Strat 1: Lawrence Stroll and his consortium buying a controlling stake in Aston Martin in 2020.
Strat 2: A shake-up at the top saw 26-year Daimler-Mercedes-AMG veteran CEO Tobias Moers taking the helm, a man who knows a thing or two about running a successful performance-luxury company.
Strat 3: DBX. The first ever SUV from Aston Martin.
It’s every bit the Aston Martin SUV with styling that strongly resembles the entire modern AM family but also infuses enough of the historical Aston Martin cues to leave you in no doubt that this is nothing but an Aston Martin. That large grille betokens the century-old AM visage in its most modern iteration flanked by stunning DRL’s that also function as indicator lights. The flanks reflect a curvature that isn’t normal by any measure of modern SUV design. And then of course, perhaps the most intricate exterior piece is the ducktail rear, the calling card of the Vantage too.
By any angle, DBX is intricately imposing. It’s the detail that’s impressive. Wow factors at every corner deliver a product that clearly plays in the luxury category but with a sloping roofline and raked screen there’s a strong purpose of speed in the design too.
The sense of occasion continues as you unlock the DBX. Flush door handles pop out for one’s dramatic admission into a sumptuous cabin. Many cows went into the making of the leather here. Vast cuts of magnificent cow-hide adorn the seats, steering, doors and dash contrasted with striking veneers and central console surrounds finished in piano black and metallics in our test car.
The driving position is excellent and from it, you have access to an improved suite of infotainment and driving displays. The central infotainment system sits upon a 10,25-inch HD display where the driver’s display run across a HD 12,3-inch screen. On the whole, the system UX is intuitive and suitably useable but it uses some sort of hybrid of Mercedes technology with an older touch pad for the control functions. It has to be said that all the graphics have been designed by AM and so whilst the know-it-alls will recognise the Merc switchgear and even some UX-flow, it looks absolutely Aston in the graphic treatment.
DBX boasts one of the most luxury-biased cabins in the world of SUV’s made more notable because of the high degree of customisation. The biggest surprise for me as far as cabin comforts went, was generous legroom and headroom despite the bulky sports seats up front. 632-litres in the boot is right up there in BMW X5 territory and this is in addition to uncompromised rear seat space. The practicality of space here is a bold statement for even those owners considering being chauffeured…but wait, would you really? Creature comforts and opulence aside, there lies an AMG-derived 4.0-litre twin-turbo motor under the hood.
DBX sports 5 driving modes: GT(comfort); Sport; Sport +; Terrain and Terrain +. Toggling from GT to Sport and into Sport +, the car lowers 15mm each time and sharpens up the performance envelope. Riding on 3-chamber air suspension with active dampers by Bilstein and 48V anti-roll stabilisers, there are many facets to the DBX driving repertoire.
The GT ability is fantastic especially with the in-car refinement. There’s a grace and level of comfort that is spot on. Sport and Sport + will surprise you in how unlike a near 2,5-ton SUV this feels. With the ability to transfer 100% of the power to the rear, the DBX does feel more sporty than I expected with a steering to front-end connection that is highly commendable. Power slides can be executed too if you're really in the mood and it's highly engaging and entertaining for what can then settle back down into luxo-GT cruising. The Merc-AMG-derived twin-turbo 4.0-litre feels well tuned for this application even though the numbers may not seem class-leading. 405 kW and 700 Nm deliver a 4,5-second 0 - 100 kph time. Fuel consumption if you must know was 16,6l/100km on our test.
The DBX is less wild in it’s power delivery than flagship AMG-d competitors and it’s tuned to sound more AM than AMG. It still bellows as you pile on the throttle but in a distinct and mature Aston Martin chorus.
We didn’t get to experience the DBX in any off-road situations but with the smarts of the all-wheel drive system and transfer case, the variable ride heights and the computerised Terrain and Terrain + modes to handle it, we’d hazard it can do most of what any would-be owner may intend.
It's more dramatic and more exclusive than any competitors from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi or Porsche, not to mention the personalised customisation that comes with Aston ownership. But it is a near R5-Million car and therefore commands attention from a very specific market niche.
That price tag is more painful than a Bentayga and of course less painful than the double R Cullinan. You can build the DBX you really want and know that it can comfortably tackle some much tougher terrain should you really want to, and then do everything else at commendable speed and comfort too.
Yes, the Aston Martin DBX can attribute a lot of its engineering outcomes to Mercedes but there is a strong AM character in this car. It’s an emphatic attempt to create a luxury SUV with genuine sportscar feel and Aston has achieved that.
By early reported figures, the DBX has indeed taken Aston’s sales figures to unprecedented heights. In the first half of 2021, Aston Martin reported a 224% sales increase with DBX accounting for 55% of model sales.
Aston Martin DBX joins a small group of the high-grade luxury carmakers offering fancy SUV’s in the stable, and all of them have enjoyed the success that SUV-stardom brought them. If DBX is the model that will allow more and more of the likes of Valkyrie, Valhalla, Vantage and DB to continue to be offered, then we applaud and welcome it. Nice work AM.