Regal Rager: Aston’s very first attempt at SUVs has spy-like sophistication and speed

The lowdown on the hottest rides in town

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Thu 13 Apr 2023, 9:46 PM

One of the few British auto companies that are holding up the national fort is Aston Martin. The island nation’s pride is a favourite, in my books owing to its history, rolling examples of power and poise; and its association with the very ironic-sounding, world-famous secret agent 007.

Keeping with the times the company has diversified its portfolio and done the inevitable. And no, it’s not yet another electric vehicle. They instead brought their talents to the SUV segment. And Tada, the DBX was born. And our first taste of it came in the form of the even mightier and aptly named variant called the DBX707.

Design & Aesthetics

When designing a lifestyle SUV, one can go either way. It can either be endowed with a rugged and boxy outlook like the G-Class or Defender or take on a uber-sporty silhouette and draw major cues from supercars like the Urus. Aston has chosen the latter and smashed it out of the park with the DBX in terms of design.

Stature-wise, it may look like a mid-sizer but it is a very large vehicle measuring 5039 mm bumper to bumper. Aston designers have somehow managed to disguise its proportions brilliantly. And there is a huge amount of detail carefully curated and incorporated into every aspect of the beautiful bodywork, right from the widest grille in the auto industry that sits afront the familiar and sharp Aston nose, to the ducts and vents and deliberate dents in the metallic skin, to the slimmest rear lights we’d ever seen. And all the lines come together in such a swoopy manner; you can almost see the movement of the wind across its body. And we guarantee you that you’d love that 2-spoiler arrangement and the gun-barrel-like quad exhausts that are ready to give its rivals a 21-gun salute after a bad beat at the drag strip. I must say, the DBX with its many enhancements that make it the DBX707 is truly impressive in the flesh, and they’ve perfected the SUV profile, unlike the Cayenne Coupe which looks like an afterthought, or the X6, which is a tad overdesigned. Fancy one? A ticket to ride this particular example in this Satin Titanium Grey — Sardinia paint scheme and special black 23-inch wheels will cost you a million.

And you can see that a good measure of Aston’s aesthetic genius has been thrown into the interiors as well. There is an air of sophistication that envelopes you as you sit cocooned in the cockpit with all the controls right where you want them, except for the power windows switch and the dash-mounted transmission buttons, which require a stretch. But no complaints about the richness exuded by ribbed leather carbon fiber-backed seats, the crisscrossing panelling on the doors and dash and the genuine metallic trims. And with so much going on in the beautifully complex array of controls on the centre console it’s hard not to think of oneself as 007 on a mission.

Also, with all that material and craftmanship poured in, the DBX707 almost feels like a value proposition… which is very difficult to achieve at this price point. And the build quality is of another level as compared to previous gen’ Astons.

The entry and exit are made easy thanks to its ride height which is in the Goldilocks zone. The rear door has a gas strut mechanism that works in a cantilever fashion, which is mighty special, at least the geeks would think so. And thanks to the auto soft-closing function, you can care less if you’ve left the door ajar, as a nervous celebrity would. And once inside, you can find your perfect seating position, thanks to the 16-way power adjustments that Aston has provided and the view from the driver’s seat is optimal. The rear is equally accommodating but is best suited for two adults — it’s no Range Rover in terms of space.

As for the tech bits, the 10.25-inch TFT central display is livid and of a decent size, but the rotary knob-style controller borrowed from a last-gen’ Mercedes feels a tad archaic in 2023.

Powertrain & Performance

Every single engine is assembled by one person, so you know whom to respect or blame if things go a certain way. But it’s all admiration for the outputs of the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 (which has been pilfered from Mercedes and tweaked by Aston Martin). The dyno’ reads a prodigious 707 PS and 900 Nm of torque at full steam. That’s 157 PS and 200 Nm over the “regular” DBX. That’s not a bump, that’s a whole Toyota Corolla worth of potency added, just for fun. And it puts down the power to all 4 wheels via a 9-speeder.

And if you find a place safe enough, you can sample that prodigious power via the ‘Race start’ function. Rev it up and throw down the hammer, and you’d quite easily match the 0 to 100 km/h time of 3.3 seconds, which is quicker than Ferrari Enzo, mind you! So it’s blisteringly quick, but it is far from being a one-trick pony. Even with so much ‘GO’ it’s so drivable on the streets as we found out, jetting about the roads of Dubai.

The real miracle is that this vehicle, which weighs 2,245 kg can shave off those scary speeds just as quickly, thanks to the 420 mm carbon ceramic rotors upfront, grabbed by 6 piston callipers and a slightly smaller 390 mm dia. rotors at the rear. And they work great to bring you down to safe speeds, without being too grabby or having too much play.

Unfortunately, neither is the movement between the ratios the smoothest nor has the algorithm been mapped out to perfection, which means there are mild intrusions in the transmission of power, but it would take a keen eye to notice it. Alternatively, you can pull those giant carbon fibre shifters to tame the transmission and get it to work the way you want whilst being entertained. Also, the exhaust note is a tad muted for my liking — nothing like the other Astons in the range, which is a bit of a bummer. But the consolation is knowing that it is louder on the outside than on the inside.

It also achieves the lateral dynamism it deserves, thanks to several factors including a fancy triple-chamber air suspension which is height adjustable. It can be raised by up to 45 mm for challenging terrain or lowered by 50 mm for better access and aerodynamics at speed. This combined with the e-diff (with the ability to send up to 100% of the torque to the rear), the eARC (Electronic Active Roll Control) system and the massive grip offered by the giant tyres (285-section upfront and 325-section at the rear) helps you control the yaw angles effortlessly. This means you can drift on demand on the track… or focus on the racing line and get to your next appointment on time without worry. All of this is achieved, but not at the cost of ride comfort.

Practicality & Features

Aston is out to spoil its customers with every creature comfort and safety feature possible. You can adjust the ambient lighting to up to 64 hues although anything more than the rainbow’s seven is just overkill. It comes equipped with ventilated seats (front and rear) and an aircon that worked really well in terms of draft and chill factor but there was some whistling from the rear vents, which was annoying and unexpected. Perhaps, it was a one-off.

The DBX707 comes with adaptive cruise control to help you coast on long hauls and a 360 camera to put you at ease while parking. It also comes with auto park assist, blind spot assist and a whole lot more. You won’t get a butler with this one but an electronic chaperone to ward you off perilous situations, has been accounted for.

The music system is a very decent, performing 800-Watt unit with 14 speakers supplied by Aston themselves. But for a little extra, you can opt for a B&O, which I think you ought to. You wouldn’t ask Bose to build you a boat, would you? It also gets Bluetooth and a wireless charger.

Pigs ain’t flying, but for once we do have an Aston that is truly practical with a boot space rated at 600-plus litres, which is greater than its close rival the Cayenne Coupe Turbo GT. The accessibility is amazing too via the power tailgate. It also comes with an electrically employable towbar; in case you have a shiny Airstream RV or jet skis to haul.

Verdict

This 2023 Aston Martin DBX707 presents itself as an exquisitely styled, tarmac-spitting beast that can shred the egos of those driving other sporty SUVs or coupes. Its broad breadth of abilities, from being a rolling showpiece to being a muscle car at will to being a comfortable family wagon almost makes it a front-runner for the COTY awards. But the dated infotainment, transmission mapping, and muted exhausts leave some things to be desired.

Either way, have a look at it, drive it, and be prepared to be shaken, not stirred. This may be the only SUV that 007 would approve of.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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