The Aston Martin DBX is the most recent entrant into the relatively new super-SUV market – a market that even 10 years ago most would scoff at the very idea of. Today Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin are all building SUVs and Ferrari allegedly has one on the way.
Despite my own feelings, and the feelings of many enthusiasts, this segment is here to stay and frankly is quite important in keeping the doors open and lights on for these low volume manufacturers. But are they actually any good?
A couple years ago I drove the Bentayga V8 and was more than a little disappointed, and I was worried that the Aston would suffer from the same issues, but despite that reservation I decided I should find out first-hand if my worries were misguided.
Is it really an Aston?
My time with the DBX was limited, but within that short time I had one question in mind – does it feel like a proper Aston Martin? When I drove the V8 Bentayga, I couldn’t help feeling that I was just driving a big Audi – which in many ways I was because of how many shared components there are between the VW group’s SUV lineup, including the Cayenne, Bentayga, and Urus – and not a proper Bentley.
In order to answer that question with regards to the DBX, we first need to consider what makes a proper Aston. First there is the question of performance - Astons aren’t meant to be the fastest cars on the road, but they should be quicker than most and be able to maintain their composure through the corners.
Next there is the question of quality – no low volume British car will ever be as reliable as a Toyota, but the leather and trim should be excellent. Finally, there is the secret agent test – would a certain well-known fictional spy be willing to pull up to the Casino de Monte Carlo in it?
Starting with the first of those tests, I can say with complete confidence that the DBX drives as an Aston Martin should. While I didn’t get to properly test the DBX anywhere near it’s limits, I was able to drive it enough to take note of a few key things.
The first thing I noticed was the steering feel – I was worried the steering would be over-assisted and numb as it is in many modern SUVs, but even in the normal drive mode the steering was nicely weighted and surprisingly direct.
The second thing I noticed was the responsiveness of the gearbox and engine – I was worried they’d feel slovenly and uninspired because of detuning requirements in the source contracts from AMG, but the engine felt lively and the gearbox responded quickly to every pull of the paddles. Finally, there was the sound.
Astons have a reputation for being some of the best sounding cars to come out of Britain, and thankfully the DBX doesn’t disappoint. It is a bit quieter than one would expect from an Aston but being a larger car than other models it’s to be expected due to the larger exhaust system, so it wouldn’t be fair to fault the DBX for that.
DBX Build Quality
Then there is the question of quality – does it feel like an Aston when you sit inside? In short, yes. The quality of the leather is exactly what you’d expect from a luxury British sports car, and the wood trim is superb.
Aston also has what they call the interior jewelry, which is essentially the metal trim in the cabin, and it is quite beautiful on the steering wheel and on the dash and center console. The tech is last generation Mercedes, but the safety and convenience features one would hope for are there and the multimedia interface does have Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto, so most people won’t even use the Mercedes interface anyway.
Some people may criticize the face that there is some very obvious Mercedes switchgear in the interior beyond just the controls for the multimedia interface, but I’d counter that point as I do any time a manufacturer in the low volume ultra-luxury segment uses parts from another company – is it preferable that they spend the money to develop every little switch and light fixture, or preferable that they save money by buying little bits like those and spend the money on further developing the platform or the engine?
Does the Aston Martin DBX live up to the Bond Standard?
Finally, that brings us to the most important question – would a certain martini enthusiast be seen driving it? Until I spent some time with it, I would have said absolutely not with no hesitation, but now I’m less certain of that answer. In its most aggressive modes, the DBX sits much lower than it does in normal and off-road modes, which certainly improves the look of the vehicle drastically.
With that in mind, I do think the DBX is one of those vehicles that really needs to be seen in person to properly understand and take in the styling. Genuinely the only angle I still have my doubts on is from directly behind – the design is meant to mimic the rear end of the Vantage, and it does, but it doesn’t quite work in my opinion. But back to the question at hand – would the world’s most famous secret agent drive one? I’ll confess I didn’t find myself humming a very recognizable theme tune while I was driving it, but I do think he would.
With all that in mind, it seems that indeed the DBX is a proper Aston. I know there will be some that will still be up in arms over the fact that it’s an SUV, and I do understand that position – I felt that way myself for a long while. But as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, all of these special low volume manufacturers are being forced by the market to build these SUVs and the reality is Aston anticipates that in the next year or two, they will build one DBX for every single sports car they make – and so far it seems like they’ll manage to sell them. If an SUV in the lineup is the price we have to pay to keep such an iconic brand is business, I think we should all be more than happy to pay it. It doesn’t hurt that the DBX happens to be pretty damn good, either.