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Aston Martin’s most family-friendly model to date

Aston Martin DBX SUV (20 on) - rated 0 out of 5
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PROS

  • Four-door SUV body emphasises practicality
  • Arguably classier than a Bentley Bentayga
  • 4.0-litre V8 is well-proven in other applications

CONS

  • Proportions are a little strange
  • Won't please purists
  • Is it ever likely to go off-road?

Written by Tom Wiltshire on

Aston Martin's first-ever SUV – the DBX - adds to a growing class of upmarket performance cars with off-road image and often, capability. For a brand that has demonstrated unwavering focus, it's a bold step - the first time that the marque has ventured out of its more natural home on the road and race track.

That's not to say it's stepping away from a strong motorsports influence – as evidenced by a video showing a pre-production model putting on its best rally display round a Welsh special stage.

Those first steps for Aston Martin's new baby aren't free of competition, even at a starting price of £158,000. The DBX ventures out into an expanding and highly lucrative global market that’s attracting more and more high-end manufacturers – the luxury performance SUV.

It challenges three established models from Volkswagen Group - the Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne, plus the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, Maserati Levante and top-end Range Rovers. All appeal to different types of buyers, and Aston Martin clearly thinks its customers are asking for a high-riding, practical model such as the DBX.

Aston Martin DBX on the road

These SUVs also have past form in attracting new customers to their respective brands, which would help Aston Martin more if they had a similarly varied stable of cars to offer - but there's another factor to consider; as space and resources become constrained, having separate family and performance cars in crowded cities can be impractical.

Rivals are part of larger groups that ultimately, can find customers by offering different types of cars or quickly developing new models on old platforms to fill a niche. Aston Martin remains indepedent, but it needs this car to sell in decent numbers to recoup the investment - reflected in the focus on China's relatively youthful high-earners in the global marketing.

So the DBX is not only a huge undertaking as a new, bespoke platform, it's a massive departure for Aston Martin in that practicality has been given just as much attention as performance - this car has to be more than just a plaything for the well-heeled.

If initial impressions are borne out, it could be as easy for families to live with as a Nissan Qashqai...

V8 engine confirmed for new DBX

Under the aluminium skin of the DBX is a 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine producing an impressive 550hp and 700Nm, necessary if you want to move 2,245kg quickly. That’s down on power compared to its main rivals – the Maserati Levante Trofeo, for example, produces 572hp, while the Lamborghini Urus makes a frankly ridiculous 641hp - and weighs slightly less, too. There's only one transmission on offer, a nine-speed torque-convertor automatic that, like many aspects of the DBX, will be familiar to Mercedes-AMG customers.

Aston Martin’s more concerned with how their cars feel to drive than outright speed, so being outgunned in the horsepower stakes really isn't a problem. Sophisticated four-wheel drive with advanced triple-chamber air suspension is augmented by a powerful active anti-roll system, which ensures flat cornering without compromising the wheel travel needed for off-road flexibility or on-road comfort. It's a lot of technology to do battle with physics - but it works.

Aston claims the DBX will corner on par with the Vantage sportscar, and can outbrake the DBS Superleggera – both factors that have helped it achieve sub 8-minute times around the Nurburgring circuit under testing; it will reach 62mph in 4.5 seconds, and goes on to 181mph.

Aston Martin DBX rear spoiler

Aston Martin’s chief engineer Matt Becker commented on the engine, saying: “We have concentrated our work to ensure that the calibration and tune of this 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 delivers both the everyday usability and refinement expected by SUV owners. However, we have also focused heavily on matching that with the engaging driving dynamics that are commanded by our brand and inherent in every Aston Martin.

And though very, very few owners are ever likely to take their DBX off-road, the brand has reassured them that it will at least be capable of it. Adjustable ride height allows more ground clearance when needed, while an active centre differential and electronic locking rear differential should prevent it getting stuck on the slippery stuff, as well as aiding ultimate grip in the dry.

What about the interior?

Aston Martin interiors are, generally, very bespoke and very focused to the nature of the car - for the highest-performance models, you can expect less design-lead,  more functional aesthetics, but the Rapide exemplifies what this well-established luxury marque can do to challenge the likes of Bentley and Rolls-Royce.

The DBX is a different kind of car again, and it's sensibly positioned to tolerate the attention of children and dogs - to the extent that an optional pet-pack includes a comfortable bed and roll-out paint protection mat for posh pooches getting on board. Surrounded by Bridge of Wier leather and innovative natural materials, the Aston Martin's occupants will feel at home and more importantly, in the current century - though traditionalists can go for more established, old-school materials.

For a brand associated with masculine stereotypes, the DBX has another vital shift in perspective. Many aspects of the design have been shaped by women, and that's significant. We're a long way from where we should be - but Aston Martin perhaps has recognised the success of women in business and as entrepreneurs, and seems to be listening.

As such, the interior can accommodate 99th percentile men and 5th percentile women without sacrificing comfort or ergnomics; this extreme range of adjustment is something that many mass market family cars fail to get right. There's also a surprising amount of thought evident in areas like the bridged centre console with central 'floating' glovebox, offering room for two 1.8-litre bottles beneath, and the design of the cargo space - which, at 632 litres is remarkably spacious for this class and size of luxury SUV.

Aston Martin DBX interior and dashboard

The unusually gentle, subtle styling - ducktail aside - masks an SUV that's reassuringly sensible in terms of size. It's a little over five meters long, and although using all of the typical 2.15 meter width european cars tend to fall into, it's usefully lower than a Range Rover. In the flesh, the DBX looks fairly compact thing – far closer to the likes of the Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne than the hulking frames of the Bentley Bentayga, Rolls-Royce Cullinan or Range Rover SVAutobiography. The styling is cohesive with plenty of classic Aston Martin cues, though the spoiler is somewhat eye-catching.

The DBX will be built at Aston Martin’s new St Athan facility in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, which will also become the ‘home of electrification’ for future fully electric Astons. They’ll form the reborn Lagonda brand, set to launch in 2021 and sit alongside the conventionally powered DB11, Vantage and DBS Superleggera.

Aston Martin DBX rally testing