We are lucky in the UAE to have some of the world’s best roads intertwined with amazing off-road trails that are seemingly made for a luxury SUV like the new Aston Martin DBX. This is Aston’s first attempt at building an off-roader and, in the space of one day, I managed to experience the DBX in three environments where it felt equally at home.
The presence of the big Aston parked in the forecourt of a five-star hotel in Ras Al Khaimah was immediate. It grabbed the attention of surrounding guests as they called up their cars from the valet and it sailed through the important hotel driveway, first impressions test.
Off-roading in an Aston Martin
The next step was to drive it where no Aston Martin has ventured before, off road and through the Hajar Mountains. While I was prepared to be sceptical, the prodigious torque from its Mercedes-derived, 4-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine was a perfect partner to the adjustable air-suspension that raised its ride height by 45mm to make light work of the rocky trails.
The engine has some unique characteristics compared to its AMG cousin, with different power and torque curves thanks to Aston-specific turbos, charge coolers, compression ratio and exhausts that give a distinctive note, separate from the baritone rumbles found in the Mercedes AMG products.
Also exclusive to the DBX is a nine-speed automatic transmission that’s linked to an active central differential and an electronic limited slip rear diff to deliver 542bhp to all four wheels. This ensured that whenever one or two wheels were free-wheeling, drive was diverted to those doing the work, which allowed for a smooth run across the rough stuff.
Zero to 100 in 4.5 seconds
After getting its side skirts dirty, it was time to take the DBX to the smooth, sealed mountain roads for the third phase in an environment where Astons traditionally excel. It was here where its Jekyll and Hyde persona flicked from family-sized rock climber to selfish, driver-focused sports car.
With maximum power at 6500rpm, the DBX easily spins to the redline, while the 700Nm of torque that helped it crawl through the off-road trails, turned its attention to making molehills out of mountains as it rocketed up the windy road like a two-door sportster.
Aston claims it will get from zero to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds and on to 291km/h, yet the most impressive part of the DBX, for me, was its explosive, mid-range punch that worked in cohesion with the adaptive suspension to soak up bumps and gave the feeling it was hugging the road in a way a large SUV should not be capable of achieving.
From desert to dinner
The design team has cleverly managed to disguise its size as it looks smaller than the realities of the tape measure, which has the DBX closer to the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus and Mercedes GLS450, despite appearing to be a class smaller.
Step inside and this is confirmed with extensive headroom in the front and loads of rear head, shoulder and knee room, capped by 632 litres of luggage space.
The wind noise from the door mirrors is noticeable at speed and is likely amplified by the use of pillarless doors that, like the Lamborghini Urus, look great but are harder to seal from the outside world than regular units.
However, the door skins also drop down over the lower sills so that you don’t get sand or mud on your clothes when you climb in. Perfect for when it needs to take you from desert to dinner.
A 10.25-inch TFT infotainment display lies in the centre console and unusually for a new car, is operated via rotary buttons instead of touch control, so while it’s not as intuitive at first use, the upside is you won’t get dirty finger marks on the screen, plus it works with Apple and Android Auto.
Class of its own
The DBX’s road manners are complete and you can appreciate that this has been designed from a clean sheet of paper to be the DBX and nothing else, in that it doesn’t share its platform with other models so therefore is not a compromise which is something most of its competitors cannot boast.
It’s even built at its own new factory in Wales, which eventually will also become the centre for Aston’s future electric vehicle production but for now is home to the DBX. That shows the commitment Aston Martin has given its first attempt at an SUV and on that basis alone, the DBX should be on your shortlist of luxury contenders.