I’m rocking the Aston Martin DBX 707 on California’s epic Skyline Boulevard, increasingly boggled by this SUV’s nose for apexes and explosive corner exits. We already knew the DBX was the prettiest SUV on the planet, including versus bullseye performance targets in the Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT.
Now, Aston’s uprated 707 version is also the strongest predator on the SUV plain, with 697 horsepower (in metric, 707 PS, hence the name) from a muscled-up version of Mercedes-AMG’s twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V8. Hear me roar: A bloodthirsty exhaust note will strike fear into any sport-ute-snack the DBX encounters, amped up by a Sport Plus setting. Victims will include several traditional sport sedans whose lower profiles won’t mean jack versus a squat-riding crossover with 663 lb-ft of torque and silly grip from 23-inch wheels and Pirelli P Zero tires. Versus a merely 542-hp DBX, Aston credits an additional 145 horses and 147 lb-ft to new ball-bearing turbochargers and reworked induction and exhaust. Mercedes’ nine-speed, wet-clutch automatic transmission steps in for the slower torque-converter unit on the standard DBX. With one eye to future Nürburgring Nordschleife glory, the 707 can blister 60 mph in a manufacturer-claimed 3.1 seconds, hit 100 mph in 7.4 seconds, and keep churning to 193 mph.
An aggressively rear-biased AWD system makes understeer nearly moot, allowing the DBX to tighten its cornering line at speed to a sickening degree. A 48-volt anti-roll system keeps the body flatter than Kyrie Irving’s conception of earth, in tandem with adaptive dampers (with new top mounts) and height-adjustable air springs. Throw in direct and dynamic steering, throttle response that makes a Hellcat feel like the Staten Island ferry, and trustworthy carbon-ceramic brakes as the DBX careens through the Santa Cruz mountains, and Aston’s ballsy claims become defensible: If the DBX 707 isn’t the fastest, sharpest-handling, sweetest-sounding SUV you can overpay for in 2022, it’s in the hunt by any metric. That includes 41 more horses than the 666-hp Urus Performante, just unveiled at the Pebble Beach concours weekend.
Pebble’s temple of moneyed excess is an appropriate venue for the roomiest, most practical Aston in the brand’s 109-year history. Even James Bond, after a droll one-liner — “sorry, I haven’t packed my overalls” — might find novel use for its modest off-road capability or 5,940-pound towing capacity. Already, the standard DBX has become the brand’s best-selling model by far, as Aston attempts to right a listing financial ship. Monterey, where auction attendees wave paddles at seven- and even eight-figure automobiles, is among the few places where most folks won’t blink at a $239,086 base price. Yet a foie-gras schmear of options, many superfluous — including roughly $40,000 worth of twill-patterned carbon fiber, stitched leather, color-matched carpet and two-tone cabin design — kick the tally on my particular example to an eye-watering $292,586.
If the sight of gentlemanly Aston fighting (and winning) the horsepower wars seems odd, get used to it. I interview Alex Long, director of product and market strategy, who tells me Aston Martin is determined to set the performance bar in every segment it competes in.
“It’s a statement for the brand, as as we refresh our sports cars, you’ll see more of that,” Long told me. “Whatever segment the car is pitched in, we’ll take the lead in power and dynamics. That’s the fundamental shift in the brand.”
As if to underscore the new — and hopefully profitable — direction, as we sit and chat at Aston’s Monterey hospitality suite we’re flanked by four ultra-rare, nuclear-grade models seemingly sprung from the dreams of Pebble Beach collectors: The Valhalla, Valkyrie AMR Pro, Vantage V12 and DBR 22, all in flattering, jewel-like shades of green. The broader industry future, of course, has no place for V12s. So Aston is racing to deliver Mercedes-based plug-in powertrains, including in the DBX, following the meltdown of plans for an in-house hybrid V6.
While the DBX 707’s pedigree, performance and gorgeous body all meet ultra-luxury imperatives, the interior still elicits some pushback. The DBX’s delayed arrival, and the brand’s tech-sharing relationship with Mercedes — great for engines, not so good for electronics — do the DBX no favors. For such a relatively new model, the Aston’s dated interior vibe is discouraging. Cowhides are thick and fragrant, the steering wheel meaty, the oversized metal paddle shifters ready for action. The tri-color seats are properly enveloping and exotic, if hampered by fiddly controls.
Such British quirks are easy enough to overlook. But there’s no getting around an ancient Mercedes-based infotainment system crammed into a bulbous and unstylish center console. No one expects the latest Mercedes MBUX or flashy Hyperscreen in this hand-me-down tech arrangement. But for nearly 300 grand, buyers might expect an actual touchscreen — the DBX offers only an awkward rotary control knob — striking graphics, or capable voice commands. Company execs suggest buyers aren’t unduly put out, but they acknowledge that Aston’s infotainment is behind the luxury curve. Long assures us the cavalry is on the way — coming model years will use dramatically updated Mercedes infotainment systems with over-the-air update capabilities and an Aston-designed user interface. For now, DBX buyers will have to suck it up like Krug that’s gone a bit flat.
Those buyers will continue to choose between the standard DBX and this 707-metric-horsepower version. The upside, for those who can afford either, is that it’s not much of a choice: The 707 delivers the sense of exotic overkill and indulgence that makes the genre-straining exercise worth the point. With its extensive suspension retuning, the 707 even rides better than the somewhat flinty standard model.
The high-performance Aston never feels like a chore to drive, even on a backwoods ascent to Skyline Boulevard that’s not quite wide enough for two cars to pass each other — one part Alpine switchbacks, one part hippie weed-growing holler. The 707 winds patiently through hairpins, swallows up to 54 cubic feet of luggage, provides four-season traction, and will commute blissfully in Grand Touring mode. But when Skyline opens up, and you unleash that sport exhaust, the DBX 707 attacks sweepers with pace and pleasure that recalls fantasy-level sport sedans.
Pushing the Aston’s 4,950 pounds around, you’re aware of the extra mass and raised driving position. But they’re in the back of your mind, not sharing the front seat. And unlike any DB in history, this Aston has a back seat with room for family or friends, even relatively large ones. Of course, that space is the point: We all grasp why hatchback-crossover-SUVs have conquered the U.S. and are steadily taking over the world. Roomy comfort is the ultimate luxury. That’s as true for the masses buying RAV4s as it is for privileged Pebble Beachers bidding to the moon and stars. And while the concept of an Aston SUV with Hellcat-rivaling power may fly in the face of hidebound tradition, the result is surprisingly delightful to drive.