The Italian island of Sardinia is otherworldly in its springtime beauty. Hyper blue waters in hidden ocean coves; clusters of lemon trees like bouquets of white blossoms in the midst of yellow-green fields; mountain villages terraced across valleys like they weren’t built, but grown.
Free from major enterprise, large population centres, and robust police forces, Sardinia feels almost exactly like heaven on Earth for the first taste of a vehicle like the Aston Martin DBX707.
It also, not for nothing, feels like a very classy shot across the bow of a certain Italian maker of super SUVs. While Aston Martin was treading in shallower waters with the original DBX, this 697-bhp, hyper-focused evolution of the vehicle seems custom made to do battle with the Lamborghini Urus.
Sales of posh, super-performance SUVs are surging, with the likes Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, and Bentley making hay in a field Porsche proved fertile years ago. Aston’s original DBX was the first foray into this arena, and now I’m in this lovely Italian region to suss out if the 707 can with the segment’s finest offerings. Andiamo.
|Quick Stats:||2023 Aston Martin DBX707|
|Engine:||Twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8|
|Output:||697 bhp / 899 Nm|
|0-60 mph:||3.1 seconds|
|Top speed:||193 mph|
Gallery: 2023 Aston Martin DBX707: First Drive
A Picture Of Poise
The Sardinian coast is fringed with craggy mountains and steep-sided hills, with curvy roads that run like pinstriping over and through the dramatic topography. Like elsewhere in Italy, the paving is fine but the roads are narrow. In total, the recipe seems perfect for small sports cars or dive-bombing Fiats, but less so for large, hyper-powerful SUVs (Aston Martin badges or no).
It turns out that, while the headlines have all focused on the DBX707’s eponymous horsepower output, the Aston’s real party trick is its revised front end, and powerful brakes. Amongst the host of revisions from the DBX V8, engineers have fully recalibrated the air suspension system and stiffened the front suspension mounts with an eye toward improved body control and steering response. The rapidity of the (also retuned) electronic power steering is nothing short of incredible for a vehicle this size. That Nurburgring record might not be far off.
The rack feels incredibly fast on the dozens of miles of mountain switchbacks, with almost instant turn-in making the 707 feel more the size of a Cinquecento than a truck. The rapid reaction to input doesn’t make the car feel over-caffeinated, however; just nippy changes of direction, exactly when I ask for them, coupled with smooth and predictable suspension response both mid-corner and over bigger bumps or swales in the road surface. There’s not much in terms of road feel evident through the wheel, but otherwise this is a sublime steering experience.
Confidently placing the big Aston on the road, corner after narrow corner, is just half the battle. My nerves are still a bit out of practice where hurtling 2,300 kilogram (5,000-pound) land missiles around mountain roads is concerned, so getting comfortable with the brakes is key.
Stomp hard – as I was called on to do once or twice coming around blind corners a little hot – and those front brakes haul the DBX down from speed like you’ve hit an invisible brick wall.
On paper the braking system is up to snuff for a vehicle as fast and heavy as the DBX707: 16.5-inch carbon ceramic discs up front, halted with 6-piston aluminium callipers, with 15.4 inchers and single, sliding piston callipers at the rear. Thankfully the on-road reality is as good as the spec sheet in this case.
The initial bite of the brake pedal is actually pretty soft, but as you dig into the longish pedal travel you find perfectly progressive braking force along the way. Stomp hard – as I was called on to do once or twice coming around blind corners a little hot – and those front brakes haul the DBX down from speed like you’ve hit an invisible brick wall. Otherwise, the linear nature of the braking force is quietly reassuring.
Power You Deserve
I walked away from my first taste of the DBX V8 (the way Aston styles is now “base” DBX) reasonably impressed. After spending a week with the SUV in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the early spring, I found the vehicle impressively sports car-like, but also extremely well-appointed and spacious. An easy and lovely thing to live with, day in and day out. But – and I was even a little apprehensive to ask this to myself – shouldn’t it feel just a bit quicker?
Blame the blooming EV revolution, perhaps? But in a time where even mid-pack electrics pack a wallop off the line, I was nonplussed with the full-throttle efforts of the DBX, even if it did sound impressive.
Clearly, that small issue is nothing that 697 bhp and 899 Newton-metres (663 pound-feet) of torque couldn’t fix. The DBX707 is rapid by any measure, as its 3.1-second sprint to 60 miles per hour can attest, and it certainly feels fast, too. In fact, it’s absurd.
Summon all of your courage and mat the throttle from a standstill, and the 707 leaps to attention like a live thing. Fat front and rear rubber (Pirelli P Zero 325/35 rear and 285/40 front, on ridiculous 23-inch wheels) squirms not a whit under this initial duress, but transmits all that twin-turbocharged power to the ground in seamless, angry fashion.
