More than just a pretty face

Sports car companies making SUVs are a phenomenon that enthusiasts have watched with varying degrees of horror/excitement/acceptance since the debut of the Porsche Cayenne. With the DBX, Aston Martin has arguably – surprisingly – been the most successful in transferring its sports car design language into an SUV form. However, the brand also recognized that the waning days of internal combustion are no time to hold back when it comes to horsepower. So, while the standard DBX develops 542 horsepower from its AMG 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, the new DBX 707 puts out 697 horsepower — or 707 horsepower by the more satisfactory European scale.

The design of this highly tested version has been modified, of course, mostly for reasons of functionality. The 707’s grille opening is 27% larger to allow more airflow to cool the engine. It is flanked by revised air intakes divided by horizontal DRL lighting elements. There are several new aerodynamic pieces: a carbon-fiber front splitter, revised skirts along the swingarm panels, spoilers in front of the front and rear wheel vents, an air intake cut into the rear quarter panels, an extended rear diffuser, and a longer rear wing window. The mirror caps and side strips can be finished in carbon fiber or black to match the window surrounds, bonnet vents and roof rails. Fortunately, none of these additions detract too much from the DBX’s organic look—although we’re not particular fans of the rear air intakes and that prominent diffuser. This is still far from overselling Mansory-style.

The boosted power output comes from the same 4.0-liter V-8 as the standard DBX. Of course, the engine is not exactly The same: There’s a new turbocharger, redesigned induction and exhaust systems, and a reprogrammed engine control unit to manage it all. The massage was done at Aston Martin under the supervision of Ralph Ellenberger, the powertrain engineer, who knows this engine well, having come from AMG. To handle the extra output, the DBX’s standard nine-speed automatic transmission has been replaced with an AMG-sourced version that features a wet clutch package in place of the torque converter.

In addition to faster shift times, the new gearbox adds the Race Start control function. Easy enough to access. In Sport or Sport+ mode, depress the brake and pedal simultaneously. The digital instrument display flashes a red message to start the race, and when the revs reach 4,000 rpm, release the brakes and have fun pushing it back into your seat. We mean it literally – the passenger was leaning forward balancing a smartphone atop the dashboard to capture the moment, and the accelerating force propelled him back into his chair, resulting in a video of the roof liner instead.

In our test of the standard DBX, it jumped to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and sent the quarter mile in 12.4 seconds at 114 mph. That doesn’t sound too bad, until you know those numbers track the Audi RS Q8, the Bentley Bentayga V-8, the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S, and even the Maserati Levante Trofeo. Bragging rights are important, and Aston says the more powerful DBX 707 — which also benefits from a 3.27:1 ratio for a shorter final drive — cuts a record 60 mph to 3.1 seconds and can reach 100 mph in 7.4 seconds. Top speed is 193 mph.

In the real world – which for us was the island of Sardinia – the DBX 707 is extremely fast. She is hard-pressed to find an opportunity to fully extend her legs for more than a few seconds at a time. In doing so, the acceleration thrust is so intense that even a partial stop in power during overshifts in the transmission creates a swaying moment like the DBX 707 rockets in front of you.

The 707’s lively soundtrack comes from an active quad-pipe exhaust system that differs from both the standard and optional sport settings on the base car. Regardless of the drive mode, pressing any of the gearshift switches when the start button is pressed triggers an audible start-up sound. Even in the GT’s weakest setting, and a little more so in either sport mode, there’s an exhaust sound spit out as the gear shifts up, and a V-8 roar with a deep baritone as the revs rise. But this Aston soundtrack is still more reserved than the sharp crack of tougher AMG products or Jaguar’s favorite pops.

Keeping the steering on all that newfound power are standard new carbon-ceramic brakes exclusively for the 707. The rotors are massive 16.5 inches up front and 15.4 inches at the rear, held by black-painted calipers (or choose bronze-, orange-, yellow, or red, or grey). The large clogs are said to shed 88 pounds compared to the cast-iron rotors on the standard DBX. We were concerned that the brake pedal on the regular car was less responsive than we would have liked on its first ride, but we had no trouble adjusting here. However, once the brakes got too hot, there was some squeaking associated with light applications – a problem that Aston engineers say they are working on.

