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2021 Aston Martin DBX review: Hardly heresy

Aston Martin's new DBX is the right car at the right time -- and it's good, too.

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2021 Aston Martin DBX
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2021 Aston Martin DBX

This is Aston's next big thing.

Jessica Lynn Walker/Aston Martin

Look, the DBX needed to happen. I love Aston Martin's sports cars as much as the rest of you, but if the company wants to remain relevant -- and, more importantly, solvent -- over the long term, adding an SUV to the lineup is the right move. It's not just a trend, it's a business necessity. See also: the Porsche Cayenne, Lamborghini Urus, et al.

2021 Aston Martin DBX
7.8

2021 Aston Martin DBX

Like

  • Excellent twin-turbo V8
  • Sharp handling
  • Comfortable ride quality
  • Plush interior

Don't like

  • Infotainment tech is super old
  • Transmission could be smoother

If history has taught us anything, it's that SUVs born from sports car manufacturers are still freakin' good. So why would the DBX be any different? The twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 is sourced from Mercedes-AMG and makes 542 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, so there's always power available whenever you need it. The V8 sounds awesome -- especially through the optional ($2,300) sport exhaust -- and this engine provides enough motivation to shoot the big DBX to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds.

I mean it when I say big, too. This SUV is almost deceptively large. In photos, and even in person from some angles, it looks about the size of a Porsche Macan. But at 198.4 inches long, 80.7 inches wide and 66.1 inches tall, it's actually bigger than a Porsche Cayenne. The DBX is an inch and a half longer than a standard-wheelbase Range Rover. But you don't really notice the sheer size until it comes time to shoehorn the Aston into a parallel parking space. Good news: A 360-degree camera comes standard.

Night moves: The 2021 Aston Martin DBX hits the streets of Los Angeles

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Despite its stature, the DBX is surprisingly nimble. The adaptive air suspension and 48-volt anti-roll tech keeps the DBX flat and composed while cornering, with the torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system managing power delivery to each wheel. The steering is quick and makes the DBX eager to dive into a turn; this Aston never feels like it's too much to handle on a narrow canyon road. It's long and wide, sure, but if there's enough tarmac between the lines on the road, the DBX is happy to hustle.

That's all well and good; an Aston Martin SUV should be quick and agile. But equally as important is the DBX's ability to just chill the F out and comfortably roll through the city. So I'm glad the three-chamber air suspension is perfectly adept at providing a cosseting ride on city streets. Even with its largest 22-inch wheels, the DBX is never too stiffly sprung for daily driving, and doesn't give up a skosh of twisty-road cred.

2021 Aston Martin DBX
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2021 Aston Martin DBX

The DBX is as great to drive in the city as it is on winding roads.

Jessica Lynn Walker/Aston Martin

The only part of the DBX's on-road experience I'm not sold on is the nine-speed automatic transmission. It's occasionally a little dimwitted, and it doesn't respond quickly to manual inputs from the big, beautiful, metal paddles (that are mounted to the steering column, which is the correct way). On the other hand, the transmission does let the DBX hang out in the higher end of each gear without much coaxing, which is great for enjoying the V8 vocals. Of course, this takes a toll on fuel economy, so good luck actually achieving the EPA-estimated 15 miles per gallon combined. But whatever. You aren't buying this thing for its frugality, anyway.

Instead, it's luxury you're after, and the DBX mostly delivers. The interior is like, 95% awesome and 5% awful. Everything looks good and I love the way the dashboard is sculpted. The majority of the surfaces are covered in soft leather, the front seats are incredibly comfy and there's a ton of legroom in the back. But it's the little details where the DBX starts to lose me. The air vents are flimsy, the plastic gear selector buttons feel cheap, the switchgear on the center console is sort of lousy and all of the Mercedes-Benz-sourced bits looks and feel like the decade-old parts they are.

That goes for the infotainment tech, too. Yes, the DBX gets a nice 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, as well as a 10.2-inch display in the center stack. But the latter runs the same old-old-old Mercedes-Benz COMAND tech as the other Astons -- lackluster fonts, graphics and all. The one upside is that Apple CarPlay is finally available, though it annoyingly doesn't occupy the full width of the display. Android Auto? Hah. Good one.

2021 Aston Martin DBX
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2021 Aston Martin DBX

The cabin is super plush, but the multimedia tech leaves a lot to be desired.

Jessica Lynn Walker/Aston Martin

I'd normally argue that in-car tech isn't super important with an Aston Martin, and that's probably true in something like a Vantage or DBS Superleggera. But in the DBX SUV, it's a little harder to excuse, since this is a vehicle that'll genuinely be used as a daily driver. At least a ton of driver-assistance tech comes standard, including adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring. You'd be surprised how rare it is in the ultra-luxe space to get those niceties for free.

Aston Martin says the DBX has some legitimate off-road chops, and my colleague Henry Catchpole got to wade into those waters (not literally, unfortunately) when he tested the SUV last year. You can raise the air suspension and put the DBX into a Terrain Plus driving mode, and there's hill-descent control, too. I have no doubt this SUV will handle your snowiest commutes or muddiest two-tracks with ease. But like other fancy-pants SUVs, the most treacherous land the DBX will likely encounter is a damp hill on the way to your summer home. So yeah, it'll be fine.

The DBX has plenty of space in the back, though not as much as you might think, considering its size. You'll find 22.3 cubic feet of space behind the second row of seats, and they have 40/20/40 split-folding functionality, so go on, take the Aston to Home Depot. However, the load floor is situated pretty high off the ground, and the shape of the cargo area is a little awkward, largely thanks to the form-before-function sloping roofline.

2021 Aston Martin DBX
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2021 Aston Martin DBX

The DBX's rear end is the only part of the design I don't like.

Jessica Lynn Walker/Aston Martin

Which brings me to the DBX's design, which I'll admit I don't love, though it's growing on me. From the front three-quarter view, I'm sold, and the family resemblance to Aston's other products is clear. From the back, however, it's almost like Aston tried too hard to make the DBX look like the smaller Vantage, and the weird ducktail design just seems poorly grafted onto the hatch. Even in profile, everything looks great until your eyes get to the C pillar, at which point the otherwise sleek shape comes apart. How the DBX looks is pretty color-dependent, too. It's not so bad in the matte gray of the car in these photos, but it's actually a little better in more vibrant options. Check out the awesome purple of the car I tested (which I swear I photographed, but my camera's image card took a dump before I could process the pictures).

Nevertheless, the DBX looks and sounds and feels like an Aston, and that's really all that matters. Its $179,986 starting price (including $3,086 for destination) means the DBX costs about as much as a Bentley Bentayga, and you can personalize it to your heart's content. More to the point, the DBX has enough cache and swagger to be taken seriously as a competitor to the Bentayga and other hifalutin SUVs. And considering I've already seen more customer DBX SUVs around Los Angeles than I have any other new Aston, I'd say it was a smart business move indeed.

2021 Aston Martin DBX
7.8

2021 Aston Martin DBX

Score Breakdown

Performance 9Features 8.5Design 7Media 6

Specs

See full specs Engine 8 Cylinder Engine, TurbochargedDrivetrain All Wheel Drive, Four Wheel DriveMPG 15 MPGPassenger Capacity 5Body Type SUVs