From £160,2309
Aston’s first SUV, despite some flaws, is pitched at just the right spot and worthy of the badge
Matt Prior
10 August 2020

What is it?

And so to the most important Aston Martin since the DB11, which was the most important Aston Martin since the DB9, which was the most important since the DB7, which was… well, you understand. The ‘most important’ tag accompanied Aston Martins perennially as the company went through the latter half of its first century, making some outstanding cars but seldom more than skimming the surface of making any money. 

The ‘Second Century Plan’ was conceived to change all that. It was tentatively being followed under the stewardship of chairman and CEO Andy Palmer, who in 2015 introduced a business plan that would include seven core models (one replaced each year – “not rocket science”), cash-flow-generating special editions and a stock market flotation. That last part, which Palmer called a “key milestone”, turned out to be a key millstone. 

Aston couldn’t have foreseen all of it. Who could? Falling car sales in China and a global pandemic later, money from the second-century DBS Superleggera, Vantage and DB11, cars perhaps too similar to each other, still wasn’t coming in fast enough and Aston needed new investors. Once they were found, they rapidly invited Palmer to leave through the door they had just entered. On 1 August, Tobias Moers, formerly boss of Mercedes’ AMG division but already no stranger to Aston’s headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, took Palmer’s place

The DBX, then – the most important Aston since… well, you understand – officially arrives under the German’s leadership. But be in no doubt: this is Palmer’s car. 

It’s the result of bold ambition for a manufacturer of Aston’s size: new car, new market segment, new platform, new factory, first SUV, first full five-seater. The only way the DBX could be newer were if the hybridised V6 petrol engine that Aston is also working on were ready. As it is, Mercedes-AMG has provided both the new boss and familiar old power, in the form of a 542bhp twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre petrol V8. 

This engine sits at the front of a new aluminium architecture, sited as far back under the bonnet as possible, giving the DBX a weight distribution of 54:46 front to rear. It drives the rear wheels most of the time but all four when it’s slippery, through a nine-speed automatic gearbox and a variety of differentials. 

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What's it like?

The DBX is bigger than it looks: at 5039m long, it’s actually 4cm longer than the Range Rover and of similar width (2220mm across the mirrors), but it’s a lot lower, at 1680mm to 1869mm. The Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga are both 9cm longer than the DBX and the latter is some 5cm taller, but the Bentley’s differences look greater in my mind. Perhaps that’s due to the DBX’s soft edges; the chamfer-cornered Porsche 928 always strikes me as smaller than it is as well. 

At 3060mm, the DBX has the biggest wheelbase of them all. It runs on 22in wheels only, with a few different design choices and three tyre options: regular, all-season or winter, measuring 285/40 at the front and 325/35 at the back. Pretty racy. 

Aston has thrown a lot of technology at its first SUV, which, priced at £158,000, is more than the base Bentayga and bang against the Urus. There’s air suspension, which can both raise or lower the body height, adaptive damping to accompany it and the 48V active anti-roll bar system that’s starting to feel obligatory on cars like this. Try to prevent body roll the old-fashioned mechanical way and you will end up with a car that’s either too loose or too stiff, and an Aston should be neither. 

Also throw in the electronically controlled four-wheel drive system, then, and you have an SUV that’s incredibly complex for Aston, a company that typically specialises in honest-feeling front-engined coupés with driven rear wheels, as it tries to do everything for everyone everywhere. Largely, it nails it. 

Big, heavy, frameless doors open on a cabin featuring a surprising acreage of leather. This is surely the easiest Aston ever to climb into. In fact, it might be the easiest car on the market to enter – with wide-opening doors, a low-access entry mode and, uniquely for an Aston of recent decades, completely flat sills. Aluminium-platformed sports cars typically have a lot of stiffness in big sills that ease occupants towards the centre of the car. Not here. With the doors closed and you surrounded on all sides by cow, this interior is plush. 

It also gets some highlights that the DB11 and Vantage should have had from the start. The digital instrument display looks of higher resolution and is certainly better-coloured, the air vents are no longer plasticky and the switchgear feels good. There are a couple of odd leather pleats atop the dashboard, like the excess skin of a facelift, and elsewhere some grainlines like on your gran’s neck are present, but I don’t know if they’re deliberate so that it looks hand-finished or because our car was early-production. The brogueing and stitching looks great. 

