An all-new platform, an all-new factory in Wales and a crucial all-new market. The ups and downs of Aston Martin have reached a defining moment with the delayed launch of the long-awaited DBX.
The company’s first, full-size five-seater in a turbulent 107-year history has plenty riding on it. I can’t recall any car that’s been asked to achieve so much, pitching headlong into a luxury SUV sector already crowded with talent.
Let’s face it, everyone has a soft spot for an Aston – distinctive growling engines, beautiful, muscular bodywork, and an enduring link to our favourite British spy, James Bond.
But does the DBX have enough in its armoury to take on the svelte and powerful Lamborghini Urus, the uber-refined Bentley Bentayga, or the in-your-face Rolls-Royce Cullinan – not to mention the forthcoming Ferrari Purosangue (cheekily nicknamed Pingu in motoring circles)?
Square Mile was invited to Silverstone just before the British Grand Prix to find out. Instead of a first drive in Palm Springs in April, I drove the DBX around the Stowe Circuit, and a gentle off-road course that would still terrify many owners of an SUV priced at £158,000.
First impressions? The DBX looks sensational in the flesh. This performance SUV may be jacked up compared to the low-slung DB11 or Vantage but the designers have just about nailed it, especially the front end when fitted with optional bonnet blades, running fore and aft inside the narrowest of snorting air vents.
On the track the DBX proves its Aston Martin credentials
Aston’s trademark, gaping grille is squeezed between bulging front wings that hang over 22-inch wheels. These flow rearwards along heavily sculpted doors with frameless windows. The windscreen is steeply raked and in side profile, the DBX sits low and squat, more Urus than Bentayga. (That’s a good thing, btw.)
Then there’s the rear end. Powerful haunches give way to an upswept ‘flip’ at the base of the rear screen, which is borrowed from the Vantage. In my mind, the lip spoiler upsets the proportions of the rear profile. But boot space is a creditable 632-litres, plus folding rear seats.
Before I can step inside the cabin, I have to mention the flush-mount, streamlined door handles. Gorgeous, yes –and you will find them in other Astons. But they’re infuriatingly awkward to pop open.
Aston made a big thing about this being a car designed as much for women as men – expect chipped fingernails and kids who can’t climb into the back seat on their own.
Take a look from all angles
Inside my test car is acres of light tan Caithness leather, beautifully double stitched. Sumptuous – especially when doubled down with a matching Alcantara headlining. The quilted seats are multi-adjustable and perforated for cold air in the summer.
The back seats sit low, so despite an equally low roof, they will easily accommodate six-foot passengers happily, helped further by impressive legroom. Oddly, the rear seats are incredibly firm, I can’t imagine anyone would find them especially comfortable on longer journeys.
Overall, the cabin is more spacious than you might imagine, with a high centre console bridging over an open storage area. The infotainment system is sourced from Mercedes, but can’t be operated via a touchscreen.
Off-road, the Aston Martin is perfectly competent, with adaptive air suspension raising the ride height by 45mm in Terrain+. Few owners will ever venture further than the pavement, but the DBX is more than capable if the conditions require it. It can tow up to 2.7 tonnes and is also the first Aston to be offered with a towbar.
The company’s future may be riding on this car
But it’s on the track where the DBX proves its Aston Martin credentials and is truly licensed to thrill. Slip into Sport+, the car lowers 50mm, and the burble from the twin exhaust pipes takes on a more sinister, wanton tone.
The twin turbocharged V8 sourced from Mercedes truly comes alive. It’s not the fastest in a straight line – buy an Urus for that – but I’ll wager the DBX can outperform any other SUV when barrelling around a corner.
It turns in perfectly and despite the extra height of an SUV, the driver always feels in control. Precise, crisp and engaging – the DBX offers prodigious grip and minimal body roll.
On the road, the DBX is a handling masterclass that also happens to offer enough space for a family and looks the business, too.
The company’s future may be riding on this car. And it looks like Aston has played a blinder.
For more information, see astonmartin.com