Driving the DBX
It’s not every day that an invitation arrives to drive the latest Aston Martin SUV off-road, or on the road for that matter. Thus I found it irresistible when Aston Martin Bristol asked if Petrolheads Welcome would like to come along to their demonstration event somewhere in darkest Somerset.
Up to that point, the Aldwick Estate was known to me only as a brown sign when passing by on the A38 south of Bristol Airport. I was soon to find it a jolly good reason to follow the signage.
We rolled up shortly before 09:00 to be warmly welcomed (as always) by dealer principal, Aaron Allnutt, and event organiser, Evie Dibble. Apart from driving the DBX on and off-road, I knew little of what to expect. Any fears, if that’s the right word, were soon allayed when Ben Seyfried hove into view. Ben is a well known professional driver for Aston Martin who also runs a racing school at Castle Combe Race Circuit. Safe hands is a fair description.
Forms filled, coffee supped and masks fastened, we took our place in the third of 4 DBXs for a convoy through the Mendip Hills en-route to the ski centre and adventure park. I had never been there before either… the DBX had already delivered on typical marketing promises of ‘new adventures’.
Before we get into the driving, let’s look at what we’re dealing with here.
The DBX was launched worldwide to great acclaim in late 2019. The range of expert scores seems to average 4.5/5 which delighted the people behind the car’s development. After all, Aston Martin didn’t exactly bring to bear a history of developing such vehicles. Of course they did apply plenty of research, both technical and user experiential, so it wasn’t entirely a shot in the dark. At the time it was one of the spearheads of then boss Andy Palmer’s ‘Second Century Plan’, although his plan didn’t include the takeover by Lawrence Stroll and Andy’s departure.
The car is an impressive SUV in a crowded market. It’s distinctive Aston grille front means that it does indeed stand out when it’s hurtling towards you thanks to its 542bhp twin turbo that’s good for 181mph and 0-62 in 4.5 secs. It also stands out from some of the other prestige SUVs. We pulled over to let another SUV pass by at which point my passenger asked if that was a Porsche. “No, it was a Lamborghini… it said so on the back”. Maybe that true observation is a little unfair, but it does illustrate the power of the Aston grille.
The back of the car is similarly attractive, but I find it hard to get excited about any SUV’s side view, but maybe that’s just me. More of that later.
It’s full of class-leading features and is luxuriously appointed inside. The starting price is around £160,000 with an almost unlimited list of options available for your delectation. I suspect that, unless you know exactly what you want, you could spend a very enjoyable few (many) hours specifying yours.
This is not a ‘test drive’ in the journalistic sense. There are plenty of those to read elsewhere. Instead, it’s more a layman’s impression, so here goes.
Getting in is unusually easy for anyone who’s used to climbing over big (muddy) sills to get up into an SUV. Thanks to its clever sill design, we simply got in it rather than climbed into it. It’s clearly an Aston from the smell, the switch layout and of course the wings badge on the steering wheel. Once underway, it feels unlike an SUV but also unlike a sportscar. Relaxing might be the term here. I managed a short burst of ‘pressing on’ that showed the car to be very stable, even for my rear passenger where such driving in many SUVs creates the vomit-comet experience. The active anti-roll bars and other clever electronics in the drive train mean that you no longer have to be an expert in gear box functions to drive this car with confidence, anywhere.
We then tested the DBX off road. Firstly a not too deep ford that hid some dramatic holes and boulders. No problem, although the length of the nose suggested that at one point I’d hit the wall rather than the under water ledge (phew). We then traversed some proper muddy tracks, up and down some steep slopes, around some quarry gravel and all that other sort of dramatic scenery (and amazing views) that you see on Top Gear, etc. Needless to say the car coped admirably, impressively. This is the sort of off-roading that these cars will do. They’re not for living their entire lives on a farm. Instead, they’ll spend 95+% of their time on the road and use the off-road capability in bad weather and to get the best view at the racing, shooting, cross-country, eventing, etc.
What did I think?
I’ll admit that the “wow, it’s an Aston” factor was missing for me. However, that probably says more about my familiarity with the brand for the last 50 or so years. I learned that particular lesson twice that day…
Firstly, as our rather valuable little convoy was mid-ford and ready to climb the steep hill beyond, we spied a tractor and trailer descending towards us. We were about to test the DBX’s ability to reverse through a ford when, rather unexpectedly (to say the least) the tractor reversed up hill out of our way!
Secondly, my nephew later asked “does it drive as good as it looks?” and added that if he wins the lottery a black DBX is top of his list.
Maybe the ‘Aston wow factor’ is indeed there for the audience that Aston Martin is targeting: China, Japan, Brazil, Russia, the Middle East and younger audiences in each of those growing economies.
If I won the lottery, would I buy one? You bet I would!
It was a bit windy on top of the hill!