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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Review: 2021 Aston Martin DBX 

When Aston Martin unveiled its first SUV, called the DBX, it was in November 2019 in Austin, Texas. Actually, it wasn’t officially unveiled there; I saw it and sat in it and gave it the old once-over there but it wasn’t really introduced to the world until a week or two later at the Beijing Auto Show in China and the Los Angeles Auto Show in this part of the world. A simultaneous introduction, as it were.

So how come I got to be so lucky and pretty much beat the world when it came to laying eyes on this car? Give me a paragraph to explain.

I was in Phoenix the morning before after an Infiniti unveiling the previous evening. I was flown from there to Truth or Consequences, N.M., which is in the middle of the desert, where a place called Spaceport America is located (it’s where Richard Branson took his sub-orbital flight the other day and my plane must have landed on the same special airstrip where he took off and came down). After I drove the Infiniti, I was shuttled to El Paso, Texas for a cross-state flight to Austin for the U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. I left Phoenix at eight in the morning and got to Austin just before midnight. It was a long day. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.

The next morning, I met Aston’s then-president and CEO, Dr. Andy Palmer, who was the guy who came up with the idea of an Aston Martin SUV. Palmer has since been furloughed – Aston Martin is now owned by Montreal businessman Lawrence Stroll – but the DBX was his baby and he was pleased as punch to be able to give me and about a dozen other automotive journalists a sneak peek.

I wrote about it at the time. Palmer told me in a one-on-one interview that surveys and studies showed that 72 per cent of Aston Martin sports-car owners at that time had an SUV in their garage and why give up that amount of business to other manufacturers when Aston Martin could very easily start building its own?

He said – boasted, in fact – that the goal was to make the DBX the best-looking SUV in the world.  “It’s like a Savile Row suit,” he said. “It’s been made to your specification and it’s been made with passion. DBX is the most beautiful of all the SUVs.”

He might be right.

Two things got in the way of him proving his thesis, however: the 2019 automotive downturn, and then COVID-19 came out of nowhere. While I’m sure there won’t be any tag days for Dr. Palmer, the coronavirus stopped the marketing of the DBX almost in its tracks. Only in recent months has the company warmed up for a full-court press to sell, sell, sell.

Now, when I talked to the former president, and got the cook’s tour of the car, I was amazed at how much room there was inside it. I seriously thought it might be an optical illusion of sorts until one of the women in our group, who was a mite – she was from Chicago, recently married and seriously in love with her husband’s cooking – hopped right into the trunk area to show the rest of us just how much room there really was back there: 632 litres of trunk space, to be exact, which can be enlarged by folding down the rear seats.

That sense of roominess, by the way, could be attributed not only to the woman fitting in there ever so perfectly but to the brightness as well, brought about by the full-length glass roof.

So, there’s lots of room. The luxury component is almost without parallel. Hand-stitched leather is everywhere and there’s polished wood and lots and lots of aluminum. There’s no shifter; on-off, drive, reverse, park, etc. are buttons within reach in the centre of the dashboard. Seats are ventilated and heated. I had no trouble with the infotainment, or anything else, for that matter. However, as I’ve said before about other high-end vehicles, for $200,000 (which is close to the MSRP), I expect a lot. In fact, for that kind of money, I don’t expect to be disappointed by anything.

Let’s talk about the power. The twin-turbo 4.0 litre V8, which churns out 542 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, is paired with a nine-speed automatic, which is plenty except for people who might want to take this car to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for a track day. But for you and me, it’s all good. You can have all-wheel drive or rear-wheel (torque can be transferred to the front wheels if you start to slip and slide in mud or on ice).

Everything in the propulsion department, though, is borrowed from shareholder Daimler (Mercedes AMG). Cylinder on-off can help to save on fuel; mileage is approximately 5.952 L/100 kms city; 7.653 L/100kms highway. I imagine that the time is not far off when Aston will start to produce its own engines; the Formula One team of the same name and owned by the same fella, is working hard to make its power unit competitive in that big league and a return on investment could come by putting a version of that motor into a road car.

Okay, the DBX has adjustable ride height (it can be raised by 45 millimetres and lowered by 50) to enable it to be driven off-road. It also is capable of towing anything up to 2,695 kilograms. Now, I know manufacturers such as Aston Martin have to provide this ability, and guys like me have to put it in these reviews, but this is a $200,000 car. Let’s gets real: anybody who ponies up that amount of money for a car like this will never, ever, in a million years, drive it into a hayfield. Not even Justin Bieber in his heyday would do that. This car belongs on pavement, where you will probably always find it.

To drive this car is to drive a dream. It is a sports car and an SUV in one. Leave a traffic light and you feel like you’re being shot out of a cannon. The car stops on a dime. You can’t feel the bumps on the road and that’s saying a lot because Toronto’s roads are pocked with craters. The steering is as precise as can be; the handling is superb. This is what you’ve spent your money on. Everything else is fancy but the drive is what you live for.

The MSRP starts at $203,500 and goes up to $218,400, plus the usual add-ons. You can shop at two Aston dealerships in the GTA – downtown Toronto and Vaughan,

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