The 707 has four driving modes on road and one off road, with selection via a new dial on the console, making it relatively easy to access without taking your eyes off the road. Hit the center of the disc to invoke the transmission’s manual mode, which holds gears selected from the paddle. We found the manual mode to be the preferred setting for attacking a long series of tight corners on the island’s rustic mountainous terrain. With the full-meter DBX 707’s exuberant 663 pound-feet of torque available across a wide rev range from 2,600 to 4,500 rpm, there’s little need to shift down in most corners or head out uphill.

As on the standard DBX, this upgraded model uses 48-volt active anti-roll bars along with pneumatic springs, which can raise the ride height by 1.8 inches or lower it by 1.2 inches. The system offers GT (default), Sport and Sport + modes. The Active Roll Anti-roll system has been modified to increase rolling resistance, and the cornering position is almost flat. The ride is, however, quite firm, although some of that harshness can be traced back to the 23-inch wheels of our cars (which are optional on both models).

In a previous drive of a pre-production DBX 707 at a racetrack in England, we tested the ability of this amusingly refined SUV to transcend power. On public roads punctuated by steep inclines, we were more than happy to know that the DBX 707 has grip over a period of days. Some of the credit has to be given to the extra-wide Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires, sized 285/40YR-23 at the front and 325/35YR-23 at the rear. But the 707’s rear track has also been widened by 0.6 inches, and the electronically controlled rear differential has been recalibrated, both of which help the rear end dig better into the pavement when out of corners. The DBX 707 has a surprisingly good balance for a heavy SUV, with fairly light rudder matching the desire to change direction without a lot of thrust from the front end. Aston Martin claims a front-to-rear weight distribution of 52/48 percent, which is more beneficial than most of its competitors.

For less crazy moments, there are now popular driver aids like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, forward collision warning and blind spot monitoring. However, the DBX does not offer a hands-free driving aid – this remains a vehicle for drivers who prefer to keep their hands on the steering wheel. As in the standard DBX, the setting for doing so is a cabin rich in leather throughout, and sliding inside is like stepping into the world’s finest shoe store. Leather covers almost every surface, and its fragrance fills the nostrils, reminding us that the biggest challenge for “vegan leather” is the sense of smell. The tightly quilted 707 sports seats feature a different stitching pattern than the standard car, with contrasting elements around the shoulder area and a central stripe on the backrest.

Like the engine, the infotainment system is another piece of hardware borrowed from the Stuttgart gang, but it’s not Benz’s latest massive screen setup. Instead, it’s a 10.3-inch screen (with Aston’s own graphics), powered by the previous generation of Mercedes’ rotary console and touchpad. While we appreciate this design for its tactility, the lack of touchscreen operation seems misplaced nowadays, and it would be nice if the screen displayed multiple functions simultaneously, such as voice and navigation. The 707 also features a revised center console design. Besides the drive mode selector mentioned above, there are dedicated buttons for adjusting damper stiffness and exhaust tone, or for turning off the engine’s automatic shutdown function. Large cup holders are shared with both DBX models, as are the soft-closing doors. And, as on all Astons, gears are selected via a series of buttons in the center of the dashboard.

We wouldn’t say the standard DBX wanted the power, but the 707 certainly increases the intensity of the driving experience. It also, of course, leads to a higher price. The question here is $239,086 to start – about $50,000 more than the Standard Edition. However, Aston Martin expects the 707 to be the most popular DBX variant. Although the standard DBX continues to boast a very elegant design, in this market segment, nothing succeeds quite like a plus.

to specify

to specify

2023 Aston Martin DBX 707
Vehicle type: Front-wheel drive, 4WD, 5-passenger, 4-door

price
Base: $239,086

engine
Twin-turbocharged and intercooler DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 243 inches33982 cm3
Power: 697 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 663 lb-ft at 2,600 rpm

transition
9 speed automatic

Dimensions
Wheelbase: 120.5 inches
Length: 198.4 inches
Width: 78.7 inches
Height: 66.1 inches
Passenger size: 109 feet3
Payload size: 23 feet3
curb weight (grandfather East): 5100 lbs.

performance (grandfather he is)
60 mph: 2.9 seconds
100 mph: 8.5 seconds
1/4 mile: 11.4 seconds
Top speed: 193 mph

Fuel Economy (EPA) (grandfather he is)
Pool/city/highway: 12/14/18 mpg


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