First Drive: Aston Martin DBX707 2022 Review
However you feel about super SUVs, the DBX has been a boon for Aston Martin. In its short time on sale so far, its mission statement is all but fulfilled: sell by the bucket-load to a broader pool of customers and, in so doing, supercharge Aston’s unit volume and therefore, in theory, its viability as a business. For various reasons, the latter is seemingly always up for debate but that’s a discussion for another time. Now, after a couple of years, a new flagship variant, the DBX707, has joined the range, as no less than one of the most powerful Aston Martins ever made.
The DBX707 sounds, looks and feels like a skunkworks project never intended to be made. The reality is far from it. This is a series production variant that Aston expects to make up as much as 50 per cent of DBX volume going forward. Right from the off, our hunch is that this is closer to a realisation of the DBX’s full potential in the area most important to cynics and enthusiasts alike. Not as an SUV, but as an Aston Martin.
- Bombastic performance
- Quality chassis dynamics
- ‘Aston’ personality
We don't like
- Terrible last-gen infotainment
- Slightly dull steering
- Big wheels
That’s quite the mouth, isn’t it? It’s the first thing that hits us as we wander up to our Plasma Blue car. The DBX707 has undergone a number of visual changes, including that 25 per cent larger schnoz, which are all claimed by Aston’s creative director Marek Reichman to be functional. The added gurn gives a much-needed boost in cooling for the much more powerful upgraded Mercedes-AMG V8, with double-stacked heat exchangers flanking. More cooling means more drag, putting the aero on the wonk. The prominent new rear diffuser, spoiler and bigger rear vents are there to balance things out. The added visual drama as a compliment to those chunkier quad exhausts is a bonus with the DBX’s overall upgraded look representing, according to Reichman, a happy marriage of the goals of the design, engineering and aerodynamics teams.
In walking us around the car, Reichman explains his preference for the word design over styling because it implies a greater sense of function and purpose – function and form working in tandem, rather than style for style’s sake. In short, there’s nothing on the DBX707, however gratuitous, that’s there without reason. He also prefers the word purposeful as opposed to aggressive, with the latter not in keeping with the Aston remit as a gentleman’s sporting machine.
Once you’ve acclimatised to that grille, we’re inclined to say the 707 is a success, albeit one dependent on spec. Get it in F1 green with the lurid AMR highlights and the carbon accessory packs and it’s pretty gaudy. Get it in Minotaur Green with the smaller wheels and as little carbon as possible and the design settles down nicely. The DBX was always to our eyes the best-looking super SUV, and in adding, er, purpose, the 707 holds on to some of that essential Aston elegance. Next to the outlandishness of the Lamborghini Urus or the vulgarity of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, its composure is retained.
Performance and Handling
A flash of Mercedes ‘Black Series’ in the design is entirely appropriate, given what hides within. The DBX707 is named for its 707PS (520kW) 900Nm (664lb ft) punch, with the 4.0-litre AMG V8 getting new turbochargers courtesy of the AMG GT Black Series. That’s up 150PS and 200Nm from the standard car. There’s also an Aston-specific tune with an emphasis on high-rpm personality. This is one of those engines where the dyno graph really comes to life. It’s a peaky, rev-happy and effervescent mill, with an almost flat-plane sound and a frantic character. We’re told Aston even tuned the engine bay and transmission tunnel to allow specific frequencies from the drivetrain into the cabin, for a more mechanical sound.
The torque is monstrous, coming in, in full, from 4,500rpm and warp-driving you onwards as an oddly supercar-like V8 crescendo builds. Needless to say, Aston calls its 3.3-second 0-62mph time and 193mph top speed claims ‘conservative’. Based on how the 707 feels, this is a 200mph car. We could quite easily see this motor making for an entirely worthy V12-replacing Vantage flagship, though it would likely turn the Vantage’s gearbox to scrap metal before giving it a chance to make Mercedes-AMG uneasy.
All that said, it’s an engine that settles down once you’re out of ‘Sport+’ and back in ‘GT’ mode, which are selectable, among other driving modes, via a new and prominent rotary controller on the centre console. The Jekyll and Hyde character of the engine is a theme that permeates the rest of the car. The stronger new nine-speed multi-plate wet-clutch transmission is as comfortable wafting between ratios as it is executing a proper WRC-spec launch control (not possible in the standard car) and snapping home paddle-operated changes at a 40 per cent faster rate, with full manual control enabled via a long press of the rotary dial.
Likewise, the beefed-up chassis and suspension are as happy traversing too-tall mini roundabouts and speed humps as they are hurrying the hefty DBX707 with absolute control down a typical British B-road. Essential to the latter is Aston’s claim of a class-leading 52/48 front/rear weight distribution. Upgraded stiffer top mounts, uprated damper valving, the new front hydro-bush and recalibrated parameters for the three-chamber air suspension deliver outstanding control of its considerable c/2,300kg mass, with an expensive and sophisticated feel to the damping. The steering has been revised, too, and is well-calibrated with improved feel. Wound-up in ‘Sport+’ the DBX707 is near as damnit as capable as we can ever imagine a super SUV getting. To the right of the aforementioned rotary dial is traction control which, unlike in the standard DBX, can now be turned fully off via a long press. The advantage, in the concise words of the engineering team? ‘Drifting’.
Monster braking power comes courtesy of the new six-piston 420mm and 390mm (front and rear) ceramics. Incidentally, they also represent a 40kg overall saving in unsprung mass, aiding steering and turn-in feel. Then, when you’re pootling around town, those same supercar-spec brakes are entirely usable, responding to small inputs with zero snatch or temperature dependence. The calibration of the braking system is a particular point of pride for Senior Vehicle Engineering manager Andy Tokley.
