Price: R5 000 000
Review score: 9/10
|Engine||Power & Torque||Transmission||0 – 100km/h||Top Speed||Fuel Consumption||C02|
|4.0-litre twin-turbo V8||520kW and 900Nm||9-Speed Automatic||3.3–secs||310km/h||13.9l/100km||323g/km|
Aston Martin, much like its luxury sports car counterparts, has hedged its bets on the super sports SUV market.
Porsche did this 20 years ago and that yielded success for the brand. Ditto Lamborghini with the Urus and Ferrari will follow suit with the Purosangue.
Aston’s foray into this segment in the form of the DBX was mostly well-received because, with its horizontally slatted grille and narrow headlights, it looked distinctly Aston and the interior’s generous passenger space defied its exterior proportions.
Since the model’s introduction in 2020, more than 3 000 units have found homes around the world and it now commands a 50% share of the Gaydon firm’s retail business sales.
Under the bonnet is the AMG-sourced four-litre, twin turbo V8 that thumped out 405kW and 700Nm, which are decent numbers for the most part, but it also meant it pales against its rivals. It was found to be out-gunned in its class. Sales dwindled and many of the local customers traded in their vehicles shortly after taking delivery. The reason, according to the local outfit, is its performance is not on par with its rivals.
Something had to be done, so Marek Reichman, the chief creative officer at Aston Martin, and his team had their work cut out for them. What you have in the DBX 707 — 707 alluding to the model’s engine output in metric horsepower — is an 18-month project.
Yes, it took the team a year and a half from concept to production. Usually, such a project would require at least 36 months to fruition, but Aston didn’t have the luxury of time and had to further develop the DBX to be more competitive. I reckon they’ve nailed the brief.
The task was not only to make the DBX 707 the most powerful in its class but also have the ability to exploit that power with a sweet chassis setup.
But first, let’s look at what sets the DBX 707 apart from its lesser sibling aesthetically. Arriving at the model’s international media launch in Sardinia, Italy, it was the grille that took me aback. Photos don’t do justice to the wider, gaping grille, which looks like it will devour small cars on the road. It has six double horizontal slats to aid further cooling of the engine and transmission.
There are carbon fibre splitters and side skirts, which Reichman says have been used to great effect to give the car a much wider and squatter look. It definitely works.
There are optional 23-inch alloy wheels wrapped around 285 sections up front and 325 gumball sections at the rear, which not only add to the vehicle’s sporty visual venom, but also enhance its dynamic drive.
At the rear, there’s a new aerodynamic roof spoiler and an aggressive diffuser flanked by a quad stainless steel sports exhaust, each measuring 70mm and replete with an exhaust muffler that can be opened or closed at a push of a button.
The upgrades are not skin-deep; the engineering team went to great lengths to enhance the overall dynamic abilities of the vehicle, calibrating the air suspension to improve body control and steering input. Parameters such as vertical movement over bumps — both compression and rebound — have been tightened for better overall body control.
Pitching (when the vehicle dives under braking or squats when accelerating) together with body roll have been reduced significantly compared with the standard DBX.
Powertrain improvements include a more powerful engine, thanks to new ball bearing turbochargers and engine mapping, the four-litre twin turbo V8 engine now puts out 520kW and 900Nm through a wet-clutch nine-speed automatic transmission, which is said to be 40% faster and now features launch control.
It drives all four wheels with a carbon propshaft, said to be shorter and wider but lighter than in the standard model. There is also a new rear electronic differential with a shorter final ratio of 3.27 (from 3.07) and increased locking torque, which sees the car drive out of corners with more verve and vigour. With the increased power, 0-100km/h takes 3.3 seconds and the DBX 707 will only run out of puff at 310km/h.
The proof of the pudding remains in the eating, and I was rather keen to get behind the wheel to see whether Aston has done enough not only to place a significant gap between it and its sibling, but also to ascertain whether it stacks up to the competition.
Hopping into the cabin, one is greeted by high-quality leather and materials, while the seats are of the form-hugging variety, which remain luxurious and comfortable on long drives.
If there’s a fly in the ointment as far as the cabin is concerned, it would be the infotainment, which has its roots still entrenched in the Mercedes-Benz Comand Online’s bygone era. There’s no touchscreen facility. Instead there is a rotary dial, which is a bane to operate while on the move.
I have it on good account, though, that a fix is in the pipeline.
In Aston style, firing and killing the engine comes in the form of the starter button on the drop-down console.
That V8 fires up to a familiar AMG timbre that continues even when on the move. There are three driving modes — GT, GT Sport, and Sport+, with the latter two also giving one access to “race start”, which is essentially launch control in motoring layman terms.
As one would expect, the suspension is on the firm side, conveying each rut and road imperfection through the steering rack. It is something that is prudent at slow speeds, but as soon as speed increases, this tends to be in the periphery as you get on with business of covering ground quickly.
Indeed, the distillation of speed is what DBX 707 does so well. In Sport+ mode, the entire vehicle seems to tense up, starts frothing at the mouth and that V8 sound takes on an even more guttural rumble. Mash the throttle in a straight line, the gearbox digs deeper for a lower gear, the engine heaves momentarily as the car sits on its rear axle and makes a beeline for the horizon.
It piles on speed in big mounds, thanks to that wall of torque at 900Nm and things don’t relent right up the gears. That sports exhaust belches out a thunderous note that we have come to expect of an AMG V8, but there’s a whoosh that engulfs the cabin as the revs pile on.
Oh, here comes a corner. Hard on the brakes (these measure dinner plate size 420mm up front and 390mm at the rear) and the thing shaves off speed as adeptly as it accelerates. Pitch it into a corner and the front exhibits satisfactory front-end grip.
The steering might lack outright feel and feedback but you can still confidently place the car where you want it. It settles well mid-corner with little in the way of body roll. Where things get interesting is coming out of the corner, when you can boot the thing and the rear-differential helps the car to rotate slightly, allowing you to get on the power sooner.
Threading the DBX 707 through a series of twists and turns of a narrow mountain pass inspired confidence. The traction control is so well calibrated that it hardly intrudes on power delivery, allowing you to carry more speed into and out of corners.
You can, of course, switch all the nannies off and try to unsettle that rear into oversteer but you will require some commitment and wide enough space to unseat those 315 section tyres at the back. The DBX 707 is a brute of a thing and, in typical Aston fashion, it feels like an iron in a velvet glove. It punches with the vigour of Mike Tyson and does it gracefully, unlike the Lamborghini Urus, which is quite visceral. Do not, for one minute, think that the Aston is soft. Quite the contrary.
What you probably want to know is whether the DBX 707 has done enough to place it at the top of the super SUV totem pole and the answer is it feels just as rapid as the Lamborghini Urus and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT. The latter, however, feels more fleeting in the way it changes direction and has the quickest reacting steering of the lot.
The 707 is the Aston Martin DBX you really want. It has elevated the model’s stature and now not only looks the part but has the requisite performance to warrant consideration when shopping for a super SUV.