Ah, the most powerful SUV* in the world…
Correct, assuming by your asterisk we’re leaving out American heavyweights like the Hellcat-powered Dodge Durango SRT and Jeep’s Trackhawk. Both produce over 700 hp, while the DBX 707 actually puts out 697 hp (707 refers to its horsepower metric). But it’s a very different type of car. Notably because it is still technically a prototype. You can tell by the stripes that are in no way a disguise.
Did you drive it on the track?
Yes, Aston’s Stowe Development Circuit at Silverstone. It didn’t start so well. Now, that might be oversharing, but it tells you something about Aston Martin. I asked Tobias Moers if he was involved in the approval of the new DBX 707. He gives me an incredulous look. I think he may have misunderstood me, so I ask again, “You know, were you involved in the development of the car before it was approved?” A pause, then: “It’s my car. I did it”.
Tobias Moers, for reference, is the CEO of Aston Martin. Not his technical director or his chassis guru. The buck-stops-here boss. Leaving aside the question of why he considers automotive development his job, it at least means he’s involved.
What is the result ?
A very different type of DBX. Harder, angrier. Almost a new type of Aston Martin, in fact, when you look at the current model range. Aston’s slogan for the DBS Superleggera is “a brute in a suit”. It’s still grown, still a GT, just more capable and engaging. It’s a cut above that in terms of aggressiveness, more in line with the Vantage F1 Edition. And it’s an SUV.
This perhaps indicates where the brand is heading in its new mid-engined future. We’re promised it’ll start with the Valkyrie – well – later this year. This gloveless assault is more aligned with the Lamborghini Urus and the more fearsome Porsche Cayennes. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s actively uncomfortable. It’s the noise, handling, speed and ability that deliver most of the aggressiveness – it’s there if you go looking for it in other words. In the Lambo, it’s hard to hide.
Aston just installed bigger turbos, didn’t they?
That’s the title, as beefier fans bumped the existing twin-turbo V8 to 155 hp and 148 lb-ft. Of course, that sets off an engineering chain reaction that includes a bigger grille for more cooling, a new wet-clutch version of the pinched nine-speed gearbox from a Merc-AMG E63 S, 23-inch wheels inches and giant 420mm carbon-ceramic brakes as standard (lowering total unsprung weight by 40kg), track widths increased by 60mm, launch control, improved suspension (front 55% stiffer upper shock mounts , fans de facto!) and a rear diffuser that looks like it’s trapped Daffy Duck underneath.
The gearing is shorter to boost sprinting, there’s launch control to help deliver 0-60mph in just 3.3 seconds and that 193mph top end.
Can the DBX chassis cope with this level of performance?
Surprisingly easily. The chassis isn’t the weak link here – it could, somewhat ridiculously, handle more power. Power delivery isn’t as urgent as in the Urus, those big turbos take a bit of a drag so there’s a slightly soft response as they fire up and then at the top of the rev range you experience a soft limiter just before 7,000 rpm rather than a hard cut. In between, you’re forced to back up and have a wonderful V8 gargling noise urging you on.
Gear changes aren’t as crisp as in the Lamborghini, aren’t triggered as instantly, but an Aston Martin isn’t a Lamborghini. It needs to have a broader use case. The Urus corners flat and hard, stiff control instead of finesse. The Aston has a bit of body roll, so you’re more aware of the approaching limits.
What happens beyond the limits?
Entertainment. In Sport+ mode (there’s a handy new rotary controller on the console to switch between modes), the 707 sends 95 per cent of torque to the rear axle. Be confident and push the throttle hard when cornering and the thing skids like an MX-5. Often 4WD cars seem confusing at this point, but although the DBX mixes the power forward, it remains predictable and stable. It’s a hoot. Completely irrelevant, but still a hoot.
But when he’s not talking about the 707, he’s still exiting corners engagingly. Rather than plowing nose-first, it comes out in neutral, with all four wheels working well. I’m most impressed with the rear axle, which feels calm and controlled. When cornering, the front sometimes jumps under heavy pressure. Admirable resistance to understeer, but the steering needs more weight to accurately communicate the forces involved.
Overall though, this thing rips around a track with precision and capability far beyond what you’d imagine from an Aston Martin SUV. It is this ability to the limit and beyond that makes the DBX 707 feel new and different than what has come before. Body control is impressive, balance and adjustability were uncanny, it feels well strapped in (unless you choose to be an absolute hooligan) and cruises around a circuit just as deftly (and probably quickly) than any super-sedan you want to mention. In fact, the biggest downside to the fast ride was the seats.
What’s wrong with the seats?
Too slippery and not reinforced enough. Especially the base of the seat. My body was held reasonably well, but my thighs were lapping everywhere. Engineers say specifying Alcantara seat centers really helps. Take note, if you plan to track your 707.
Literally, no one is going to do that. How is it at low speed?
Obviously, I didn’t drive it on the road, but I didn’t feel like it had been compromised too much. Ride comfort was good, as was refinement. You will distance yourself from the family on board and they are unlikely to complain. In my experience they do it in a Urus. Changes to the front subframe (additional bracing) provided better front wheel support, allowing the suspension to work more progressively. Hopefully these are changes that bring back the standard DBX.
The powertrain is happy to roam in GT mode, the sound of a distant rumble. This is how people will primarily drive and enjoy the DBX. And that’s gratifying – only on the edge would I want more grippy seats, more weight behind the wheel and a front end that’s as progressive and controlled as the rear.
How are the brakes?
Important given the speeds the 707 can reach and the fact that it weighs over 2.2 tons. Absolute stopping power is good but not outstanding, but fade resistance East downright exceptional. The pedal stays firm, the distances don’t increase, you have confidence.
What about his appearance?
I don’t think it went far enough. It’s too elegant. It seems that buyers of cars like this want them to be as big as possible. Yes, this gets bigger wheels and a more gaping front end, but it doesn’t look as aggressive as it actually is to drive. For example, Aston tried hard to make it look like it was riding lower, but without actually lowering the ride height. Shout out to the satin titanium gray paint – it’s lovely.
Will people buy it?
Absoutely. Whether or not they do these days is a matter of conscience. Remember that Europe is far ahead of the environmental curve and much more sensitive to social concerns than the markets of Asia, America and the Middle East which will benefit from it.
There are drawbacks, however, that will irritate buyers everywhere. Not the sticker price of £189,000 (£30,000 more than standard) – it just helps guarantee exclusively. There is still no touch screen. And what about the speed and horsepower figures that Aston places so much stock in and which we know still have great attraction for buyers? 707 hp, 3.3 at 62 and 193 mph. These are not massive changes in the SUV sphere.
193 mph is a few mph faster than a Bentley Bentayga W12 Speed or Lamborghini Urus (both 190 mph), while it matches the Porsche Cayenne GT at 62 mph (3.3 seconds). We’re also rumored to see a faster Urus this year, which will likely target 200mph and a sub-3.0 second sprint – benchmarks the DBX 707 fails to meet. Hopefully the inherent sophistication and desirability of the DBX allows it to do the trick. Plus, presumably, a quick lap of the ‘Ring.