Likewise, the ride in GT mode is exemplary, with only low-level surface disturbances rattling through, we suspect, via the new 23-inch wheels. Happily, 22s with more tyre sidewall are an option. There’s customisability too, with the suspension controllable independently via a button to the left of the rotary dial, allowing what we found to be a perfect combination of the ‘Sport’ or ‘GT’ suspension modes, with the aggressive ‘Sport+’ powertrain.
In short, the DBX suffers not a shade for its added performance and hopped-up chassis as a day-to-day road car. Even the (lofty) emissions and (peaky) economy of the standard car are retained in spite of the power boost.
Our only complaint really is that the DBX707 is so damn capable, its limits are far beyond reach in road use. There’s a sense of a lively chassis character but nothing more at legal speeds. The fettled steering, while not entirely devoid of fizz, is a bit distant too, though we congratulate Aston on very deliberately shirking a variable ratio rack. That along with a rear-steering system would have improved urban mobility but, in out-of-touch road test world, the DBX707 is better for lacking both.
Purely to appearances, at least to our eyes, the cabin of the DBX has been the most successful in this ‘new generation’ of Aston Martins. The larger 10.3-inch screen is far better integrated, clearer and nicer to look at, than those of the DB11, DBS and Vantage. While quite button-ey, especially on the steering wheel, it’s not the mess of the Vantage’s centre console and dash, which was dated on arrival. That said, it’s nowhere near up to date with some other modern luxury cars, even considering that many more direct rivals aren’t to 2022 standards either given most are later into their product cycles. The driver display being all digital deprives the 707 of some typical Aston personality and tactility, but the user interface is nice enough, and adaptable.
The DBX’s cabin is a lovely place to be, though. The design itself is a winner, treading a fine line between luxurious and sporty, with nice materials everywhere you look. Everything you touch often is of a really satisfying quality, giving the impression of money well spent, from the steering wheel, to the paddles, to the centre console buttons, to the door handles. As above, specific to the 707 is that rotary dial controlling the driving modes, which doesn’t look too shoehorned, giving the impression of something out of a fighter jet. It wasn’t the most tactile in feel but we’re told this was a prototype unit and not production representative. Overall, everything will feel a bit sturdier in a Bentayga but with that added nagging feeling of the Volkswagen family relation.
We’d have as much of the nicer-feeling dark satin chrome interior jewellery in here as possible, over the gaudy carbon fibre, which unfortunately in the case of the centre console of this flagship, isn’t optional. The sportier form-hugging seats of the 707 might not fit some broader body types too well but they’re in no way abrasive or uncomfortable. Space wise, there’s excellent headroom and legroom in both the front and back, thanks to the bespoke platform designed to with aesthetics and practicality in mind. There’s a great view out too.
Technology and Features
What categorically drags this and all other current Astons down is that worse-than-last-generation Mercedes digital interface, complete with the click pad and wheel. It’s fine once you’re used to it, but for fresh brains used to more modern systems, this will really be a bit of an enigma, especially given the screen isn’t touch sensitive. Its saving grace is the inclusion of Apple CarPlay, which will save iPhone users from a user interface that is a genuine Achilles heel for these cars.
Otherwise, the DBX is appointed feature and technology wise as you would expect given its place in the marketplace. This is as much a luxury car – effectively replacing the Rapide saloon and rivalling the likes of the Bentley Flying Spur as well as the Bentayga – as it is a high-riding truck. As such, the heated steering wheel and heated and cooled seats are a welcome addition, though a massage function would be nice. Soft-close doors join as standard too going forward, along with wireless phone charging.
It’s not absolutely laden with the ultimate in luxurious features, but it doesn’t feel entirely left behind. There’s an optional power tailgate and towbar, while on the inside the premium audio system is standard. Obviously the options for special packages on this car are enormous, from the pet package which includes a dog partition, portable washer, rear bumper protector and dog accessory holder, to the event package which kits the boot out with a bench, a fridge and drinks flutes. There’s even an adventure package adding roof bars, wet bag storage and heavy-duty tread plates. Quite what effect the roof bars have on that carefully balanced aero remains to be seen.
The truth is that the DBX707 is authentically an Aston Martin, in that you’ll forgive its foibles for that essential and intangible Aston Martin-ness. There’s an extra sense of specialness, to go with outstanding performance and delightful dynamics to honestly and effectively rival the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT and Lamborghini Urus. Remember, though it has that sense of a ‘special’ model like the V12 Vantage, there’s no production limit. Aston will build as many 707s as it gets orders for and anticipates 50 per cent of DBXs will be this flagship going forward. We’re not surprised, given the relatively low £25,000 starting premium over the standard car.
No, the interior tech and quality isn’t quite there to match the likes of the Bentley Bentayga but seemingly against the odds, it has instilled that intangible Aston Martin ‘want’ factor into this monster SUV. There’s zero sense that this is a cynical badge job, because it really isn’t. That’s quite the achievement and one that remaining protagonists yet to enter the super SUV space will do well to emulate. Your move, Maranello.
|Engine||4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol|
|Power||707PS (512kW) @ 6,000rpm|
|Torque||900Nm (664lb ft) @ 4,500rpm|
|Transmission||Multi-plate wet clutch nine-speed auto, all-wheel-drive|
|Fuel economy||19.9mpg (combined)|
Reviewed by Ethan Jupp