+ Phenomenal engine
+ Luxurious cabin
+ Fun to drive in all environments
- Aging infotainment system
- Very expensive
Verdict: Despite being its first stab at a SUV the DBX feels like a true Aston Martin and offers something unique against VW Group rivals like the Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne. Its only significant let-down is its second-hand Mercedes infotainment system, but that’s probably not enough to put most people off. You’ll need very deep pockets to afford one though.
We all know the script by now: struggling sports car brand makes luxurious SUV and stuffs it with a stupidly powerful engine. Suddenly London and the Home Counties are full of them and the brand lives happily ever after.
It’s a script Aston Martin is late to adopt when you consider Porsche (Cayenne), Bentley (Bentayga) and even Lamborghini (Urus) have all been reading from it for years now. Nevertheless, sales of the Aston Martin DBX are already helping the company turn around under the stewardship of former Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers.
And that’s a very good thing indeed.
The DBX is a big car. To appreciate its size you really need to stand next to one because the designers have done a great job of making it look like a true Aston Martin - in pictures it looks sleek and sporty but perhaps smaller than it really is.
In fact the DB11-like grille is the biggest Aston has ever made, as is the Aston Martin badge on the nose. The rear light signature is borrowed from the Vantage and it bulges in all the right places. It’s arguably better looking than any of its rivals.
The interior is absolutely bathed in high-quality leather which makes it feel as premium as a £158,000 car should be. In fact, in tan colour it can look a little too much, but it’s not as ostentatious as the Bentayga: it still feels classy. Build quality is great too, everything is well screwed together, not something that can be said of all Astons of the past.
Considering the quality of everything else the infotainment system is a let-down. The 10.25-inch screen is bought from Mercedes-Benz but it isn’t the latest MBUX system (that would be great). The system isn’t a touchscreen but is instead controlled by a fiddly rotary dial. What makes it worse is the fact the dial is positioned beneath a trackpad and you can’t help but rest your palm on it, thus confusing the screen.
Because it’s such a big car room in the front and back is ample: three adults fit in the back and won’t struggle for legroom. Headroom is generous too, despite the DBX’s sporty-looking raked roofline. The boot offers 623-litres of space which absolutely trounces the Bentley Bentayga’s 484-litres. The Urus is closer with 612-litres, but the Porsche Cayenne offers up to 770-litres.
The DBX’s engine is another parts-share with Mercedes-Benz: Aston has managed to pilfer AMG’s 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 unit found in models like the C 63. And it’s a screamer. Power is plentiful and delivered in a smooth but instantaneous manner. It really is the centrepiece of the car and has more character than most other engines in the class.
The DBX will box off 0-62mph in just 4.5 seconds thanks to that 542bhp engine, which isn’t as fast as the Lamborghini Urus’ 3.5-seconds, but arguably no one needs that sort of performance from any SUV. Ever.
For a 2.2-tonne wagon the DBX handles the road beautifully, with a confidence-inspiring chassis that holds up in fast corners and very direct and accurate steering. You can feel the fact that it biases power to the rear wheels, and in Sport Mode it’s willing to get quite playful if you ask for some oversteer.
In GT Mode - the default road setting – the DBX’s adaptive dampers do a great job of ironing out bumps and lumps in the ground, and with the engine slackened off it becomes a great wafter which eats up the miles.
And, of course, it can handle itself off-road. Although let’s face it, the gnarliest terrain it’s likely to ever encounter is a large kerb in Chelsea.
While you can get faster performance SUVs, and definitely ones with less infuriating infotainment systems, the DBX is an excellent car that offers practicality, performance and luxury status. It represents a refreshing alternative to the same-but-different line-up of hot 4x4s from VW Group and, while expensive, could very well be the car that saves Aston Martin.
The cabin is a wonderland of soft, supple leather as well as wood, carbon fibre and piano gloss trim. No expense has been spared and it feels much less starchy and clinical than something like the Porsche Cayenne. It feels exactly like and Aston Martin should: luxurious and opulent.
Aston curiously offers a lot of light-coloured upholstery options which only a mad person would option if they were going to have young kids in the car, but everything is beautifully put together. It both looks and feels lovely.
