Since the inception of Porsche’s hugely successful Cayenne in 2003, the two-row luxury SUV market has exploded with offerings from every manufacturer with their toe in the six-digit waters. Rolls-Royce now offers the hyper-plush Cullinan. VAG’s Bentley and Lamborghini joined the fray with the staid Bentagya and hyper-masculine Urus, both based off the Audi Q8 platform, which itself offers a near-600-horsepower, canyon-carving-couch in the form of the RS Q8.
Image: Victoria Scott / SlashGear
And so, when Aston Martin debuted the DBX, it came as no surprise at all, though as a late entry to a crowded market – and from a brand primarily known for the mystery and sex appeal of James Bond rather than the practical utility of four seats and high ground clearance – it faced an uphill battle. With its close brush with financial ruin last year fresh on everyone’s minds and the DBX expected to be the volume-seller for the small British brand, it’s a battle it can’t afford to lose.
Aston knows this as well as anyone, and so the DBX offers solid performance for its class. 542 horsepower and 516 ft-lbs of torque are on tap from the twin-turbocharged, Mercedes-sourced 4.0L V8 shared with the Vantage, DBS, and DB11; it’s all channeled through a rear-biased intelligent all-wheel-drive system backed up with a 9-speed automatic transmission and a pair of electronic differentials.
The result is 0-60 in 4.3 seconds, then on to a top speed of a staggering 181 MPH, despite a very un-Aston-like 4,940 pound curb weight. This performance punches in at a class-comparable $180,500 base price, although it’s easy to get that number to climb rapidly: my test car (pictured) had an MSRP of just a tad over $235k.
While these numbers – both for performance and bank account damage – put it on par with the Bentley Bentayga in V8 form, and lower trim levels of Maserati’s Levante crossover, it still trails the similarly-priced, Ring-record-capturing Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT by nearly ninety horsepower, and the DBX is over a full second slower to 60 mph. For those seeking stat-sheet supremacy, there are better choices in the two-hundred-grand class of SUVs.
If your goal is more silken Autobahn blasting with the gals rather than drag-strip-supremacy for you and three friends, though, the DBX’s performance metrics are only one piece of the puzzle, and the rest of its appeal is obvious upon laying eyes on it. Where its competitors either offer generic two-box SUV styling or veer towards the polarizing extremes – the Bentley Bentayga seems to be purpose-built for country-club-member podiatric surgeons with its straitjacket-level restraint in styling, while the Lamborghini Urus’s focus group appears to have been Twitch streamers seeking an SUV that matched their hyper-masc Razer keyboards – the DBX is simply gorgeous where the others are not.
It retains the quintessential Aston Martin character that has drawn people to the smaller, lower offerings of its line for over a century; Aston’s designers were somehow able to translate their design language with perfect fluency to the DBX, its svelte lines and trademark grille all topped off with a stunning roofline. There’s a good reason it’s the only SUV I’ve ever tested where multiple people recorded me on their cell phones while I was driving. It’s just that striking.
The interior is similarly enchanting, in true Aston fashion. As with most high-end manufacturers, Aston offers nearly infinite personalization for the DBX’s cabin, but I was thoroughly enamored with the rich chocolate brown and contrasting red stitching of my rose gold test car. The digital cluster is informative and beautifully laid into the dash, with a pleasantly-textured, leather-wrapped surround encompassing it.
Every touch point is sinfully decadent; the leather is so rich it could make Jeff Bezos’ couches blush in jealousy, the solid walnut laid into the center armrest is a mirror-finish callback to the romantic days of wooden steering wheels and dashboards at Le Mans, and with the Indulgence pack equipped, it was a cinch to use the sixteen-way seat adjustments to find the perfect poise for me. In short, it’s the obscene comfort Aston is renowned for, just bestowed upon four occupants instead of two.
