(Pocket-lint) - Some may have rolled their eyes when Aston Martin launched its DBX. SUVs are definitely the hot trend, but performance SUVs?
Well, the company's accountant isn't likely to be on that list of eye rollers, as the DBX is credited with driving sales for the brand. Such is the universal appeal of SUVs, although credit where credit is due, the DBX isn't just any SUV from any brand.
With all that in mind, the evolution to a more powerful SUV shouldn't be a surprise: the DBX707 is so named because it delivers 707PS - more than the Lamborghini Urus, Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT or the Audi RSQ8 - with Aston Martin wanting to remind us that there's a lot of racing heritage behind it.
The DBX707 aims to be the most powerful luxury SUV on the road and who else would you want that from than a bone fide racing car company like Aston Martin? It's the experience of the drive that sells this car and for the few who might be able to afford it, it's a treat to be behind the wheel.
It has its downsides of course. For all the practicality that its SUV format delivers - the infotainment system won't compete with the mainstream. The addition of Apple CarPlay makes that the realistic choice - just plug in your iPhone and off you go, it's a shame that's not extended to Android users too.
But for all that the Aston Martin DBX707 is impressive, there's no avoiding the fact that this sort of machine might not be long for this world. With electrification accelerating - and bringing its own driving thrills - there will be a point in the future when we look back at something like the Aston Martin DBX707 and reflect on its ludicrous brilliance.
Aston Martin DBX707
- It's beautiful to drive
- Quality and refinement in interior
- It's actually practical
- 707 looks better than the standard DBX
- The infotainment system is a little basic
- Centre console a little cluttered
At first glance the Aston Martin DBX707 looks pretty much the same as the "normal" DBX, but on second glance you'll find it's better looking. Most of the changes are around the nose, with a 30 per cent bigger grille, allowing more ventilation through to the brakes and into the engine bay.
There's no denying that this is an aggressive-looking thing and on this DBX707 version, there seems to be carbonfibre bursting out everywhere. Befitting its positioning, that visible carbon weave is no surprise, emerging from the bonnet, the wings and tipping the rear spoiler - and that's without mentioning just about every interior surface.
Aston has pulled off something of a feat, creating an SUV that mirrors its sports cars without losing a grasp on that sporty edge, except perhaps around the sculpting on the rear end, which we still think looks a little odd on this expanded scale.
Not that you'll mind sitting behind the wheel of a £190,000 performance SUV. But the quad exhaust and diffuser will soon draw your eye down, leaving you with the excitement you expect from a sports car - especially when the engine is running and that deep V8 burble comes through.
It's also a design that plays tricks on the eyes. Sometimes it looks big like an SUV, sometimes it looks sleeker and lower, which all comes down to how those lines draw the eyes into it.
There is the option for 23-inch wheels over the 22-inch standard to boost the road presence, and what better way to show off the carbon ceramic brakes with those huge callipers? There are also a wide range of colour and customisation options that Aston Martin offers, so you never have to feel like you're driving something that's stock and risk parking next to the exact same car at the golf course.
Just one look tells you the DBX707 is fast and amusingly, while introducing us to the car, an Aston Martin spokesperson said of the 193mph top speed, that if you wanted to go faster, you need to not be in an SUV.
A sporty but practical interior
What might come as a surprise is that when you slip into the interior - avoiding the need to drop to almost floor level to get in - you have a practical space. This is an Aston Martin with a backseat that will seat three while doing 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds.
A note for those examining our pictures with close scrutiny: the interior on this model is pre-production, so not all the switches are finished with the same precision you'll get when you buy one for yourself.
The front seats are (unsurprisingly) sculpted and we found them supremely comfortable, with enough support to keep you in place when cornering fast on normal roads. You get sports seats on the 707 as standard. We've not driven the DBX707 on the track, so we can't comment on how they perform under tougher conditions, but in daily use they're just sublime.
The layout of the interior cocoons you, so it feels more like a serious sports car, but there's plenty of space - and some clever use of that space. While the centre console is raised, there's space beneath it, including a handy wireless charging tray for your phone. And yes, the lining of that tray seems to be grippy enough to keep the phone in place even when cornering on country roads faster that you probably should.
Dressed in carbonfibre with big stitching to finish the leather treatment, the centre console is a little busy. Aston Martin isn't following the sort of minimalisation that the Tesla Model X made fashionable, so there are plenty of buttons to be found.
But it does ditch the drive selector, with buttons placed high on the dash, above the display. It's perhaps an odd position for those, but there's some charm in massive P R N D buttons, flanking the start button. It's not too dissimilar to the arrangement in the Fiat 500e, amusingly.
Jokes aside, the effect is that the 10.25-inch display is positioned a little lower than optimal in this car, so glancing at the central screen means looking down rather than it falling into your eyeline when looking through the windscreen. For practical everyday driving - which the DBX707 is surprisingly good at - that's a minor downside.
