2021 Aston Martin DBX review: Hardly heresy

This is Aston’s next big thing.

Jessica Lynn Walker / Aston Martin

Look, the DBX had to happen. I love Aston Martin’s sports cars as much as the rest of you, but if the company wants to remain relevant – and more importantly, solvent – in the long run, adding an SUV to the lineup is the right move. It’s not just a trend, it’s a business necessity. See also: the Porsche Cayenne, Lamborghini Urus, et al.

Like it

  • Excellent twin-turbo V8
  • Easy handling
  • Comfortable ride quality
  • Luxurious interior

I do not like

  • Infotainment technology is super old
  • Transmission could be smoother

If history has taught us anything, it’s that sports car-born SUVs are still pretty damn good. So why should DBX be any different? The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 comes from Mercedes-AMG and produces 542 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, so there’s always power available whenever you need it. The V8 sounds fantastic – especially through the optional sports exhaust ($ 2,300) – and this engine provides enough motivation to shoot the big DBX at 60 mph in 4.3 seconds.

I also say this when I say big. This SUV is almost deceptively large. In photos, and even in person from some angles, it looks as big as a Porsche Macan. But at 198.4 inches long, 80.7 inches wide and 66.1 inches tall, it’s actually bigger than a Porsche Cayenne. The DBX is an inch and a half longer than a standard wheelbase Range Rover. But you don’t really notice the huge size until it’s time to slip the Aston into a parallel parking lot. Good news: a 360-degree camera is standard.

Despite its stature, the DBX is surprisingly agile. Adaptive air suspension and 48-volt anti-roll technology keep the DBX flat and composed when cornering, with the torque vectoring all-wheel drive system managing power delivery to each wheel. The steering is quick and makes the DBX eager to dive into a turn; this Aston never seems to be too much to handle on a narrow canyon road. It’s long and wide, sure, but if there’s enough asphalt between the lines on the road, the DBX is happy to get busy.

Everything is alright; an Aston Martin SUV should be fast and agile. But just as important is the DBX’s ability to relax the F and roll around town comfortably. So I’m pleased that the three-chamber air suspension is perfectly suited to provide a cuddly ride through the city streets. Even with its larger 22-inch wheels, the DBX is never too stiff for everyday driving and doesn’t give up a trail of winding road credibility.

The DBX is as fantastic to drive in the city as it is on winding roads.

Jessica Lynn Walker / Aston Martin

The only part of the DBX’s on-road experience that I’m not sold on is the nine-speed automatic transmission. It’s a bit silly at times and doesn’t respond quickly to manual inputs from the big, nice metal paddles (which are mounted on the steering column, what is the correct way). On the other hand, the transmission lets the DBX come out at the top end of each gear without much convincing, which is great for enjoying the V8 entry. Of course, this takes a toll on fuel economy, so good luck hitting the EPA’s estimated 15 miles per gallon combined. But. However, you are not buying this thing for its frugality.

Instead, it’s the luxury you are looking for and the DBX primarily delivers. The interior is like, 95% great and 5% awful. It looks all right and I love the way the dashboard is sculpted. Most of the surfaces are upholstered in soft leather, the front seats are incredibly comfortable and there’s plenty of legroom in the back. But it’s the little details where the DBX starts to lose me. The air intakes are flimsy, the plastic gear selector buttons look cheap, the pictures on the center console are a bit crappy, and all of the Mercedes-Benz origin parts look and feel like the decade-old parts that are .

This also applies to the infotainment technology. Yes, the DBX has a nice 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.2-inch display in the center console. But the latter uses the same old-old Mercedes-Benz COMAND technology as the other Astons: fonts, graphics and everything else lackluster. The only positive is that Apple CarPlay is finally available, although annoyingly it doesn’t take up the full width of the display. Android Auto? Hah. Good.

The cabin is super luxurious, but the multimedia technology leaves a lot to be desired.

Jessica Lynn Walker / Aston Martin

Normally I’d say that in-car tech isn’t very important with an Aston Martin, and that’s probably true in something like a Vantage or DBS Superleggera. But in the DBX SUV, it’s a little harder to excuse, as this is a vehicle that will truly be used as a daily driver. At least a ton of driver assistance technology comes standard, including adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance and blind spot monitoring. You’d be surprised how rare it is in ultra-luxurious space to get those niceties for free.

Aston Martin says the DBX has some legitimate off-road skills, and my colleague Henry Catchpole managed to wade through those waters (not literally, unfortunately) when tested the SUV last year. You can raise the air suspension and put the DBX into a Terrain Plus ride mode, and there’s also hill descent control. I have no doubt this SUV will easily handle your snowiest commutes or the two muddiest tracks. But like other SUVs with dress pants, the most dangerous land the DBX will likely encounter is a wet hill on the way to your summer house. So yeah, everything will be fine.

The DBX has a lot of space in the back, although not as much as you might think considering its size. You’ll find 22.3 cubic feet of space behind the second row of seats and they have 40/20/40 split folding capabilities, so go ahead, take the Aston to Home Depot. However, the cargo floor is set quite high off the ground and the shape of the cargo compartment is a bit awkward, largely thanks to the sloping roofline it forms before function.

The rear of the DBX is the only part of the design that I don’t like.

Jessica Lynn Walker / Aston Martin

Which brings me to the design of the DBX, which I admit I don’t love, even though it’s growing on me. From the front three-quarter view, I’m sold and the familiar resemblance to other Aston products is clear. From the rear, however, it’s almost as if Aston is trying too hard to make the DBX look like the smallest Vantage, and the odd duck-tail design feels like it’s just hooked onto the hatch. Even in profile, everything looks great until your eyes hit the C-pillar, at which point the otherwise elegant shape flakes off. The appearance of the DBX also depends on the color. It’s not that bad in the dull gray of the car in these photos, but it’s actually a little better in more vibrant options. Check the fantastic purple of the car I tested (which I swear I photographed, but my camera’s image card dumped before I could process the images).

However, the DBX looks, sounds and feels like an Aston, and that’s really all that matters. Its starting price of $ 179,986 (including $ 3,086 for the destination) means that the DBX costs about as much as a Bentley Bentayga and you can customize it to your liking. More to the point, the DBX has enough cache and swagger to be taken seriously as a competitor to the Bentayga and other hifalutin SUVs. And considering I’ve already seen more customer DBX SUVs around Los Angeles than any other new Aston, I’d say it really was a smart business move.