- Aston Martin quality, in a bigger package
- Peerless comfort and refinement
- Impressive performance
- Head-turning looks
Aston Martin is a survivor in a world of hard knocks and is looking for a smoother ride with its latest DBX sports utility vehicle (SUV).
The DBX is the first product of Aston Martin Lagonda's new assembly plant at St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan west of Cardiff, which has recruited about 700 employees to build the car.
The size immediately impresses, but it is all done so well, it can trick the eyes into thinking it is actually smaller than it is.
Open the front doors and a small kick-plate plaque tells you it's built in Wales before your eyes take in sumptuous seating, chilled and heated on this particular model with its double sticking leading the eyes over the full width leather wrapped facia.
It's what you expect from an Aston Martin with a starting price tag of around £150,000 - the version we tested was £185,355 at the time of testing once options were fitted.
Equipment and Technology
The instruments are big and clear with a 12.5-inch screen displaying speedometer and tachometer dials for water temperature and fuel level and some clever multi-function displays between them displaying what the driver wishes for trip or fuel consumption.
A 10.5-inch central infotainment display handles the navigation, communications, cabin comfort and entertainment settings, and they are big, clearly shown touch buttons with quick responses.
The usual secondary controls for lights and wipers on a stalk or buttons are close to hand on the wheel, the column or lower facia, with windows and mirror buttons on the driver's door and there are a few buttons on the console which needed a glance down from the road ahead.
These select the mode responses and ride height, which are then displayed between the speedo and tachometer. A driver can choose to move out of the normal ride mode into two sport settings or two terrain settings to cope with anything the DBX faces, lowering or raising the vehicle in seconds.
Paddles on the column can be used if the driver does not want to let the 9-speed automatic transmission do its own thing, which it accomplishes with truly exceptional smoothness and speed whether going up or down. I liked the Sport+ mode's throttle crackle when selected.
Powertrains and Driving Experience
The V8 4.0-litre petrol engine is incredibly smooth and a perfect powerhouse for the DBX, delivering immediate pulling power, sustained torque when accelerating or overtaking, and exceptional high speed cruising ability.
It develops 542bhp and – mated to a 9-speed auto transmission – gives the car a 0 to 62mph acceleration time of approximately 4.5 seconds, topping out at a claimed 181mph.
You are aware of engine noise, but it is muted unless you open the throttle, and it has a lovely note under power.
Up or downchanges are incredibly smooth, and you never seem to want for a gear.
Aston Martin models have always been renowned for their handling if not their ride, but the DBX crosses the boundary and beautifully blends the two.
This is a comfortable and capable SUV with sports car handling underneath, whether in normal or sporting modes.
I would have liked a smaller turning circle for urban use, but it is fine on winding country roads and motorways and the enormous brakes provide extremely strong retardation with utter control and no drama.
Slowing and stopping is effortless and precise, while the DBX's positioning is pinpoint on the road and there's no rolling or pitching to deter a driver.
Mid-corner bumps never threw it off-line, and it was not unsettled by undulating roads or coarse surfaces. The handling was what I'd expect of a sporting Aston Martin, but with greater comfort complementing its composure.
The big wheels and tyres really give it a firm footing for the permanent 4x4 system to do its best on slippery wintry winding ways and inspire great confidence, but they also generate the only real noise source in the car without extending the engine's performance. Wind and other mechanical noises are absent or very low.
In performance terms, the DBX is very quick thanks to the use of lightweight materials for its integral chassis and body, and it leaps into action with the lightest throttle pressure, stays planted on the road and gobbles up the miles.
Over about 260 miles we recorded between 22 and 26mpg, but heavy use pushed it down very quickly. Drive with some restraint on a motorway, and you can expect to get near the top of this bracket.
Officially, the DBX is rated at 19.8mpg with emissions of 323g/km.
Design and Practicality
As mentioned, the DBX is a full 5-seater and a luxurious one at that, with wide opening doors, a little rise to get inside, and a knee-height load bed in the carpeted back which is a good shape and size. Boot space is a splendid 632 litres and the rear seats fold in a 40/20/40 fashion to create more room.
The front seats have multi-adjustable electric settings including lumbar and the column adjusts for height and reach as well to precisely tailor the driving position to individual taste. The rear seats are less deeply shaped but still very comfortable, and they all securely locate occupants during cornering.
Room is excellent throughout and the car's full-length glass sunroof is one of the biggest, while the powered windows and comprehensive heating and ventilation system make a very comfortable environment.
There is good vision to the front and sides as a result of the low waistline and big windows, intelligent headlights add a good measure of safety with their range and width and the front wipers quickly clear the screen.
All that amassed knowledge over 100 years has produced a remarkable SUV by modern standards. It beautifully merges Aston Martin's usual build quality and driving experience with the practicalities of your everyday SUV.
Whether or not the DBX will be the car of choice for Aston Martin's best known driver, James Bond, remains to be seen, but it certainly stirs if it does not shake a driver.