Aston Martin DBX
There’s a lot riding on the success of the DBX. Thankfully, it’s a fabulous first stab at an SUV
Price: R3 899 000 Engine: 4,0-litre, V8, twinturbo-petrol Transmission: 9-speed automatic Power: 405 kw @ 6 500 r/min Torque: 700 N.m @ 2 200-5 000 r/min 0-100 km/h: 4,5 seconds* Top speed: 291 km/h* Fuel consumption: 14,3 L/100 km* CO2: 269 g/km Rivals: Bentley Bentayga; Lamborghini Urus
No great sports movie is complete without a lastditch victory; the one that comes as hope is fading and view‐ ers are steeled for noble defeat rather than redemptive triumph. Then the longed-for goal, point, try or run arrives in the nick of time, victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat and the audience has tears in its eyes. But does the new DBX represent final gasp sal‐ vation for Aston Martin, or is this going to be another in a long series of missed opportunities?
There isn’t room here to list the soap opera of Aston’s sliding for‐ tunes over the last couple of years. Even before the corona crisis ar‐ rived, sales were slowing and losses mounting. The decline re‐ flected in the brand’s decreased share price, now 90% lower than it was at the time of its IPO in Octo‐ ber 2018. More recently, the com‐ pany lost CEO Andy Palmer – who is being replaced by AMG’S Tobias Moers – and has even warned about the risk of running out of cash and going bankrupt.
Which is why the DBX needs to be a winner. Palmer ordered the development of Aston’s first SUV within days of taking control of the company in 2014. Since then, it’s been leapfrogged by a trio of other ultra-luxury off-roaders – the Bentley Bentayga, Rolls-royce Cullinan and Lamborghini Urus – largely because Aston deliberately chose a hard route to create it. Rather than try to share a plat‐ form with technical partner Daimler, which already builds sev‐
eral mega-fast SUVS, Aston took on the extra trouble and expense of creating an all-new bonded alu‐ minium platform to underpin the DBX and an all-new factory at St Athan in Wales to build it. The al‐ liance with Daimler was called upon but only for the DBX’S powerplant, the same AMG 4,0litre V8 that powers the Vantage and DB11 and, less sexily, the As‐ ton’s electrical architecture.
Doing this gave Aston’s design‐ ers and engineers a huge amount of freedom, something they have taken full advantage of. The Urus and Bentayga as well as the Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7/Q8 all use a common set of “hard‐ points” that they must accom‐ modate. The DBX doesn’t need to make such compromises, some‐ thing that is evident in both its el‐ egant proportions (shorter than the Bentley and Lamborghini but with a longer wheelbase) and in the car’s 2 245 kg mass. Design in‐ corporates a fair amount of visual DNA from elsewhere in the range. There’s no doubt you’re looking at an Aston Martin but it appears svelte and sleek by the standards of its hulking rivals.
Aston has taken a similar ap‐ proach in the cabin, with a design that is meant to make it feel closer to a sportscar than an SUV. There are lots of curving, organic shapes and, from the driver’s seat, the view is pretty similar to the one in a DB11, although with a much higher eyeline. The DBX gets di‐ gital instruments as standard – a first for Aston – as well as a 12,3inch screen in the centre of the dashboard. The first big surprise is that this isn’t touch sensitive. The Aston is running Merc’s last-gener‐ ation STAR 2.3 infotainment sys‐ tem so inputs still need to be made through the laborious click-andturn wheel. Although spacious and well finished, with plenty of room in the back for adults, the DBX is short on the sort of bling and con‐ spicuous tech which many buyers in this part of the market enjoy. It doesn’t get rotating screens, ges‐ ture controls or multi-configurable interior lighting.
Yet, soon after you set off, criti‐ cism dries up. Aston’s socially dis‐ tanced-compliant launch began with driving off-road and on track at Silverstone, followed by an un‐ restricted opportunity to drive as far as I liked within the UK during the following 24 hours. Mud-plug‐ ging felt like the novelty it doubt‐ less will be for any DBX; it’s as tal‐ ented as it will ever need to be away from the tarmac. The
190 mm ride height can be in‐ creased by up to 45 mm in Terrain Plus mode thanks to the standard adaptive air suspension. The Aston proved adept at scrambling over modest obstacles and up and down slippery gradients, without undue drama or expensive noises from the underside.