by Gerhard Horn
Aston Martin will never admit to it, but its accountants are undoubtedly hoping the DBX will have the Porsche Cayenne effect. We share that hope because we don't want to see another iconic British marque die, and Aston Martin has been on life support for a while.
Unfortunately, the automaker won't have it as easy as Porsche did. When the first-generation Cayenne came along, it blew our minds. It was unlike any SUV before. It handled like a BMW 5 Series and could keep up with a Range Rover when the going got tough. It was an engineering masterpiece. These days, performance SUVs are a dime a dozen. Throw a brick in any direction, and you'll hit seven.
To compete with this, Aston's DBX uses a Mercedes-AMG sourced 4.0-liter V8 that produces 542 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Big numbers, but nothing special in the segment. Are the Aston's beautiful body and interior enough to steal sales away from other savage SUVs?
The 2021 Aston Martin DBX is an entirely new model and Aston's first attempt at building a practical crossover SUV. Design-wise, it borrows from the Vantage the most. Under the hood, it has an AMG-sourced twin-turbo V8, and the power is sent to an all-wheel-drive system. So the new DBX is pretty much Aston Martin's interpretation of a high-end luxury performance SUV.
See trim levels and configurations:
4.0L Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
Design is a tricky thing to get right. It's even more complicated if you have to draw something entirely new for a company that's most famous for building gorgeous coupes and roadsters. Somehow, Aston's design department managed to pull it off. If anything, the Vantage's design cues look even better on a sports utility vehicle. SUVs inspired by sports cars tend to look bloated. The first-generation Cayenne was nothing more than a set of 911 headlights pasted to a generic SUV, and it looked horrible. The standard Vantage looks like a surprised carp from some angles, but the overall design looks better when you increase the body size, add more doors and lift it a bit. The DBX looks at home parked next to its siblings, which is high praise indeed. It comes standard with LED lights front and rear, 22-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, frameless doors, and flush-fit door handles.
Aston's DBX is 198.4 inches long, 80.7 inches wide (without mirrors), and 66.1 inches tall. The wheelbase is an impressive 120.5 inches. According to Aston, the DBX weighs 4,940 pounds. The maximum ground clearance is 9.25 inches, and the approach/breakover/departure angles are 22.2/15.1/24.3 degrees in the default ride height. Once you put the air suspension in its maximum ride height setting, these figures increase to 25.7/18.8/27.1 degrees.
Looking at these dimensions, it's obvious Aston Martin used the Cayenne as a benchmark. The DBX is over four inches longer overall, but the wheelbase boasts a massive 6.5 increase over the Cayenne's. The DBX also has a wider track, which is good for handling. Porsche's off-road figures are more impressive, however. With an approach angle of 27.5 degrees, a breakover of 21.3 degrees, and a departure angle of 24.4 degrees, Porsche's figures are better overall although the DBX has the better departure angle.
Configuring a DBX is a daunting task. First, you have to choose between two color palettes. You can select a color from the standard AM Palette or a more striking paint from the Q Palette. (Nice Bond reference there, Aston Martin.) The standard selection has 30 available colors, while the Q palette boasts an additional 25 colors. You get the traditional blues, blacks, reds, and silvers, but the Q palette lets you choose between four greens, three oranges, five shades of blue, and purple. Golden Saffron and Kermit Green are two examples of retina-shattering hues that you wouldn't find on a more conservative German SUV. There are far too many colors to name them all here, but Aston Martin came up with a solution in case you find this intimidating. It asked the in-house design team to configure eight starting points, with names like Bohemian Escape, Mojave Minimalist, and Urban Fighter. Adding more complexity to your task is a selection of ten colors for the brake calipers alone.
The DBX's straight-line performance is underwhelming. On paper, it should be faster, but it just isn't. The 4,940-pound curb weight is less than the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, BMW X5 M, Range Rover Sport SVR, or Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, but it's slower to 60 mph than all of them.
The twin-turbo V8 produces 542 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, so it should be quicker than Aston's claimed 0-60 mph sprint time of 4.3 seconds. While 542 is a lot of horses, most of its rivals are now packing 600 plus. Then again, despite an almost identical power output and more weight, the Cayenne Turbo gets to 60 in under four seconds. The Aston also suffers from noticeable turbo lag. There's a slight delay when you set off, but after that, it pulls like a steam train. Most gearheads know 0-60 mph times are meaningless, but as humans, we like to quantify things using numbers. And the simple fact is this: the DBX's numbers aren't as good as its rivals. Since most German cars tend to be limited at the top end, you can always hit them with the 181 mph top speed.
