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First Drive: 2023 Aston Martin DBX707

While not an homage to the Boeing jet airliner, this big-buck SUV still knows how to fly, it turns out

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If nothing else, no one can accuse Aston Martin of burying the lead when it comes to the latest iteration of its big-buck DBX sport-ute. No, sir, it’s right there in the name — 707. That numerical suffix is not some homage to Boeing’s ground-breaking jet airliner of the 1950s and ’60s; it’s the European horsepower rating of the mighty twin-turbo Mercedes-AMG-sourced 4.0-litre V8 powering the thundering beast.

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OK, translating 707 pferdstarke (PS) into our more familiar mechanical horsepower rating yields an ever-so-slightly lesser number. That would be 697, a set of digits that, when spoken, doesn’t quite trip off the tongue as melodically as seven-oh-seven, so allow the British manufacturer of high-end sports cars’ marketing department some artistic licence. Now that the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and its legit 707-hp 6.2L supercharged V8 is no longer in production, Aston Martin can lay claim to the world’s most powerful SUV, at least for something motivated by an internal-combustion engine.

But the Trackhawk was never the Aston’s prey; it wasn’t posh enough. Bentley’s Bentayga — notably the Speed and its 626-hp W12 engine — and the 641-hp Lamborghini Urus are the 707’s principal rivals. And the Lambo is stylistically challenged while the Bentley is patrician by comparison. The DBX is as aesthetically pleasing as a two-box shape allows, with obvious styling cues borrowed from Aston Martin’s impossibly gorgeous sports cars, past and present.

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The sinister yet aerodynamically efficient 707 builds on the regular DBX with a larger front grille complete with new air intakes and brake cooling ducts, plus a new front splitter profile. The grille significantly increases airflow to both the engine and nine-speed transmission. The rear-end treatment, the 707’s least appealing view, starts with a new lip spoiler added to the roof wing to reduce lift and increase high-speed stability. An enlarged twin rear diffuser rises to meet the larger quad exhaust system. Completing the rear-end revisions is a new rear bumper complete with integrated quarter panel vents.

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Aston’s claim that the DBX707 is “a sabre in a segment of sledgehammers” is smack talk backed up by results, the hard numbers being a zero-to-100-km/h time of 3.3 seconds, 7.4 seconds to 160 km/h, and a top speed of 310 km/h. Oh, and $271,400, the starting MSRP for an obscene level of performance.

Already Aston’s best-selling model, making its debut two years ago just as the pandemic hit, the “base” DBX is no slouch itself, its boosted Mercedes V8 pushing out a sturdy 542 hp. Still, the company decided to chase new benchmarks, the intent to achieve “world-beating power and pace matched by exceptional precision, dynamic flair and genuine engagement for an addictive and uniquely impressive driving experience.”

So, does the 2,245-kilogram mid-sized four-passenger SUV live up to any portion of these lofty expectations? Is there a semblance of the performance and panache that characterizes Aston’s sports cars? Oh, my: that would be a resounding “YES!”

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2023 Aston Martin DBX707
2023 Aston Martin DBX707 Photo by Brian Harper

The Mediterranean island of Sardinia is known for its mountain landscapes and stunning beaches, the snaking twists and undulations of the roads that connect them not so much a temptation for high-speed shenanigans as they are a test of handling — unforgiving of a mistake that can result in a long drop into a very rocky valley. The DBX707 proved more than adept at negotiating sweepers and hairpins alike, the SUV’s well-balanced 48-52 weight distribution, the meaty Pirelli P Zero rubber (optional P285/35ZR23s up front, P325/30ZR23s at the back), the recalibrated air suspension, and electronic active roll control system keeping it firmly planted.

And with 697 hp and 663 pound-feet of torque to play with, the strengthened electronic limited-slip rear differential and its shorter final drive ratio, the DBX707 powers out of turns — and passes poky Fiat Pandas — with a zip and a balance that belie its size, replete with a glorious snarl from the quad exhaust pipes as one tickles the gas pedal. The lightest touch of the carbon-ceramic brakes, measuring 420 mm front and 390 mm rear and gripped by six-piston calipers, quickly scrubbed off speed when required. Finessing the hell out of an already top-shelf powertrain and chassis has clearly paid dividends.

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Inside, the cabin lacks the heady opulence of the Bentayga, the 707 being tested preferring to display a sporting theme with plenty of carbon-fibre trim and smooth, semi-Aniline leather complete with embroidered Aston Martin wings on the headrest, a contrast stripe down the centre of the seat, and perforations in the seat back and base cushion. Those seats come with 16-way electric adjustment; if you can’t get find a comfortable driving position, you need a chiropractor, not better seats.

The start button is located high on the centre stack, flanked on both sides by the transmission shift buttons — not an ideal location, especially for those with shorter arms. Where the gear shift would normally be — on the centre console — is instead the rotary knob for “dynamic drive” (GT, Sport and Sport+) mode selection. Also located on the centre console are dedicated buttons for suspension mode, ESP, manual gear selection mode — which now holds manual like a sports car, rather than defaulting back to auto — and active exhaust switch, which opens the valves of the quad tailpipe exhaust system without needing to be in Sport drive mode. Race Start is available in all the modes to maximize acceleration, though the upshifts in Sport+ could be rather abrupt at times.

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There were a couple of other issues with the pre-production tester. The biggest annoyance was the high-pitched squeal from the carbon-fibre brakes; impossible to hear with the windows up in the well-insulated cabin, but sounding embarrassingly low-rent with the windows dropped to take in the warmth and sunshine of the early-spring day. (However, one of Aston Martin’s chassis guys said a fix to the rear disc pads was in the works and the issue would be rectified by the time production models leave the factory.) Second on the short list was that the navigation system’s disembodied voice — sounding very Helen Mirren — could be late with providing details, requiring another lap of the roundabout or a recalibration of the drive route.

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As Tobias Moers, CEO of Aston Martin, mentioned during his introduction of the 707, high-priced, high-powered SUVs represent the largest growing segment within the luxury vehicle realm. It’s a tightly grouped community — one that is soon to welcome Ferrari into its fold — and those in it covet the significant contribution to the corporate coffers.

2023 Aston Martin DBX707
2023 Aston Martin DBX707 Photo by Brian Harper

Yes, there will be high dudgeon by the most vocal of the eco-minded, deriding the 707 as ridiculously over-the-top. Give them their moment; their sensibilities must be acknowledged. But the well-heeled, those who can afford to own multiple vehicles, those enthusiasts who love their Aston Martin sports cars but covet something a lot more family friendly, will pay scant attention. As American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald penned many years ago: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”

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Still, Aston is not tone-deaf to shifting market conditions, not to mention geopolitical crises. Moers has gone on record as saying the DBX family will expand, and this expansion will include hybrids. Already, the Chinese market has a mild hybrid DBX model, one using a Mercedes-adapted supercharged 3.0L inline-six and 48-volt mild hybrid integrated starter/generator.

Nonetheless, it is the 707 that is the centrepiece. As everybody knows, if you’re going to be late to the soiree, it’s best to make a big splash when you do arrive. The DBX made quite an entrance when it joined the segment, but the 707 is the life of the party, dancing on the tables and looking altogether too elegant while it does so. One expects no less when spending the better part of $300,000.

Deliveries of the 707 are scheduled to begin this quarter.