A full-length panoramic roof and frameless door windows flood the interior with natural light, and the seats not only look great in hand-stitched leather but offer a lot of support and comfort.
It starts to unravel a bit when you get to the infotainment system. The 10.25-inch screen is mated to a 12.3-inch digital driver display, all lifted from the Mercedes-Benz parts bin but with some bespoke Aston graphics. The driver display’s graphics are fine but not class-leading by any means, although it does offer a lot of different information.
The fact the infotainment system doesn’t use a touchscreen is very annoying. Instead it’s controlled by a rotary dial on the driver’s console, over which is laid a trackpad. You have to curl your fingers into a claw-shape to use the dial without setting off the trackpad with your palm and it all gets very fiddly.
The graphics on the screen itself fall short of those found in something like the Bentley Bentayga too, and the responsiveness isn’t up to scratch. It does come with Apple CarPlay as standard though, which is a small blessing.
The cabin is loaded with handy cubbies, and the lid to the central storage bin slides forward to double as a leather-wrapped armrest. Door bins are big enough to hold most of the clutter a family needs and the glovebox is a generous size.
Because of its hulking size the DBX is a very roomy car. Three adults can fit very comfortably in the back, and even though it has a raked roofline headroom is not a problem, even for the tallest passengers.
The front seats have a large range of movement, as does the steering wheel, so you can always find a position that is just right for you. Being a SUV the driver has a great view of the road, but Aston has still pulled off the effect of sitting properly in the car like a sports car, rather than being perched in a lofty position.
Boot space isn’t class-leading but it’s more generous at 632-litres than the Bentley Bentayga or Lamborghini Urus. If you really need to lug huge loads then a Porsche Cayenne is a better option, but the DBX offer enough room for most families.
The rear seats fold in a 40/20/40 split so you can fit a pair of skis in there while still housing two passengers.
While Aston can’t claim responsibility for its development, the engine is a peach. It’s the same as that found in AMG-badged Mercedes-Benz models like the C 63.
The 4.0-litre twin turbocharged V8 produces a meaty 542bhp and 700Nm of torque which means it can hit 62mph from a standstill in 4.5-seconds. The Urus is quicker by a whole second, but the DBX feels plenty fast enough.
The best we could get out of it in terms of economy was 20mpg, and that was after a lot of motorway driving. When you get your foot down and start having fun that figure drops dramatically, but then this is a 2.2-tonne car powered by a V8 petrol engine: if you’re worried about running costs you probably can’t afford the DBX’s £158,000 price tag in the first place.
The engine is just one of the highlights of the DBX’s on-road performance. Not only does it sound phenomenal but it pulls keenly from the get-go and keeps hustling all the way through the rev band. You won’t get tired of hears those twin pipes crackle and pop on the downshift.
The firing order has been tweaked slightly to make it more suited to being a grand tourer, which means it’s smooth but urgent when in GT Mode. Sport Mode sharpens the throttle map and Spot Plus turns off the traction control system: track use only.
The engine is very slightly let down by the nine-speed automatic gearbox which isn’t as sharp as something like the Porsche Cayenne’s PDK gearbox, but it manages the job on the whole, plus you can use paddle shift to overcome any hesitation.
For such a big and heavy machine the DBX corners with impressive agility and composure. Power is biased to the back wheels when in Sport or GT modes and it shows, the back end carving the nose of the car through bends. It will even step out at the back if you ask for some oversteer, but does so in a controlled and predictable manner.
Anti-roll bars on the front and back do a great job of keeping things poised when attacking corners.
Riding on 22-inch wheels as standard there’s naturally some road rumble in the cabin but in GT mode the DBX glides over bumpy road surfaces. It’s more brittle in Sport mode, as you would expect, but the damping has been tuned well in all drive modes. This car really can do it all.
That said, it’s no Land Rover Defender when it comes to off-roading, but it holds its own on the slippery stuff, power being spread between all four wheels. It also comes with hill descent mode and raises 50mm when in Terrain Plus mode to afford better ground clearance. It can even wade through 500mm of water.