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
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.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
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.
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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