The world was ready for an Aston Martin SUV. Yes, by the time the Aston Martin DBX debuted Bentley had given birth to the Bentayga, Lamborghini had sired the Urus and even Rolls Royce had realised its Cullinan.
Still, the arrival of another ‘super SUV’ is always a bit exciting. Would it be a true Aston Martin, how would it compare to its rivals and is it even a good SUV?
Well, that's what I wanted to know about Aston Martin's DBX anyway, and I found out, along with everything else you should know: from its performance to practicality in this review.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
I'm not one to name drop but I was having a chin wag with Marek, that's Marek Reichman, Aston Martin's Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, the fellow who has designed every Aston from the past 15 years, that Marek. Anyway, before the DBX came out he told me any SUV he designed would be unmistakably an Aston Martin.
I think he nailed it. The gaping Aston Martin grille is unmistakably the same as the DB11's and the tailgate, which although is the back hatch to a large SUV, is absolutely the same as the rear end of the Vantage.
Everything in between has all the family hallmarks. There are those oval headlights and the huge beak of a bonnet, the chiselled side panels with wheel arches that push up towards the sky and those rear haunches.
The tailgate, which although is the back hatch to a large SUV, is absolutely the same as the rear end of the Vantage. (image: Richard Berry)
Not a fan of minimalist design? Then you'll love the DBX's cabin and its dashboard cluttered with dials, buttons, and switches.
It's like the cockpit of a plane and it's a very Aston Martin thing – just look at the layout of the DB5 from the 1960s, it's a mess, a beautiful mess though. The same goes for current models such as the DB11, DBS and Vantage.
Seriously, if there was one area where Marek may have decided not to make the DBX unmistakably Aston Martin, I wish it had been the interior.
Everything in between has all the family hallmarks. (image: Richard Berry)
Still, I think the DBX has the best cabin design of any current Aston, with its large media screen built into the centre console and more modern styling.
But regardless of what it looks like the feel of the materials is outstanding. There's a thick leather coating on just about every surface, apart from those which are solid, cold metal, like the paddle shifters and door handles.
It's a plush, sporty place, like Batman's suit only it smells a lot nicer.
Regardless of what it looks like the feel of the materials is outstanding. (image: Richard Berry)
The DBX is a large SUV at 5039mm long, 2220mm wide with the mirrors unfurled and 1680mm tall. Yep, this thing fills up an entire space in a car park.
The DBX comes in a choice of 53 colours. Yes, fifty three. There's the 'Onyx Black' my test car wore, but also 'Royal Indigo', 'Supernova Red' and 'Kermit Green.'
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 7/10
There is only one type of Aston Martin DBX and it wears a list price of $357,000, so it resides in the price range above the Porsche Cayenne, which tops out at $336,100, but below the Lamborghini Urus, which starts at $390,000.
The Bentley Bentayga V8 is its closest price rival, starting less than $10K higher than the DBX.
And while we're marvelling at the emergence of these super SUVs don't discount the original luxury SUV brand. The Range Rover SV Autobiography Dynamic is $351,086, and superb.
It has 22-inch forged alloy wheels as standard. (image: Richard Berry)
Let's take a look at the Aston Martin DBX's features.
Coming standard is leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, three-zone climate control, a 10.25-inch media display with sat nav, Apple CarPlay and digital radio, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a panoramic glass sunroof, power tailgate, proximity key with push-button start, LED headlights and tail-lights, and 22-inch forged alloy wheels.
For this high-end corner of the market the value is good, but there are a couple of misses such as the lack of a head-up display and Android Auto isn't supported.
But if you wanted a shopping trolley packed with value you'd go to a supermarket, right? Maybe. What you really want to know is what it's like to drive, right? Let's start with horsepower.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 9/10
When it came to giving the DBX an engine Aston Martin chose the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that's in the Vantage only they made it more powerful – 25kW more at 405kW (542hp). There's 15Nm more torque as well, at 700Nm.
That said, the DBX weighs more than 2.2 tonnes, has a maximum ground clearance of 190mm, can wade rivers to a depth of 500mm and has a braked towing capacity of 2700kg. Oh yeah, and it's all-wheel drive.
That engine is one of the world's best V8s. It's light, compact, efficient and can produce enormous grunt. It's also made by Mercedes-Benz. Yup, it's the same (M177) 4.0-litre V8 found in the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S and a stack of other AMG-badged beasties.
When it came to giving the DBX an engine Aston Martin chose the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that’s in the Vantage only they made it more powerful. (image: Richard Berry)
There's just one thing, the V8 in the DBX doesn't sound as good to me as the one in a Mercedes-AMG. Aston's version has a less guttural and breathy exhaust note.
Sure, it still sounds amazing and when pushed hard it screams like Boudica charging into battle, but how often will you drive like that?
Most of the time we're in traffic in the suburbs and city trundling around at 40km/h. But even with the ‘loud’ exhaust mode set the note is still not as deep and brash as the AMG, which sounds delicious even at a standstill.
You probably already know why Aston Martin uses Mercedes-Benz engines. But just in case, it's because the brand with the star has been a part owner since 2013. Aston saves money and in return gets some of the best engines in the world.
What's it like to drive? 7/10
The DBX is a circa 550 horsepower giant that can reach out and almost touch 300km/h. But testing it on Sydney's roads is like having a champion racehorse in your backyard and your neighbour asking you what it's like to ride.
A racetrack wasn't handy at the time and I'd signed a form saying I'd not put any more than 400km on the clock during its stay with me, which meant having to choose my test loop carefully.
Fortunately, this was before Sydney was plunged into the current COVID lockdown, which makes that 400km now seem vast.