The central controls are lovingly wrapped in carbonfibre, and sees the drive mode selector dial sitting close to the infotainment clickwheel (try not to select the wrong one) and, in an interesting decision, there's a touchpad that's positioned over the top of the infotainment clickwheel.
It looks and feels like the palm rest you'll find in many cars (Mercedes most notably and unsurprisingly because it's based on Mercedes' platform) but it's touch enabled, so you might find yourself selecting things you don't want while trying to use the wheel. Before you worry about this being a huge UX nightmare, you can turn off the touchpad in the settings which makes everything much more useable.
Also getting an update in the DBX707 is the cupholder. Yes, so humble an item but so critical to modern living, it's been redesigned to accommodate a wider range of cup sizes based on customer feedback.
There's plenty of practical space in the rear of the DBX707, along with a 638-litre boot - which is seriously useful - so if you've got the cash, the DBX707 is perfectly good on the school run or for nipping to the supermarket.
To top it all off there are soft close doors, so there's no need to slam them when you get out, just push them closed and they take care of the rest.
Before we get to the part of the Aston that's really core to the experience - driving - we come to the tech. As we've already mentioned, there's the potential for confusion with the interaction through the doubling up on control options on this system that's borrowed from Mercedes.
It's not going to win any awards graphically, or for offering anything other than the basics, and it can't compete with the attention lavished on Audi's MMI or BMW's iDrive (or Operating System 8.0 as they prefer to call it). But it covers the basics of navigation, music and telephone, with Apple CarPlay supported, but Android Auto is missing.
It's easy enough to use and not too hard to root into the menus to find more information, but it's clear that Aston isn't spending its money here, instead putting it into performance enhancements elsewhere. (We believe the infotainment is linked to the Mercedes AMG engine management system, so it's more complicated than just chucking in a different user interface.)
Navigation seemed accurate enough during our drive and the sound system is very good with a real quality coming from the 790-watt system comprised of 14 speakers - if you'd rather listen to music than the sublime exhaust note.
But the steering wheel provides controls for practicality and you've got cruise control and all the mod cons, so again, it's a practical cruiser as well as an astonishingly fast SUV.
Speaking of which, one of the changes on the 707 compared to the regular DBX is the addition of the drive mode selector. We mentioned this before because it's a little too close to the infotainment controller, but it does mean you can easily skip through the modes, from terrain mode up to Sport+ - which is where the fun really starts.
On the road
The Aston Martin DBX707 starts in quiet mode unlike the normal DBX, meaning that your neighbours will hate you a little less - apart from the envy - when starting your 707 early in the morning. You can trigger a noisy start if you want to and if you're buying this car, you probably want to.
The 707 is also more than just a tweak to the regular DBX. It has a 4-litre AMG V8 petrol engine, but uses enhanced turbos for more power. There's new dampers to improve body control, with stiffer front suspension top mounts to improve the ride.
We mentioned the move to carbon ceramic brakes, but there's also stiffer steering too, while Aston will be happy to tell you that the weight distribution in the DBX707 is better balanced than in the Bentyaga, the Urus or the Cayenne, which it sees as its natural rivals.
There's also a new wet clutch, with a 40 per cent boost in the performance of gear changes. There are options for the manual paddle, but the huge carbonfibre blades on our test model fit the style perfectly.
All this pulls into a driving experience that's just superb. Behind the wheel you soon forget you're in an SUV because the DBX707 feels like a sports car when you're out on open roads. There's masses of power, with 900Nm torque, driving all four wheels.
Switch to the Sport+ driving mode and that's when the 707 really comes to life switching the power bias towards the rear and tightening everything up for a more responsive drive. In fact, it feels like an entirely different car and sounds like a different car. If you ever wanted beast mode in an SUV, this is it, because the noise really comes to life in Sports+ mode.
The orchestral majesty of the engine and exhaust sound, the precision of the handling, the ease with which it will deliver the power at faster speeds come together into a beautifully enjoyable experience, but stick to GT mode and things are quiet, refined, sedate.
That's the real beauty here. It's not that the Aston Martin DBX707 will offer astonishing speed, it's that the same car offers the practical comfort and benefits of an SUV with little compromise - except for the eye-watering price, of course. We also can't ignore the fact that there's huge emissions that come with the DBX707 and it guzzles fuel. Aston Martin cites a combined average of 14.2mpg, but in careful driving it's quite possible to get it up to 20mpg.
The Aston Martin DBX707 aims to be the most luxury performance SUV on the road and what a result it is. This is a sublime car to drive, with huge power and performance backed up with enjoyable and responsive handling. For all the sport car skills, it's also perfectly practical, with a big boot, comfortable seats and a high level of interior spec. It's let down by a dated infotainment system and the buttons are a little cluttered - but we're happy to overlook that - and you probably will too.