- aston martin's first suv, the dbx, is powered by 542-hp amg 4.0-liter v-8.
- it has an adaptive air suspension and an active anti-roll system.
- this model, which goes on sale in 2020 starting at $192,086, is designed to broaden brand's appeal in asia and to female buyers.
aston martin has high hopes for its first suv. the british sports-car maker has been struggling in recent months, hit by falling demand for its more traditional models, disruption caused by the u.k.'s brexit from the european union, and a stock price that has lost two-thirds of its value since last year's ipo. it is a brand in urgent need of a sales hit, and with the bentley bentayga, rolls-royce cullinan, and lamborghini urus having already proved strong demand for suvs among ultra-luxury buyers, the hope is that the dbx will turn the company's fortunes around; the plan is to make up to 5000 a year for all global markets.
the production version of the dbx is handsome, with its styling showing a clear relationship with the company's lower, sleeker offerings but not attempting to graft on incongruous features. aston's familiar toothy radiator grille works much better with the dbx's taller body than the cullinan and bentayga's grander and more baroque front ends. "we wanted to make the most beautiful suv in this space, not necessarily the quickest," aston ceo andy palmer told car and driver, "although it is extraordinarily quick."
the dbx will be the shortest car in its segment at 198.4 inches, which is nearly a foot shorter than the cullinan—and according to aston's figures the second-lightest with a 4940-pound european curb weight, 101 pounds more than the urus but 331 pounds less than the bentayga v-8 and 992 pounds under the cullinan.
construction will use the same technique of bonded aluminum panels and extrusions that aston uses for its other models, but the dbx will be built in an all-new factory at saint athan in wales. as with the vantage and lesser versions of the db11, power comes from an amg-sourced 4.0-liter twin-turbo v-8, one that makes 542 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque and sends drive through mercedes's nine-speed automatic transmission. aston claims a 4.3-second zero-to-60-mph time and a 181-mph top speed. despite palmer's insistence that looks trump speed, we're told that prototype versions have already been lapping the nürburgring at a pace that suggests the finished car will be able to break the famous circuit's suv lap record, which currently stands at 7:42, set by the audi rs q8 earlier this month.
but the dbx has been designed around far more than just speed, with a significant amount of technology ensuring it delivers an aston-appropriate driving experience. while it's fundamentally rear-wheel drive, a center transfer case directs torque to the front axle when it is required, and there is also a torque-vectoring rear differential. adaptive dampers and air springs are both standard, offering a significant range of height adjustment.
the dbx will come with five driving modes. from the default gt, selecting sport lowers the body 0.6 inch; sport plus takes it another 0.6 inch closer to the ground and turns up the aggression level on the other dynamic systems. terrain mode increases ride height by 0.6 inch, and terrain plus—only available at low speeds—will increase it by another 1.2 inches. there will also be an access mode, which drops the body by 2.0 inches.
responses will also be sharpened by a 48-volt electric anti-roll system that counteracts body roll under hard cornering. aston chief engineer matt becker admits that after early testing of the system's full capabilities, his team opted to allow a modest amount of roll under hard use. "it felt too unnatural without it," he said. similarly, becker opted not to include active rear-wheel steering on the dbx—it is offered on the urus, bentayga, and cullinan—reckoning it can create unnatural-feeling responses under hard use. "we wanted to make a car that behaves as people expect an aston martin to," he said.
becker is also proud of the dbx's towing capability, which is not a claim we can remember aston highlighting with any of its previous models. under european methodology, it can pull 5940 pounds, and the roof rack can also support loads of up to 220 pounds, despite a standard full-length panoramic glass roof on all versions. there is also 22 cubic feet of trunk capacity with the second row in place, or 54 cubic feet with it folded.
buyers coming to the dbx from any other recent aston martin will find the cabin familiar, at least in the front. the suv shares a significant amount of switchgear with the rest of the range, much of which doesn't try to hide its mercedes origin. trim materials feel predictably upmarket, with lots of leather and microfiber plus the option of wood trim for the center console. rear-seat space is more generous than in any previous modern aston, including the rapide sedan, with sufficient knee- and headroom for full-sized occupants. despite frameless doors, cruising refinement seemed to be good when we were given a brief ride in a prototype version.
the dbx will also be more talented off-road than it was originally intended to be. "we were expecting something that would be close to an audi allroad," matt becker said, "but we ended up with a car that can beat the porsche cayenne." aston claims a 22.2 degree approach angle in the tallest setting, along with a 24.3 degree departure angle and 15.1 degree breakover.
the dbx is available to order now with the first customer cars scheduled to arrive in may 2020. u.s. pricing begins at $192,086 – more than the v-8 bentayga's base price, but less than the urus and cullinan. we will find out if it drives as good as it looks early next year.