We hope this is just Aston Martin leaving a little bit off the table to produce a more hardcore model further down the line. There are already rumors suggesting an AMR is in the pipeline. The power does help when it comes to practicality, however. The DBX is capable of towing up to 5,940 lbs. While this is useful, the Porsche Cayenne can tow up to 7,700 lbs.
All of the significant components are borrowed from Mercedes-AMG. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission, which also comes from Mercedes. It sends the power to a four-wheel-drive system, known to Merc fans as 4Matic. In comfort mode, the transmission does exactly what it's supposed to. It fades into the background, and you forget there's even something as rudimentary as a box of cogs sending power to the wheels. In the more fierce driving modes, the changes are faster but equally smooth. The engine provides a relentless surge of power once you get over the initial hiccup, and shifts between gears aren't neck-snapping. The only real hint that it's happening is a momentary pause in the V8's soundtrack.
Aston's various driving modes are spot on. Comfort is just that, and in the sportier and off-road modes, it will cling to the gears for longer to provide maximum torque. If you think you can do a better job, you can always take control via the column-mounted paddles. German competitors take note. Paddle shifters are always better when mounted to the column instead of the steering wheel because they remain in the same place. We know it's cheaper to stick them on the wheel, but cheaper shouldn't be a term associated with high-end performance SUVs.
For a heavy SUV, the DBX feels remarkably neutral. It feels a lot like a well-sorted sporty sedan, which means it's not difficult to keep it on edge, but it won't bite you if you stray over the line a bit. Aston's secret is the placement of the engine. It sits much closer to the center than the front of the car. The result is a weight distribution of 54/46. This allows you to play around with it a bit. You can either keep the car flat and neutral through a corner, or you can apply power and get its butt out when you exit said corner. Apply the power too soon, and it will understeer, but the electronic nannies will sort it out for you.
The steering is quick and responsive, but not in a daunting way. The brakes are potent, but the long pedal travel makes it easy to modulate.
All things considered, the DBX SUV is quite remarkable. It may use AMG components, but Aston works its DNA in there. For a company that has never built an SUV before, AM did a surprisingly excellent job.
When it comes to the business of off-roading, the DBX was much better than we anticipated. Aston Martin has zero experience when it comes to high-riding vehicles, so we were expecting nothing more than an increased ride height with the same damper settings. Thankfully, this is not the case. The adaptive damping can do canyon carving and light off-roading. You wouldn't want to tackle the Rubicon trail, but in snow and mud, the DBX is quite capable. The smart AWD system sends most of the power to the rear in its default setting, but in slippery conditions, it does an excellent job of sending the power where it needs to go to maintain forward momentum. That's bang-on considering the target market, who will most likely use the DBX for skiing trips.
The Aston DBX's fuel consumption figures aren't great, but not horrible either. At least not when compared to its main rivals that also have a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine. According to the EPA, the DBX is capable of 14/18/15 mpg city/highway/combined. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo does 15/19/17 mpg, while the Audi RS Q8's gas mileage numbers are 13/19/15 mpg. Oddly, the much larger Bentley Bentayga V8 is the most frugal of the bunch, with EPA-estimated figures of 15/24/18 mpg. The DBX has a 22.5-gallon tank, so it can theoretically do 338 miles between refills.
The DBX has a majestic interior, spoiled only by the bits supplied by Mercedes-Benz.
First, the good bits. There's plenty of space, the seats are both comfortable and supportive, and the quality is first-class. You can't find a single surface not covered in leather, microsuede, or some other soft-touch material.
The less successful part of the interior has to do with the gadgets. Once again, it comes from Mercedes, but it's all outdated technology. The main screen isn't touch-sensitive, and Android Auto isn't even available.
We understand that Aston Martin is a boutique manufacturer, and that comes with its unique challenges. But it's harder to forgive when the competition is as strong as it is in this segment.
What we have here is a double-edged sword situation. To update the interior with the latest tech, Aston Martin needs more money. To make more money, it needs to sell a high-volume SUV like the DBX. On the other hand, Aston needs a customer base willing to overlook its flaws to design a better DBX interior in the future. Hopefully, this will happen by the time the facelift is due.
