generates grip levels that are consistent on mixed roads and in mixed conditions and intuitive to gauge. Communication through the steering is detectable in normal driving, meanwhile, but not physical or imposing.

Experimenting with the outright chassis balance isn’t something to do on a whim, or without lots of room to play with. When you do, you find a car whose outright body control and handling poise begin to deteriorate a little with more aggressive inputs; whose weight clearly gives its dampers and active roll bars plenty to do, as it shifts across the axles; and whose steering can range from assuredly heavy to a bit disconcertingly light as that considerable mass moves fore and aft – but which is only communicating load as it does so.

This is another fast 4x4 that likes to wrestle. It’s too big and wide to really captivate on some country roads like a sports saloon might. But amid the right mix of flowing bends and open straights, it has charisma and firecracker pace to burn.

Comfort and isolation

20 Aston martin dbx 707 rt 2022 rear corner oversteer 0

This V8 engine always has a big audible presence when it’s running. Both at idle and at max revs in fourth gear, it filters markedly more noise into the cabin than you will get in an average luxury SUV, and more than in key performance SUV rivals.

Still, the 707 isn’t unrefined, even by luxury segment standards. Our test car’s optional 23in alloy wheels were a little sensitive to the edges of broken and patched-up surfaces but, contrary to our expectations, they didn’t make for a particularly noisy cruising ride.

At a 50mph cruise, then, the car was six decibels noisier than the Range Rover Sport we tested recently. Even so, it was also a decibel quieter than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT. Some motorway wind noise is admitted around the DBX’s frameless passenger doors and around its A-pillars, and the car’s chassis does conduct some noticeable road noise, as aluminium constructions are known to do. But long-distance cruising could nonetheless be a fairly relaxing and unwearing experience, on the occasions when you’re not after some excitement.

Aston’s standard sports front seat design is one of an integrated headrest and with a fixed-length cushion, and in both respects it could be more adjustable, but a comfort seat is available as part of one of the car’s Inspire-branded interior options packages.

Track notes

Aston martin dbx 707 rt 2022 track notes

Not quite knowing what this big, slightly pup-like Aston might do next when you turn off its stability controls and attack a corner may not make it a great-handling car in the strictest sense, but it’s all part of the charm.

Expect biggish body movements and fluctuating control weights as you approach the adhesive limits. As with any big, heavy car, it’s easy to be over-ambitious with your speed into tighter corners and lose the front to steady-state understeer. But use the weight transfer to your advantage by picking up cornering attitude on a trailing throttle and the drivetrain usually allows you to develop that stance with power.

Flirt with too much weight transfer and the point at which you ask too much of the roll control and torque-vectoring systems is hard to gauge. Ultimately, physics prevents you from driving it like a high-rise BMW M3. But we’ve yet to drive anything quite this big that’s really any different.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

01 Aston Martin DBX 707 RT 2022 lead driving front

The 707 is a normal part of the Aston Martin DBX model range, rather than any limited-series special. It is priced at roughly a 10% premium over the standard car, so we can expect fairly high adoption among new DBX buyers, while it will also give existing owners an excuse to swap in their cars for an upgrade. Given the clear dynamic progress it represents as a model, and the lack of compromise it imposes, it seems like good value in relative terms.

In a wider sense, of course, Aston Martin can still only wish for the sorts of residual values that have buoyed the sales progress of the Lamborghini Urus – but then again, so can all others in this niche. This is a big, fast Aston – and its kind have always depreciated. But if you ploughed similar money into a Aston Martin DB11 V12 instead, CAP’s current forecasts suggest you would lose nearly 20% more of it over a typical three-year ownership period.

Spec advice? The DBX 707 comes well equipped, but we’d add the 23in forged wheels and at least one of the carbonfibre exterior trim packages (to boost resale value). Go for one of the brighter, bolder standout metallic colours, such as Golden Saffron.

High servicing and maintenance costs also come with the territory, needless to say, but crippling fuel economy and daily trips to the forecourt needn’t. Our test car returned better than 26mpg on our motorway touring economy test, which suggests that you could put almost 500 miles between fills of its 87-litre fuel tank.

VERDICT

21 Aston Martin DBX 707 RT 2022 static

It is only a little over two years since road test number 5497 welcomed the original Aston Martin DBX to the world with a four-and-a-half-star handshake. And yet the super-SUV segment isn’t slowing down. When Aston announced this car in February of this year, it retained the right to call it ‘the most powerful SUV on the market’ until only September, when Ferrari unveiled the Purosangue. Pretty soon there will be a BMW XM with more power, too.

In that context, if you claim your SUV is the fastest, it had darned well better be. Yet, according to our timing gear, the DBX 707 isn’t quite. Our score for it has to reflect that fact as well as a few other fine-detail failings that it has as a £200,000 luxury car.

But it also recognises a more effusive, enigmatic and entertaining DBX than the standard car, one that imposes few significant compromises for its heightened dynamic talents. It comes at a cost that, relative to key rivals, looks quietly reasonable – and it retains compelling versatility and daily usability.

The DBX 707 might not always fit in but, wherever you may be, it’s seldom not fun.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Aston Martin DBX707 First drives