Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
As we mentioned earlier, the 4.0-litre turbo V8 engine you’ll find under the DBX’s vast bonnet is sourced from the tremendous Mercedes-AMG E63 S. In this application it produces 542bhp and 516ft lb of torque, and can propel the 2.2 tonne DBX to 62mph from standstill in just 4.5sec. Find a stretch of (private) tarmac long enough and it’ll carry on to 181mph.
Of course, when you compare those figures back-to-back with the 641bhp Lamborghini Urus, a car capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in just 3.5 seconds, the raw performance of the DBX looks altogether less impressive. But it’s important to remember that an engine is about more than just numbers; in a performance SUV, it needs to be enjoyable to use.
Happily, the DBX’s V8 is one of the most characterful, giggle-inducing engines on the market. For one thing, it makes a hell of a noise. If you don’t want to upset the neighbours, perhaps think about the quieter Bentley Bentayga or Porsche Cayenne instead, because even small accelerator inputs have the DBX gurgling, snarling and crackling from its twin exhaust pipes.
We think it sounds wonderful, but more than that, it’s genuinely lovely to use. Flex your right foot and you’ll find the accelerator response is impressive for a turbocharged engine; the V8 pulls effortlessly from just about tickover all the way to the red line. And although the nine-speed automatic gearbox doesn’t respond to paddle pulls quite as immediately as the PDK gearbox in the Cayenne, it still feels impressively snappy in Sport mode, and flicks between gears intelligently in auto mode.
But what about the handling? Well, for something that weighs well over two tonnes, the DBX feels surprisingly composed, controlled and agile, even in its most relaxed GT mode. There’s perhaps a little more body lean than you might first expect when you really up the pace, but the naturally-weighted, linear steering gives you massive confidence to place the DBX exactly where you want it on the road.
You’ll want to have the car in Sport or Sport+, however, if you want to delve deeper into the DBX’s dynamic reserves. With the latter, most extreme mode selected, the air suspension hunkers down by 50mm and the clever active anti-roll bars help to prop the tall body up in the bends. Of course, we’ve experienced the wonders of active anti-roll bars on everything from the Urus to the Audi SQ8; they help to give those cars immense point to point pace. But in the DBX, they’re also used to help you play with the balance of the car with absolute confidence, providing an extra layer of driving involvement that’s missing from virtually all of the Aston’s rivals. Like they might in a far lower, lighter sports car, a skilled driver can pin the DBX’s front tyres firmly into a bend and pivot the rear end of the car around them in a graceful slide.
It is worth noting, however, that Sport+ mode is best reserved for the track or billiard table-smooth sections of road, because even with the three-chamber air suspension slackened off in GT mode, harsher abrasions such as potholes and sunken drain covers will send the odd thump and clunk through the suspension and into the interior. Ultimately, if comfort is your top priority, the softer, less focused Bentaya or Rolls Royce Cullinan would be a better bet.
When it comes to more traditional SUV pursuits than haring around on a track, its relatively firm ride might lead you to think that the DBX would be a bit rubbish off road, but that’s simply not the case. Thanks to the DBX’s air suspension and those clever anti-roll bars, selecting the Terrain or Terrain Plus mode allows the car to transform into a surprisingly capable off-roader; with the body raised by up to 45mm, you easily have enough clearance to tackle rough country trails or to wade through up to 500mm of water.
Even on 22in wheels and mid-range all-season tyres (winter tyres and performance tyres are also available) there’s easily enough traction on mud for fairly steep climbs and descents, with standard-fit electronic Hill Descent Control making the latter a breeze. Of course, most won’t dare to venture off-road in their premium SUV, but it’s good to know you won’t get stuck if you do.
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