The Aston Martin DBX is an SUV that will seat five people. The extra length of the wheelbase pays dividends when it comes to interior space. Aston doesn't provide figures for the front seats, but the available space up there is more than ample. The British manufacturer is much prouder of the rear seat space. The rear legroom is rated at 41.7 inches, while the headroom is 40 inches.
Aston's design technique for the rear seats deserves praise. Instead of using the usual stadium setup, which elevates the rear seats slightly so passengers can see better, Aston simply asked the people usually perched back there. Yes, Aston Martin got a group of kids together and asked them what they like. The result is the panoramic sunroof and large side windows. Or you can just give them a tablet with Disney movies on it.
We love the interior colors and materials, perhaps even enough to forgive the clunky technology. The DBX interior is trimmed in Caithness leather, sourced from Scotland. Aston takes it a step further with options of broguing, perforation, and quilted patterns. Three color splits can be applied to customize the interior further. The carpets are made of an 80% wool blend sourced from Australia. This is the highest wool content currently available in a production car, which is another cool fact you can use in a bar argument about which SUV is best.
The interior color options are nearly as comprehensive as the exterior color palette. You start by selecting one of well over 20 colors split between two leather environments, including standard black and grey, as well as more exuberant options like Californian Poppy (orange), Spicy Red, and Aurora Blue. Next, you choose between six seatbelt colors, 14 headliner colors,six trim inlays, and whether you want a steering wheel in the same color or not.
The inlay menu consists of Piano Black Wood, Light Olive Ash Open Pore Wood, Dark Ziricote Open Pore Wood, Gloss Bronze Mesh, Carbon Fiber, and Crown Cut Solid Walnut Natural Wood.
The DBX has a 22.3-cubic-foot trunk, which is below par. The Cayenne Turbo has a 26.3 cu. ft trunk, while the more practical German offerings offer more than 30 cubes. The rear seats fold down in a 40/20/40 split, but Aston does not provide a claimed figure for the increase in cargo capacity.
It does take a unique approach to what you can do with the space. For example, you can order custom DBX luggage handmade in England. These suitcases and soft bags were designed to get the most out of the available room. Aston also offers a host of dog-related trunk options, including a dog bed, portable dog washer, and a dog accessory kit. It's almost as if they also invited the Queen's Corgis over to discuss what they want from a car interior.
The interior is fully kitted with several luxury features. It has 12-way power-adjustable heated front seats with a memory function, heated rear seats, keyless entry with push-button start, automatic three-zone climate control, auto-dimming side and rearview mirrors, acoustic laminated side glass, 64-color ambient lighting, a power tailgate, a surround-view camera system, and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. A panoramic glass sunroof fills the cabin with light and approaching illumination will prevent you from stepping into puddles when returning to the car late at night. Naturally, this top-tier SUV gets all the safety features you could ever need, including forward collision avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warning.
The infotainment system comprises a 10.25-inch central display mated to an Aston Martin 14-speaker premium sound system. It has Bluetooth connectivity, SiriusXM satellite radio, voice control, navigation, four USB ports, and Apple CarPlay. Unfortunately, while the sound is exceptional, the interface is poor. Android Auto is also notable by its absence.
If you drive a ten-year-old Benz, it will be familiar. It's the horribly outdated Comand interface, but with Aston Martin graphics. You operate it via a rotary dial, but an even more awkward touchpad is available as an optional extra. In a segment where large touchscreen interfaces, artificial intelligence, and gesture control have become the norm, the DBX's interface feels outdated.
The 2021 DBX has only been recalled once. A few vehicles were assembled without headliner foam blocks, which pose a risk to unbuckled passengers in the event of an accident.
Aston Martin covers the DBX with a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty along with three years of powertrain cover.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has a review of the Aston Martin DBX, and it's unlikely they ever will.
The standard safety specification is excellent, however.
The DBX has front, side, and curtain airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, hill start assist, and hill descent control. The driver assistance suite consists of adaptive cruise control, a speed limiter, forward collision warning with autonomous braking, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, door opening warning, and traffic sign recognition. Parking sensors are equipped on both ends of the SUV and these, together with a surround-view camera system, should help you avoid any nasty - and expensive - scratches.
There are a few things that count against the DBX. It's not as fast as its main rivals and it's a generation behind in terms of interior tech. On the contrary, it is good to drive and it looks fantastic. Aston Martin's interpretation of a modern SUV is excellent and there's a charisma here that's hard to deny.
