(Bloomberg) -- It takes a lot to make a splash in a market so dominated by sport utility vehicles. In 2022, SUVs accounted for more than half of all new vehicles sold in the US, according to Cox Automotive. I often find them indistinguishable if you overlook badging and signature wheels.
Last year, Lamborghini’s Urus, Rolls-Royce’s Cullinan, the Mercedes-AMG G63 4x4² and Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo GT line were the best SUVs to define luxury, performance, design and prestige. Ferrari will make one this year—the last of the luxury and supercar brands to do so—and we’ll have a real competition in our hands to see which brand does it best.
For now, the 2023 Aston Martin DBX 707 is the new model to beat. A harder, faster, meaner DBX, the 707 variant has the juice to fight its way into the top echelon of SUVs on today’s market.
Dark Days in England
The past few years have not glowed for Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings PLC. After a disappointing initial public offering in 2018, it has suffered plummeting investor confidence (Aston’s share price is down 95% since its 2018 listing), embarrassing multiyear delays on its £2.4 million ($2.9 million) Valkyrie hypercar and rampant executive turnover.
One bright spot has been the DBX, which started production in 2020; it’s not overstating the case to call it a game changer for a 110-year-old brand with seven bankruptcies under its belt. Aston delivered 3,001 DBXs in 2021, half its total output, and almost certainly will have exceeded that figure in 2022 with sales of this sportier 707 version and of a new hybrid V6 derivative for the market in China. (Yearend figures will be released in a month, says a spokesperson.)
The $236,000 DBX 707 is an improved version of the original. It boasts more horsepower, better styling, quicker shifting and acceleration, and a price tag nearly $50,000 higher than the entry-level listed price. Deliveries began late last year, and I recently drove one for a week around Los Angeles.
The Bright Spot
Painted in what the factory calls Satin Titanium Grey (but surely containing a cool drop of olive-like green as well), the 707 I drove was one of the best-looking SUVs on the road, fit to compete for top honors with the Urus. I hope it doesn’t sound too vain that I loved being seen driving it, The 707 is the opposite of the family-moving grocery getter. I vowed not to mention James Bond in this review—that trope is so old—but I couldn’t resist, for reasons you might come to understand.
It’s easy to spot the differences between the regular DBX and the 707 version. (This is good, because it means that with just a glance, any fool will know you got the good version.) It retains the clamshell-shaped hood and its grille has Aston Martin’s distinctive shape, but the 707 version (mine was blacked out, an $800 option) gapes wider by nearly 30%. It has air intakes redone with horizontal lighting, fresh carbon fiber on the front splitter, new rocker panels and air deflectors over the wheels, a larger rear diffuser and spoiler, and (optional) carbon fiber mirror caps that match the hood vents and roof rails.
DBX 707’s swept-back shape, hiked up on 22-inch alloy wheels (optional 23-inch wheels for $5,700 will enhance the statement), portends the most aggressive driving you’ll do in just about any vehicle, let alone an SUV. The 707 badge means much more than cosmetic enhancements. The dial on aggression has been cranked to 11: The DBX-special 707 moniker means 697 horsepower on a twin-turbo V8 engine sourced from Mercedes-AMG, 155hp more than the 542hp promised in the standard DBX and significantly more than those in Porsche SUVs, the Urus, and that 4x4² I loved earlier this month.
The 193 mph top speed beats those of the Urus and Cayenne Turbo GT, even if it falls short of the 200 mph benchmark. Its 3.1-second sprint time for zero to 60 mph and gutsy 663 lb.-ft. of torque more than sufficed to get me through Century City traffic in record time on my evening commute. Talk about overkill. This was like using a chainsaw to cut toast.
Surging up, down and around Mulholland Drive’s crazy corners, I loved the hard bite of the carbon-ceramic brakes (you can choose among black, bronze, orange, yellow, red or gray calipers) and felt smug knowing they’re 88 pounds lighter, cumulatively, than the iron roots of the standard DBX. This vehicle has a nine-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifting. I recommend playing in the Sport and Sport+ modes; a GT mode is the default. The thing roared and leapt and lunged when I asked it to, but it felt precise doing so, with a balance and stability rare among the SUV set. As you might imagine, such a naughty attitude creates quite the appetite: DBX 707 eats gas, with a 15 mpg rating in the city and 20 mpg in highway driving.
You get the picture: This SUV drives really well. Still, I hated the dashboard setup—specifically, the four buttons splayed across the too-short dash for drive, reverse, neutral and park. They looked like buttons on a Fisher-Price play phone. They also didn’t react fast enough when I pushed them. In several tight parking situations on a busy street in traffic, and while pulling out of my driveway in the mornings, it felt as if it took forever hitting Reverse, then Drive, to complete my multipoint turn. I’d push the button and then have to wait a beat for the car to react.
A further miss: The DBX 707 has a 10-inch navigation system with Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth and satellite, but it lacks a touchscreen. This felt very outdated. Instead, buttons and knobs and an old rotary controller and a touchpad sourced from the Mercedes system controls it from the center console.
Luckily, driving the DBX 707 means sitting under a glorious glass panoramic sunroof in a spacious cabin designed to fit everyone from a man in the 95th percentile of size to a woman in the fifth. The firm, supportive sport seats have a stitching pattern unique to the 707, a kind of chevron pattern with optional, contrasting-color shoulder bolsters. The stylish carbon-fiber framing around the center console and the gauges behind the steering wheel felt fresh, intuitive and elegant. Apart from that dash and nav, all the accouterments of luxury are here: heated front and rear seats, 360-degree cameras, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, and so forth.
Options to make your DBX 707 look cheesy are abundant: darkened rear privacy glass, contrast stitching, smoked taillights. Personally, I’d splurge on the heavyweight obsidian black carpets ($1,900), black chrome badges ($1,600) and bronze brake calipers ($1,500) and leave it at that. With an SUV this good, you can let the driving speak for itself.
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