Aston Martin DBX is a sporty, sumptuous SUV
The British brand's first attempt at an SUV is nicely executed one.
The back seats of an Aston Martin (if it even has any) are not generally a tremendous place to be. Especially if you happen to be 6 feet, 5 inches tall. Which I am. I have crawled in behind the driver's seat in a DB11, but that was merely for comedy value and there was no way I would have let the car actually move with me perched in such a position. I have also sat in the back of a Rapide, which was a significant order of magnitude better. But even that felt like it might be acclimatization for potholing.
These previous experiences make the feeling of sitting in the back of the new DBX, which Aston Martin debuted Tuesday ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show, even more extraordinary. It is not just roomy for an Aston Martin, it is roomy and airy and downright luxurious by the standards of pretty much any SUV. In some off-roaders, like a Discovery, the seating is somewhat tiered, so that the rear passengers can look over those in the front and feel less confined. But this wouldn't have done for the DBX as it would have destroyed the sleek roofline. So, you still have the feeling of sitting very much in the car, not on it. Yet despite this, the huge glass roof (that comes as standard) gives a sense of enormous space and the leg room is exceptionally good.
There are two particular reasons for this lack of constriction around the knees and shins. The first is the bespoke platform. It's made from bonded aluminum, just as it is for Aston's sports cars, and it has been designed with a remarkably long wheelbase which, in turn, helps with space inside. Then there are the front seats that owe much to those found in the DB11. By using the framework of a sports car seat, the designers managed to keep the seat back very shallow, freeing up more room for those behind. There is even plenty of room for rear passengers to tuck their feet under the seats in front.
Hop out of the back, pop yourself into one of those front seats and you again get a feeling of sitting in the DBX, not on it. There really is quite a sports car-like feeling of been tucked down behind the dash, yet also, slightly confusingly, with a good view out.
The infotainment system is an upgrade compared to other Astons, as it is a generation further down the Mercedes line. (Aston Martin sources its new multimedia systems from Mercedes-Benz, don't forget.) That means a 10.25-inch screen in the middle and a 12.3-inch screen for the dash.
The smell of fine leather permeated the cabin of the car that I sat in, but the most intriguing trim option is wool (it's an 80% wool blend but it's enough to get the Woolmark). The interiors of the two Lagonda concepts have contained noticeably soft furnishings, so this isn't an entirely unexpected development, but I'm nonetheless intrigued by not only how it will feel, but how it will wear on the seats.
The other area of particular material intrigue is the 'bridge' between the two front seats. Large amounts of storage are available beneath it and there are the usual buttons on top, but the sides can be finished in flax composite, solid walnut or even a bronze metal mesh, and it thus takes on a much more sculptural aspect. Overall there is a much simpler, less cluttered feeling inside the DBX compared to some of the more recent Aston interiors, and I think that comes down to the clever covering of some of the speakers and vents in perforated leather.
I realize I've spent a lot of time talking about the interior so far, but to be honest, that is probably the most important facet of this new Aston Martin. Yes, the new version of the 4.0-liter, turbocharged V8 from the Vantage will be appealing to customers, what with its 542 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. The fact that, in Sport Plus mode, the DBX should have similar roll characteristics to a DB11 (thanks to the 48-volt electronic anti-roll system) will intrigue, too. Some will probably also find a genuine use for the DBX's ability to wade through almost 20 inches of water and climb steep muddy slopes. Most buyers will simply want it to fit seamlessly into and then enhance everyday life.
To that end, things that will ultimately be more appreciated than the 0-to-60-mph time of 4.3 seconds include the efforts to reduce noise, vibration and harshness via the use of a single-piece carbon propshaft rather than a two-piece item. Or the application of computational aero-acoustics technology to reduce road and wind noise for occupants. Or the hard points of the car that Aston claims have much greater stiffness than those of its rivals, thereby allowing softer bushings and greater refinement.
Likewise, customers may well notice the rear wing at the top of the hatch and some may even be interested in how it directs air down over the rear to both keep the glass clear and then activate the rear kicker that clearly shares its lines with the Vantage. However, most customers will, I suspect, be more concerned with what is revealed when the hatch is lifted up (electronically, of course), the answer being a genuinely capacious 22 cubic feet of luggage space.
Aston Martin is even making a big thing of the optional accessory packs, intended to further tailor a DBX to each customer's particular proclivities. Own a dog? Adorably attached to a miniature pot-bellied pig? Then the Pet Pack, complete with portable washer, partition and rear bumper protector could be just the ticket. Or if you prefer to watch others exercising animals (such as horses or sheep dogs) then the Event Pack might appeal as it offers tailgate seating, a picnic blanket, a hamper and, because Aston Martin is still British, umbrella storage.
Given that this is the manufacturer's first full five-seater, let alone its first SUV, the level of detail that Aston has gone to with the DBX is impressive. It shows how important it is to the company. Priced at $192,986 in the USA, including $3,086 for destination, the DBX is very much a luxury SUV. Yet Aston Martin will be hoping that the most practical and versatile car in its 106-year history will not only take the winged badge into new terrain, but also introduce it to a whole new customer base. Quite a few of whom will probably be rather keen on sitting in the back seats.