It took 108 years, but British automaker Aston Martin (AML.L) finally joined the sport utility vehicle party.
After much hoopla and teasing of prototypes running about in extreme environments like the Arctic Circle, and the deserts of Oman, the British automaker finally revealed the DBX — its first-ever SUV — in late 2019. Actual production began earlier this year in an all-new factory in Wales.
The DBX is a really, really big deal for the brand during what’s been a tough year for the luxury carmaker. It’s London-listed shares have fallen by more than half year-to-date, and are down over 80% since the automaker went public back in September 2018. Sports cars and sedans could only take the brand so far in this day and age.
Billionaire Lawrence Stroll came to Aston’s rescue in March, spearheading a $655 million dollar cash injection into the company, and making him the new executive chairman in the process. In addition, Mercedes-Benz strengthened its ties with Aston, increasing its stake in the automaker, and expanding its strategic partnership to sharing technology and powertrain architecture.
CEO Andy Palmer was subsequently let go, and Tobias Moers - formerly the CEO of Mercedes AMG (DAI.DE), the high-performance division of the German car maker - was installed.
The new men in charge, along with its nearly 2500 employees, know the future of Aston is banking on the success of the new DBX. The gamble here being - would the DBX appease both new customers, and its traditional, sports car buying clientele?
Looking the part
Known as a performance and high-end luxury brand, Aston knew if it was going to make an SUV, it had to thread that needle of giving customers what they want — i.e. space, utility, and luxury — while not ignoring the brand DNA that makes an Aston...well, an Aston.
At first blush, it appears that chief creative officer Marek Reichman accomplished what he wanted to do from a design perspective.
The DBX rides on a long wheelbase, with wheels extended out far as possible, and a long roofline tapering back into that now distinctive Aston tail end - giving the car the appearance of a lower, more aggressive stance.
Under the hood
The DBX is powered by a 4.0-litre twin turbo V-8, producing a robust 542 hp, and 516 lb.-ft of torque. Not surprisingly this is a Mercedes-AMG engine, but Aston has tweaked it a bit to give it more of an aggressive, Aston-sounding aural note if you will. The power goes to all wheels through a 9-speed automatic gearbox, that uses both an electronic active center transfer case, as well as an electronic rear limited-slip differential.
This beast of an engine along with its all-wheel drive system powers the DBX to a 0–62 mph time of 4.5 seconds, and a top speed of 181 mph. The DBX has four on-road drive modes (GT, Sport, Sport+, and Individual) and two off-road drive modes.
A lovely interior
Step inside the cabin, and it is unmistakably an Aston Martin. Our test vehicle had leather everywhere, and I mean everywhere, featured here in a pleasing, “All Sahara Tan” color. The leather was soft and rich and smelled lovely - like a cozy English library in a cottage somewhere in the country.
The stitching was exquisite, forming patterns and perforations in the leather, which extended even to the speaker covers. The seats were not surprisingly very comfortable, with aggressive bolstering befitting a performance car. On a four-hour journey upstate my body was not fatigued whatsoever.
Is it really an Aston?
Start up the DBX and you are reminded again that you’re in an Aston Martin. The custom-tuned exhaust and revised firing-order of the AMG-derived engine give it a tune all its own: Guttural and growling.
In its normal, or Grand Touring mode, driving around town is a breeze. Smooth is the adjective I would use here. The air suspension is plush enough for rough roads but still firms up in tight turns; the engine isn’t too aggressive, and throttle response is even.
However, by selecting the DBX’s Sport and Sport+ modes, the DBX comes alive and reminds you why this isn’t just any plain SUV roaming a Costco parking lot. The DBX goes like an Aston — fast, loud, and eats up miles in big gulps.
Driving the DBX around some twisty back roads (in my case upstate New York), the car was balanced and predictable, even during spirited driving. You forget this car is a heavy SUV, as it belies its weight with quick turn in and lots of the old “backside oomph” coming from that big V8.
There is a tad of understeer at times when you get a bit too aggressive, but it seems that’s how Aston tuned the suspension to keep it predictable in near-the-limit driving conditions.
So yes, it runs like Aston - and this is no small feat. It takes a lot of work to get the DBX to act like a smaller, more sprightly sedan, and the brand has done just that.
In fact the biggest compliment I could give it, or any car, is I wanted to keep driving it, and exploring more of its limits. I never thought I’d say that about a boring old SUV…
The Aston Martin DBX starts at $176,900, with our test model coming in at $205,186 with options.