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The seats are big and very widely adjustable, the steering wheel easily comes to where it’s best and I suspect that no occupant, whether driver or passenger, will feel short-changed. 

Boot volume below the cover is similar to that of the Bentayga, at 480 litres, but less than you’ll find in the Range Rover. Of more relevance is that the floor is quite high (although there’s room beneath it too) and the DBX’s rakish looks are likely to have a small impact on to-the-roof, taking-the-kids-to-university loading. But, like with all these SUVs, it will be big enough. And the DBX’s towing limit is 2700kg: good for boats or horses. 

There’s reasonable oddment space around the cabin, too. It’s weird to be talking about an Aston primarily in these terms, but here we are. What stay from sportier cars are the gear selector buttons on the dash. That’s great: I like those, and they free up space on the transmission tunnel for the controller for the Mercedes-based, Aston-faced and pretty straightforward infotainment system. 

Familiarities and differences, then. The DBX’s speciality. Would you know this is an Aston to drive, if it were possible to test it blindfolded (don’t laugh, we had to do a risk assessment for that once)? 

Yes and no. No car of this height and weight (2320kg) is going to act like a coupé half a tonne lighter, but there are hints of Astonness. 

It feels like you sit relatively low for an SUV, with a high window line. It’s much more car-like than the Range Rover or Bentayga, more crossover than 4x4 – although I’ve also driven it a little off road, where it will do all that’s reasonably asked of it. 

The DBX’s steering, at 2.6 turns between locks, is smooth, accurate, responsive and medium-weighted. And the ride is controlled. But by gum is the low-speed ride noisy. 

Aluminium and air can be a high-volume combination, and while the DBX rides with suppleness over imperfections, it clonks audibly around town. That’s a shame, because it’s otherwise very refined and, away from poorer surfaces, quiet. Stability is so good that it makes a quite brilliant motorway car, with an 85-litre fuel tank. 

Aston’s aural tuning for the V8 loses some of AMG’s rowdiness and replaces it with an expensive, if less characterful, smoothness, while the gearbox is mostly fine but doesn’t always shift with the responsiveness of Aston’s usual eight-speeder. 

Is the DBX a driver’s car? Not in quite the same way that makes the Aston Rapide one of the world’s nicest four-doors to steer. But body control is good (it actually rolls less than a Vantage), with just a little looseness over crests and dips, and there’s a natural, easygoing flow to it. There’s enough torque to surf and power in reserve for overtakes; this is an SUV that can do 0-60mph in 4.3sec.

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Should I buy one?

At this point, I need to stop asking myself which Aston I would rather be driving and wonder which of the DBX’s competitors I would rather be driving instead. The Urus? More dynamic but brittler. The Porsche Cayenne? Bombastic but firm. The Bentayga? Plusher but blunter. The Range Rover? Well, there’s always pleasure to be had driving one, but its character is more 4x4 than SUV. 

No, on most given roads, in most given circumstances, the DBX would be the SUV that’s the most pleasing to drive; the one that feels, if anything, most like a taller, rear-wheel-drive, pseudo-sporting luxury saloon but with better visibility. It isn’t perfect – no car is – but what it gets right, it really does get right. 

Does it feel like an Aston? Let’s put it this way: it doesn’t not feel like an Aston. Alongside some long-bonnet coupés and short-bonnet supercars, it feels like the right third leg to the brand’s line-up, something that will become an invaluable part of what looks to be shaping into a usefully diverse range. When officials leave office, sometimes they leave a kind note on the desk for their successor. Palmer has been rather more generous than that.

Aston Martin DBX specification

Where Oxfordshire Price £158,000 On sale Now Engine V8, 3982cc, twin-turbocharged, petrol Power 542bhp at 6500rpm Torque 516lb ft at 2200-5000rpm Gearbox 9-spd automatic Kerb weight 2320kg Top speed 181mph 0-62mph 4.5sec Fuel economy 19.8mpg CO2 323g/km Rivals Lamborghini Urus, Range Rover, Bentley Bentayga

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Comments
43

10 August 2020

As a car enthusiast I can't tolerate anything with a flawed centre of gravity for no reason and no manual gearbox. I also hate anything that weighs over 1.5 tonnes, but I need to get real. People are buying these lumps and that money can be used to make sports cars (a la Porsche, etc).