Unfortunately, there is one key aspect where the DBX’s cabin seems a bit dated, due to its reliance on last-generation Mercedes tech: a touchscreen is not available, unlike nearly every competitor’s offering. Personally, I found the infotainment system (navigated with a center armrest mouse wheel in lieu of touch) unobtrusive enough to use to not mind it, but the 10.2” screen’s lack of finger-friendliness and rather inelegant UI feel out of place in the otherwise plush, modern womb of the DBX.
As part of this last-generation infotainment, while wired Apple CarPlay is standard, its wireless form is not, and Android Auto users are out of luck entirely. Aston, for its part, is expecting to change its infotainment-sharing agreement with Mercedes in the near future and update the center console entirely with more modern functionality, although exact dates are still hazy. For now, I found the setup adequate, if a little disappointing in an otherwise well-appointed vehicle.
But I have an iPhone and a cable, so with my seat position dialed into blissful, ventilated comfort and CarPlay set, it was time to see what Aston’s SUV could offer in motion. The first part of my drive came as I blitzed the DBX down I-10, escaping the heart of Los Angeles in search of the peaceful desert of Palm Springs. The labyrinthian highways of LA are stressful, the road quality is generally garbage, and taking the 10 is something I’ve learned to dread even after spending only a scarce few months in Los Angeles. If there’s a better highway to test how livable a car is, I haven’t found it.
As I let Aston’s driver-assistance suite help guide me through traffic – with the seat coolers blasting and the 800-watt Harmann sound system pumping – I quickly realized that there’s no vehicle I’d rather have made the journey in; the DBX made traversing one of the most miserable highways on the continent into a pleasant trip. Despite the massive 22-inch wheels riding on a set of Pirelli P Zero PZ4s, the cabin maintains an air of serenity that seems physically impossible for an SUV that can pull .92 G’s on a skidpad.
With the drive mode set to “GT”, the raucous V8 is quieted to a barely-audible note, and road noise is somehow even kept to a minimum despite the gargantuan 325mm wide tires out back. Even in this mellowed state, a quick stab of the accelerator to pass a semi and the DBX came to life and hustled to felony territory. Tap the brakes, and it was back to relaxation the likes of which the 10 had never seen.
This brilliantly two-faced manner, deftly switching from V8 brute to lavish highway-mile-eater and back, became even more apparent once I’d finally arrived in Palm Springs. I tackled some of the finest roads of the San Bernardino National Forest in the DBX, and it handled them with ferocious grace. Switch driving modes from the tame GT to Sport, open the stainless-steel sport exhaust up, and it acts just like its smaller coupe brethren to an extent that shocked me. Body roll is minimal, and the all-wheel-drive system’s benefits make themselves apparent as soon as the throttle is matted coming out of a corner, with acceleration and aim that makes the not-inconsiderable curb weight feel like a typo.
The brakes have an initial softness to them to help with that pleasant in-town demeanor, but apply a little more pressure when gunning right for the apex of a corner and the gargantuan six-piston front calipers bite into the 16 inch rotors with ferocity. Shifts sharpen up nicely in Sport mode and the computer holds gears a bit longer, but I immediately bypassed them to use the brilliantly solid Aston paddle shifters. The aural experience of the V8 barking with every jab through the gears adds to the overall feeling that this is truly an Aston Martin in the vein of their finest cars, just with added ground clearance.
And really this experience, romping this behemoth like it was a diminutive two-seater, sealed the deal for me on the DBX. A comfortable SUV is certainly not a product in short supply, and neither is a rabidly quick one; to seamlessly blend the experiences in one vehicle is far rarer. Yet Aston fused the two in a gorgeous package with such deftness that it’s impossible not to recommend it.
For something so comfortable to still offer performance only a few tenths off of a Vantage is deeply commendable, and it makes the Aston SUV feel like much more than an obligatory entry to a lucrative market. The DBX is quite simply a showcase of the company’s best work in a format they’ve never tried before, but mastered on the first go nonetheless.