The DBX is an SUV anybody could drive, every day. (image: Richard Berry)
First, the DBX is an SUV anybody could drive, every day. Visibility is great and the ride is fine considering it rolls on 22-inch wheels and wears rubber as wide as some doorways and as thin as my socks (285/40 front and 325/35 rear Pirelli Scorpion Zero). Power delivery is smooth and predictable.
I did drive it every day, doing the shopping, school pick ups, a trip to the garden centre to fill it with plants and (ahem) compost, and it performed exactly as a large SUV should.
A source of frustration was the location of the shifting buttons high on the dashboard. Have a look at the images. Even with my chimpanzee-like long arms I had to stretch to change from Drive to Reverse. And with a not so small turning circle of 12.4m, three-point turns were a bit of an arm workout.
Not a fan of minimalist design? Then you’ll love the DBX’s cabin and its dashboard cluttered with dials, buttons, and switches. (image: Richard Berry)
But the bigger frustration was the driver-car connection which didn't feel quite right. A good car-driver connection is essential for any great performance car.
Yes, there wasn't a race circuit where I could get to know the DBX quickly. But a good road, driven often with test cars, reveals a lot, too.
And the DBX didn't feel as good as the Lamborghini Urus, which is not only more comfortable but feels more dynamic and offers a superb connection between the driver and the machine.
The DBX is fast, it's powerful, the huge brakes pull it up quickly (almost violently so, if required) and handling is incredibly good.
Still, I think the DBX has the best cabin design of any current Aston. (image: Richard Berry)
It's just that I didn't really feel a part of it much at all. You know, the whole driver and car becoming one, thing. I felt like the third wheel on a date.
That connected feeling has been mastered by Porsche with its SUVs, but I feel the DBX needs more work. It felt unfinished.
I was told at the start that the DBX I was testing was a pre-production vehicle, but I'm sure that doesn't cover the shortcomings in the way it drove.
It's disappointing. I was hoping for better, but I think further development will see that come later.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
In my fuel test of the DBX I took in open roads and city streets and measured 20.4L/100km at the pump.
On the same test loop the Urus I drove used 15.7L/100km and the Bentley Bentayga consumed 21.1L/100km.
It's not surprising these super SUVs are thirsty, but if you're spending all your time on city roads you can expect the consumption to be even higher.
What is surprising is Aston Martin thinking anyone could really get 12.2L/100km, but then all carmakers tend to claim overly ambitious fuel economy figures.
Just think, your next car after this will probably be electric, so enjoy the petrol while it lasts.
How practical is the space inside? 8/10
Until the DBX came along the most practical Aston Martin was the five-door, four-seater Rapide which had a huge rear hatch and a boot big enough to swallow an entire matching five-piece luggage set – I saw it with my very own eyes.
Now there's the DBX which seats five (well, four comfortably, because nobody wants to be in the middle) and has a boot with a luggage capacity of 491 litres under the leather cargo cover.
It’s a roomy second row, with more than enough space for me at 191cm (6'3") tall to sit behind my driving position. (image: Richard Berry)
As you can see it fit our three-piece CarsGuide luggage set, and I also used it to pick up some compost – very likely the first time anybody has done this to a DBX ever in Australia, and probably the last.
Cabin storage is impressive. The floating centre console is suspended like a hammock and under it is a huge bunk for a phone, wallet, and small bags. The split-opening armrest houses a large box, too.
The door pockets are on the small side but there are two cupholders up front and another two in the fold-down armrest in the second row.
It has a boot with a luggage capacity of 491 litres under the leather cargo cover. (image: Richard Berry)
As you can see it fit our three-piece 'CarsGuide' luggage set. (image: Richard Berry)
I also used it to pick up some compost – very likely the first time anybody has done this to a DBX ever in Australia, and probably the last. (image: Richard Berry)
Talking of rows, there's no third row. The DBX comes as a two-row, five-seater only.
It’s a roomy second row, with more than enough space for me at 191cm (6'3") tall to sit behind my driving position and headroom is excellent, too.
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
The DBX hasn't been given an ANCAP crash safety rating and it's unlikely it ever will, which is often the case with low-volume, high-end models.
Still, the DBX comes standard with seven airbags, AEB, lane keeping assistance with lane-change warning, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, traffic sign recognition, auto parking and adaptive cruise control.
For child seats there are three top tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
I found it easy and quick to fasten my son’s car seat into the DBX.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
The DBX is covered by Aston Martin's three-year-unlimited kilometre warranty. Also included is roadside assistance.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 16,000km.
Aston Martin doesn't have have capped price servicing for the DBX nor can owners purchase a maintenance plan for the SUV.
We asked Aston Martin for an estimate of how much owners can expect to pay for servicing over the life of the warranty, but a spokesperson told us, "We are unable to provide an estimate on the cost of servicing over three years."
With Aston Martin unable or unwilling to give us any guidance on servicing costs, maybe there are recent model Aston owners out there who can. Let us know in the comments section below.
As with all Aston Martins the DBX is a seriously beautiful car with that high-end exotic but restrained exterior styling for which the brand is known. As with all Astons, too, the busy interior design may put some minimalism fans off and those high-placed shifting buttons pose a functionality problem.
As an SUV the DBX is spacious and practical. You could use this daily as a family car. I did and found it easy to adapt to.
The driving experience left me disappointed. I didn’t feel the same close connection with the DBX while driving that I have had with other super SUVs, such as the Lamborghini Urus and more affordable models offered by Porsche and Mercedes-AMG.
But then, you see those other cars everywhere, unlike the DBX which is a rare and beautiful creature, despite the flaws.
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