Aston Martin has been through a rough year but things are looking up for the British brand with this new SUV in the works – we drive the 2021 Aston Martin DBX in the UAE
This virus doesn’t seem to treat us all as equals, and Aston Martin got particularly hit by the hallmark of 2020. At the halfway point of last year the British luxury car manufacturer had already posted a quarter-billion in losses since the Chinese straight up stopped buying Aston Martins – the brand was down massively in its biggest market with sales slumping by 86 percent.
Meanwhile Covid-19 completely circumvented Bentley. The Chinese didn’t stop buying those. Bentley went up by nearly 50 percent over there in 2020, which went a long way in posting its best ever results in the history of the 101-year old brand. Go figure…
(Interesting sidenote time… Twenty years ago when Volkswagen took over, Bentley was still winging it together with Rolls-Royce and the two brands, combined, managed to find 806 new buyers in 2000. We know how that went. In 2020 Bentley sold 11,600 cars, with an SUV leading the charge…)
Aston Martin still has a lot to be upbeat about – next year the company is running in Formula 1 with a four-time world champion behind the wheel, although the whole deal is a bit of a rebadge job. They just write Aston Martin on the nose.
Then there is the critical matter of an SUV. That’s always the winning ticket, and Aston Martin bet big with a brand new factory in Wales to support a volume seller. Relatively speaking of course – they want to shift 4,000 SUVs a year…
The secret of this recent success doesn’t lie in a sudden spurt of engineering exclusivity. Aston Martin simply went to Stuttgart and borrowed the best bits from Mercedes-Benz. In return, the Germans got a 20 percent stake in the British brand, and by 2022 Mercedes will be supplying Aston Martin with tech for a new EV too. Remember we’re talking about a boutique manufacturer that has only developed one new engine in decades. They used to just make do with a couple of Ford V6s from the 1990s mashed together.
So we can understand why the Mercedes partnership is vital – now Aston Martin has the tech to take on giants like Volkswagen, which is to say Bentley and Lamborghini. These two rival firms have a much easier time when it comes to parts-sharing since they can just tug at daddy’s sleeve until he goes for the wallet. I mean, that Urus is one mighty fast Touareg.
Perhaps, then, technology is not their forte over in Gaydon, but boy can they make a car look good. Aston Martins are admired all over the world for their design, which has been consistently glamorous without any kitsch. But I’m not so sure with this new 2021 Aston Martin DBX…
This is certainly a decidedly striking looking car, and it’s quite colour-sensitive (I would avoid bright hues and go for a matte grey or classic black), but standing in front of it for the first time it doesn’t come across as imposing as a Rolls-Royce Cullinan or Bentayga. The rear is also a bit of a stretch with the designers seemingly just grafting the Vantage taillights on, which I’m not a fan of in the first place. They make the back of the car look like it’s frowning.
One trick Aston designers did pull off very well with the DBX is the neat proportions. You get an illusion of compactness since it doesn’t really look that huge. It is huge. The brief even has the cheek to highlight the lightweight virtues of the DBX’s engineering – it weighs less than 2.3 tonnes…
You wouldn’t tell it’s gargantuan on the move though. Driving it, this is a very good SUV. Aston Martin carefully tuned all the particulars of an enthusiast’s car, with steering that is very well measured unlike many large SUVs where you don’t get any real road feel. Imagine a hot hatch, with 550 horsepower, and that’s closer to the truth about the DBX.
Not only does it steer and handle pleasingly well, the ride quality is also fantastic. This is crucial to future owners of the DBX since most will drive their Aston SUVs around urban centres and in traffic. With a Mercedes twin-turbocharged V8 good for 700Nm of torque, when you put your foot down the character change is abrupt as the DBX takes off with unsuspecting violence. Not in the Urus category mind you, but close.
My only dynamic criticism is reserved for the brakes – they could be stronger to match the power and the weight of this SUV. Everything seems fine on paper – the front discs measure 410mm across with six-piston callipers, and they look beefy behind the 22-inch wheels, but it seems like they’re not up to the job of reigning in the car quickly enough, especially since the DBX is capable of racking up speed in an instant. Mid-range grunt is really strong too, as with all the force-fed modern SUVs with their eight, nine and ten-speed transmissions. In here it’s a drive-by-wire nine-speed, with an electronically controlled limited slip differential and a carbon fibre prop shaft. All in all this is a fine blend of performance and usability, and even the cabin is spacious enough for a family road trip.
Speaking of which, the interior is very well put together. Inevitably, there is just a bit too much of a Mercedes whiff about the whole thing though, specifically the infotainment system and the transmission tunnel console area. Hopefully that means everything will work the way it should, and there’s no criticising the fit and finish nor the quality materials on offer.
I would certainly consider the 2021 Aston Martin DBX over something like the Lamborghini Urus, regardless of the fact the Lambo is quicker everywhere. It’s also worth noting the Aston is cheaper than the Urus, starting from AED837,000 or around $227,000. Pound for pound, then, the DBX actually goes up against a specced-up Porsche Cayenne Turbo S pretty fairly, and I’d pick the Aston every day of the week.
2021 Aston Martin DBX
4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 | nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive | 542 horsepower and 700Nm of torque | zero to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 291km/h | AED836,538