It's difficult to justify the high asking price of the Aston Martin DBX. All of the rivals mentioned throughout this test, except for the Bentley Bentayga, are cheaper. A BMW X5 M is roughly $70,000 less. The same goes for the Audi RS Q8, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63, and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a better driving machine and it's less than half the price. With the exception of the Alfa, all of the cars mentioned above do feel slightly clinical. Don't get us wrong; all of them are a complete riot, but they lack a certain something the DBX has in spades. First, it's an Aston Martin, and that's exceptionally cool. James Bond has one. Well, not this one, but if he ever retired and had a family, he'd have a DBX.
Is any purchase above $100,000 ever really sensible? At that point, emotion tends to win out over reason, and the DBX does a fantastic job of getting under the skin.
The price of the Aston Martin DBX SUV is as shocking as you might expect, with a starting price of $179,986, excluding the $3,086 destination charge. Aston Martin does not provide pricing on its online configurator, so you never quite know how much the SUV you're building is going to cost. Instead of giving you a ballpark figure, Aston Martin mails a nice breakdown of the car you built and urges you to visit the nearest dealership.
There are a few ready-built models for sale across the USA, and we couldn't find a single one selling for less than $200,000. A well-specced car appears to retail for between $200,000 and $225,000.
There aren't multiple Aston Martin DBX models to choose from at the moment, just the one. Aston's new CEO, Tobias Moers, recently stated that the company needs more models, specifically on the SUV side, with the potential for coupes and hybrids in the DBX's future. For now, however, the DBX remains singular.
It bears a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 producing 542 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque mated to an AWD system and nine-speed automatic transmission. The standard kit includes a panoramic glass roof, puddle lights, and 22-inch alloy wheels. On the inside, it comes standard with 12-way power-adjustable heated seats, heated rear seats, tri-zone climate control, a surround-view camera system, and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Aston's infotainment system is a letdown, lacking several modern features. It does provide decent sound quality, however.
Once again, Aston Martin doesn't provide pricing. Standalone options include a luxury car cover, a child seat, snow chains, a roof box, and a surfboard holder. As you can see, the DBX caters to a broad audience. There are 11 accessory packs in total, and you choose the pack that suits your lifestyle best. The Touring package comes with a four-piece luggage set, cabin saddlebags, lockable storage under the front seat, and an emergency kit. The Pet Package adds a dog partition, portable washer, rear bumper protector, and a dog accessory pack. The Field Sports Package comes with a gun cabinet and shooting stick.
There is only one model, and with Aston's configurator offering so many different options, we can't even agree on what color works best on the exterior. We'd add the Touring Package, though, simply because it allows the owner to make the most out of the substandard cargo space. Beyond that, we urge you to play around with the configurator to create your own masterpiece then hope you can find something close to its perfection at a local dealership.
If this were a battle between the pre-facelift Bentayga and the DBX, the latter would have won easily. The Bentayga is now much easier on the eye thanks to a reworked front end and new Continental GT-inspired taillights.
At this price level, the DBX competes with the V8 Bentayga. That's a good thing because it's the best model in the range. The V8 is nearly as fast as the W12 but has more character. It also weighs less, and without the giant W12 lump under the hood, it handles better.
The Bentley's interior is even more opulent, and it matches the DBX in terms of standard specification. The infotainment system is a generation ahead of what Aston Martin offers. It comes with a 10.9-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay. Looking at these two cars, it's clear which manufacturer had the bigger budget to play with.
If performance is the primary consideration, you can't ignore the Lamborghini Urus, whose specs are simply monumental. However, it's also worth pointing out that the BMW X5M is only two tenths of a second slower to 60 mph and half the price. The BMW doesn't come with that Lambo badge, though.
Back to the Italian brute. The Urus is stupidly fast. It gets to 60 mph in well under four seconds and has a claimed top speed of 189.5 mph. In the ride and handling department, the Urus is an even more impressive achievement than the DBX. For a company with almost zero experience with big cars, the Urus has a remarkable range of talents. It does the sporty thing exceptionally well, but it's also docile, and it's functional off-road.
Lambo's design language doesn't work as well on an SUV body, but the Urus is just as practical. Once again, it's clear the Urus was designed by a company with money. VAG wrote the cheques for both the Urus and Bentayga, and it shows. Aston Martin has a lot of catching up to do.
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