It’s an odd feeling, driving a car through a forest peppered with ruts, flooded sink holes, muddy inclines and leaf-strewn trails while occasionally catching a glimpse of an Aston Martin badge on its steering wheel. And it feels equally odd to be hooning around Silverstone’s Stowe Circuit in the same car, knowing it has five doors and multi-terrain suspension and looks like it should have an unnervingly high centre of gravity.
But this is the DBX, Aston Martin’s long-awaited – and some might say incongruous – foray into the high-performance SUV market, an area Porsche entered 18 years ago with the Cayenne and which is now crowded with well-appointed, 150mph-plus all-wheel-drive models from Maserati, Jaguar, Mercedes AMG, Range Rover, Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Lamborghini and even Rolls-Royce.
An eye-watering 28 million SUVs were sold worldwide last year, most of which were lower- to mid-range models rather than high-performance luxury versions – but any manufacturer that doesn’t have such a car in its line-up will inevitably lose out, hence Aston’s late-to-the-party decision to begin development of the DBX five years ago.
Many longstanding fans baulked at the idea, convinced that a pseudo off-roader would dilute the marque’s century-old image as a maker of swift and stylish GT cars.
Indeed, the DBX could easily have ended up being neither fish nor fowl, with compromised performance both on the road and away from it. But Aston’s chief engineer Matt Becker (previously with Lotus for 26 years) was never going to let that happen, and he and his team really have succeeded in creating an SUV that can hold a perfect racing line around a track but also demonstrate a useful level of multi-terrain capability.
The first model to emerge from Aston’s recently inaugurated plant in St Athan, Wales, the DBX is new from the ground up, with a bonded aluminium chassis and aluminium bodywork, a four-litre, twin-turbo V8 engine and air suspension that can drop the car by 50mm for truly leech-like high-speed handling or raise it by 45mm for mud-plugging and wading.
Luxuriously appointed in standard form, it’s the maker’s first-ever five-seater and follows the trend for personalisation through a vast range of options – including no fewer than 11 accessory packs offering everything from a portable washer for hosing down mud-encrusted dogs to electric ski-boot warmers, a six-piece luggage set, a picnic hamper and a gun cabinet.
The outside, meanwhile, carries hints of Lamborghini’s Urus and the Porsche Cayenne but still bristles with Aston signatures, such as the quintessential DB grille, sculpted sides and a tailgate flip that links the car directly to the Vantage sports car.
It’s slippery too, having been designed using “computational fluid dynamics” that enable the DBX to cut through the air as efficiently as possible, whether storming an autobahn at 180mph or doing something that Astons are rarely seen to do – towing a trailer.
At a starting price of £158,000, the DBX costs around 50 per cent more than a Cayenne Turbo or Range Rover Sport SVR, about the same as a Urus and around £25,000 less than the high-performance “Speed” version of Bentley’s new Bentayga – but that’s without delving into the options list, which pushed the cost of the car I drove to more than £195,000, thanks, among other things, to its Satin Xenon Grey paint job (£12,995), sports exhaust (£1,495), carbon-fibre body packs (£16,990) and designer key (£695).
But even without any of that, a standard DBX will turn heads wherever it goes – especially when it’s creeping through a forest.
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