I hope many rich arabs with no taste buy all of them. Good luck aston.

10 August 2020

This is one that needed a final revision by a competent designer, not Marek Reichman.

 

It's not terrible, not as bad as many of his other cars he's done for Aston. His designs have been blamed for poor sales at Aston so why do they keep relying upon him? A sure sign of insanity!

 

Give this to a competent designer to fix the problems. All the ingredients are there for a great car, just poorly finished by Reichman. You need a great chef from a Michelin Star restaurant, not Reichman who at best would be a cook at Frankie and Bennys!

 

10 August 2020
Symanski wrote:

This is one that needed a final revision by a competent designer, not Marek Reichman.

 

It's not terrible, not as bad as many of his other cars he's done for Aston. His designs have been blamed for poor sales at Aston so why do they keep relying upon him? A sure sign of insanity!

 

Give this to a competent designer to fix the problems. All the ingredients are there for a great car, just poorly finished by Reichman. You need a great chef from a Michelin Star restaurant, not Reichman who at best would be a cook at Frankie and Bennys!

 

Not a fan of this thing (its not a car lets face it), but I have to admit that the rear end does look quite good, particularly the way the rear lights are integrated together.

10 August 2020
flukey wrote:

As a car enthusiast I can't tolerate anything with a flawed centre of gravity for no reason and no manual gearbox. I also hate anything that weighs over 1.5 tonnes, but I need to get real. People are buying these lumps and that money can be used to make sports cars (a la Porsche, etc).

I hope many rich arabs with no taste buy all of them. Good luck aston.

 

My problem with this argument is that as sports car makers become SUV makers, the centre of gravity within the company shifts alongside the raised ride height of the products. Porsche hobbled the 718 with a 4 cylinder engine to mitigate emissions from the SUVs, and the 911 becomes ever larger and heavier. Gordon Murray is right - the entire industry is going in the wrong direction.

10 August 2020
scrap wrote:

flukey wrote:

As a car enthusiast I can't tolerate anything with a flawed centre of gravity for no reason and no manual gearbox. I also hate anything that weighs over 1.5 tonnes, but I need to get real. People are buying these lumps and that money can be used to make sports cars (a la Porsche, etc).

I hope many rich arabs with no taste buy all of them. Good luck aston.

 

My problem with this argument is that as sports car makers become SUV makers, the centre of gravity within the company shifts alongside the raised ride height of the products. Porsche hobbled the 718 with a 4 cylinder engine to mitigate emissions from the SUVs, and the 911 becomes ever larger and heavier. Gordon Murray is right - the entire industry is going in the wrong direction.

Murray isnt right about everything - his engines are too big and too heavy, plus theres nowt wrong with 4 cylinders (certainly not boxer ones), indeed to properly go with Murrays philosophy, engines should be downsized, cos then theyll be lighter and moern tech means the same power as a larger engine from years back, so nothing wrong with using a 4 in the Boxster (I say that as someone who dislikes Porsches).

11 August 2020

It is a styling triumph!  If the DBX is even half as good as it looks, it deserves to succeed.

Yet another Reichmann MASTERPIECE!

10 August 2020

So this is a 4 1/2 star car... 

10 August 2020

From reading the article I am struggling to see how it gets that score, unless of course your wearing rose tinted glasses?

10 August 2020

Sorry, but for this sort of money I'd want a quiet low speed ride not one that earns a "by gum is it noisy" comment. I'd go for the Bentayga, despite it's challenging looks - addressed somewhat by the recent facelift - as it has an air of real luxury about it and despite also having air suspension is "supremely tranquil"

10 August 2020

So not the comfiest, not the most dynamic, not the best performance, not the most practical, not the best built (it's an Aston) and not in all likelihood not the best ergonomnics/infotainment etc. But it is awarded 4.5 stars and is the tester's choice of SUV! Good to see Autocar not letting down the home brand and giving it a leg up! :)

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