First Look Review: 2023 Aston Martin DBX 707
Self-proclaimed as the world’s fastest SUV, Aston Martin’s DBX 707 boasts very impressive performance numbers; 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds, a top speed of 193 mph, and 707 PS—for the U.S. audience, that’s 697 horsepower. We share these numbers up front, as it’s what I imagine the driver who can afford a $291,386 SUV is longing to convey with dinner guests over a 2012 Promontory and an A5 Wagyu filet.
The setting for our Aston Martin-hosted press drive was the island of Sardinia. It’s most famous for being a blue zone, the backdrop for The Spy Who Loved Me, and the location of the Sardinian Rally. We started the day with a detailed description of the metamorphosis that the DBX 707 had to undergo to get better reviews than its meeker DBX sibling. Yes, we live in a world where 550 hp is defined as meek.
Andy Tokley, Aston’s Senior Vehicle Engineering Manager, headed the presentation. I had the pleasure of dining with Andy the night before. He impressed me off the rip, sharing the list of vehicles he chose to build through his formative tuner years. One stood out: the Honda CRX. For those of you that have experienced Honda’s yaw-machine, you know that it is capable of physics-defying maneuvers. Andy’s tuner tales of increasing hp, tweaking suspension, and tuning clutch packed differentials reassured me that I wasn’t speaking with a bench engineer. His quest for balance in handling and power kept my attention. The DBX 707 presentation was no different.
Andy’s approach to increasing performance in the DBX 707 is based on two fundamentals: no expense spared in the use of performance materials plus relentless calibration testing and programming. It’s no secret that the DBX’s powerplant is Mercedes-sourced. However, its creators only squeeze more power out if this 4.0-liter V-8 biturbo, the M178, in the 720-hp AMG GT Black Series. Not surprisingly, Andy and his Mercedes-poached engineers were able to accomplish record setting numbers with the use of bigger turbos, ball bearings, and lots of calibration testing.
How to harness the newfound power and transfer it to the ground in a predictable and controllable manner? This may not fit the bill for the high horsepower lovers that like to breathe in tire smoke and spend their parts allowance on replacing shredded tires, as this vehicle is well poised upon power delivery. Aston accomplished this using a bigger, stronger and more durable electronic differential with a shorter drive ratio. Combined with a deftly honed calibration, the wet-clutch e-diff with locking torque reacts quickly. On the road, I was able to rotate all 4949 pounds through switchbacks with ease, and an extra squeeze of the throttle broke the rear end loose enough to bestow amore marks on Italian soil!
The long list of engineering improvements and calibrations presented include:
• Active center differential distributing 100% traction to the rear or up to a 50/50 front/rear distribution, mated to a carbon-fiber prop shaft for increased strength and less rotating mass
• New stainless-steel exhaust reducing back pressure and improving sound (for those of you that like to wake up your neighbors, an open exhaust is just a button away)
• Nine-speed wet-clutch automatic transmission instead of a torque converter, along with a brand new powertrain control module calibration to maximize torque and traction through ALL the gears
• Carbon-ceramic brakes, 16.5 inches front 15.4 inches rear, reducing un-sprung mass, providing razor sharp response to outwit Italian radars, and keeping cool through mountain descents
• Adaptive damping and the use of hydraulic bushings eliminates understeer and creates a supple ride when there is no vehicle roll. Inversely, seamlessly stiffening the chassis progressively through corners for that sport car feel
• Three driver modes: Standard, Sport and Sport Plus, each easily attainable with the rotation of a dial. Sport plus affords two additional options to reduce traction control, or 99 percent removal of stability control (my favorite mode)
Design cues worth noting—both fashionable and functional—include a stout grille that’s reminiscent of a 1940s Aston Martin. The increase in surface area is required to cool the bigger turbos and let that voracious engine breathe, and give the DBX 707 a more masculine look. In the words of Marek Reichman, Chief Designer, “the testosterone-infused [DBX 707] is, about power and prowess—there is dominance in the front of the car.”
In the rear, like with the DBX, the ducktail carried over from the Vantage. Luckily, the team did not go with a deploying spoiler, keeping the allure of a slippery, natural aerodynamic look. Plenty of carbon fiber was added throughout; the splitter and side skirts give the appearance of a lower stance and a rear diffuser not only compliments the quad exhaust but reduces turbulence and drag at high speed.
On the outside, the DBX 707 is clearly an SUV. Behind the wheel, however, it does not behave that way. Despite its five and half foot height, the body roll is less than that of a Sherman Firefly. So other than your driving position and retraining your eyeballs to be two feet closer to the road, the 707 does not give off too many SUV vibes. Only at triple-digit speeds through fast sweepers does one have to wait a skosh longer for all 2.5 tons to transfer weight from port to starboard tires and back again.
Two local driving enthusiasts were taken by surprise when they attempted to lead the pack through a series of canyons. The über-tuned banana yellow Fiat Cinquecento and bright white Audi S4 part took part in our cat-and-mouse chase. Both were impressed with the 707’s show of dominance not only on the straights, but especially through the long bends. When we took to the exit ramp, they exhibited their approval by a show of “the nod”, shortly followed by a break in character with a genuine ear-to-ear grin and a thumbs-up.
On the tighter and steeper switchbacks, the twin-turbos, nine-speed transmission, and new adaptive damping suspension were my true co-pilots. Sardinian roads are full of surprises, narrowing and widening with jagged rock formations protruding into the road and the occasional hay tractor. But it’s easy when you have power on tap, not to mention brakes that we could not get to fade even on mountain descents.
Paddle shifting through the gears as we sprinted from one bend to the next felt more like competing in autocross in a boosted CRX. Furthermore, a newly added sheer panel (tying into front subframe) gave the 707 an immediate steering response. Not once could I force the 707 into understeer. Building lateral acceleration through the mid-corner was comfortable and confidence-inspiring. Corner exit provided the most fun; in the right gear and mode, the 707 gives you an impression that the wheelbase is much shorter than the almost 10 feet it really is. Not only does it rotate in a predictable manner, but the accurate throttle response allows you to flirt with stepping it for show or keeping it in a more civilized slip angle.
While the jury is still out on where the DBX will fit into Aston Martin’s storied history, the 707 is certainly a step in the right direction. Call it the Wagyu filet of sport-utes: expensive, pedigreed, and not for everyone.
2023 Aston Martin DBX 707
Price: $239,086 / $291,386 (base / as-tested)
Highs: Faster, more exclusive, better sorted than the standard DBX.
Lows: The Aston image sits uneasily on a Mercedes-powered station wagon.
Summary: More of everything makes the DBX 707 more of a compelling proposition.