Of course, there’s a launch control party trick if you’d like to impress your friends or scare your kids, which worked perfectly once during my test, and didn’t work at all one other time (in fact it seemed to do something to the transmission until we pulled over and restarted the car). But this isn’t F1, after all.
The fury of a hot start is impressive for a super sports SUV, but what was really incredible was the ability to dig into all of that torque from just about any speed, and hustle the DBX past any other thing on wheels.
When our mountain route eventually descended into lower elevations and rolling farmland, the road opened up into flowing, long sweepers and dotted-line straightaways. Here, even at triple-digit cruising speeds it was nothing to drop a couple of ratios by way of the steering column-mounted paddles, and scoot by local traffic in an eye blink. This turbo’d 4.0-litre V8 may be a super-torquey derivation of a Mercedes-Benz engine, but on empty lanes in the middle of the Mediterranean it feels as though Zeus himself was the tuner.
The old god (or the Aston Martin engineers he inspired) didn’t ignore the role of the nine-speed automatic gearbox, complete with wet plate clutch, in the 707’s unhold transmission of power, either. Retuned for the more aggressive power curve, the autobox is quick as grease when I call for a manual up or downshift, and satisfyingly mechanical in the process. Set to Sport+ driving mode, the transmission also shifts (by wire) aggressively on its own, but the action of rowing my own was too pleasant to pass up when the driving was good.
Functionally the DBX707 cabin was indistinguishable from the base car, which is a good thing. Even at 6-foot-5 and carrying a week’s worth of Italian food in addition to my normal ballast, the aggressively bolstered sports seats felt just fine. In fact, I’m positive some thought has been given to a future clientele of large-format professional athletes, as I didn’t even need to be all the way back on the seat rails to find a perfect position behind the fat-rimmed steering wheel.
Additionally, lest you forget this is a utility vehicle, there’s plenty of room in the second row for adult passengers or even car seats if you would be so bold (I would). And, with a maximum cargo capacity of 631 litres (22.3 cubic feet), there’s still more space in the lavishly carpeted cargo hold.
With that said, the colourway of my test car – obnoxiously called “Q Titanium Grey / Q Electron Yellow” – couldn't decide if it wanted to be the life of the party or skip the shindig altogether. (My tester isn't pictured in the photo gallery, but check out the short walkaround video for the offending hues.) While the material quality of the leather and stitching was top notch, the vibe was drab while looking forward, or jarring when catching a glimpse of the juvenile yellow accents. I wish I could say other cars and colours fared better, but they were all about equally two-toned and shouty.
Another personal point of aggravation was the fully digital instrument cluster. Again, functionally the unit is just fine: clear graphics, changing colour schemes based on drive modes, well-organised information, and I assume some level of configurability (I was generally too busy driving to mess around with screen settings). The screen is fine in its own right, but it feels like such a missed opportunity in a six-figure pounds sterling car.
With ultra-luxury, ultra-expensive vehicles, I think something like a beautifully analogue speedo and tach could be a place for a brand like Aston to flex some craftsmanship muscle. An elegantly applied scale, faceted and well-finished indicator needles, maybe just a cool physical bezel that surrounds all those super-functional pixels? After all, this is a company that partnered with a legendary Swiss watchmaker on numerous timepieces… surely they can do better than yet another screen? (I’m probably alone on Analogue Instruments Island, and I’m fine with that.)
Money Is No Object, But…
The DBX707 is wildly, completely, almost embarrassingly better than its lesser-powered sibling. With my biggest objection to its ugly seats noted, I still must admit that the 707 feels like what the DBX was always meant to be. But the massive competence comes at a price: The 707 jumps by about thirty grand over the V8, with a starting price of £189,000.
It’s likely that Ferrari’s upcoming Purosangue will outstrip the DBX707 in terms of price, but right now the Aston is on the top of the pile for panache, performance, and as pure outlay of wealth.
The reality today is that the 707 will have to dice with Lamborghini and Bentley Bentayga Speed, and Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo GT for hearts, minds, and wallets. Of the three the Porsche is most easily dismissed. Not because it can’t compete on the road – the Cayenne is out gunned with only 631 bhp, but it sprints to 60 in the same time and will reach an absurd 186 mph “top track speed.” But simply because the Aston Martin has more gravitas, a more prestigious brand, and will be a far rarer sight (at least for a while) in places where rich folks like to flex.
With respect to the Bentley (which is unmissably grand but somehow feels like a different target) Urus is the real goal here. And, at least for now, with its massive grille greedily sucking down salt-tinged Italian air, the DBX707 feels like a worthy competitor for the title of super SUV king. Should the opportunity arise, I’ll be quite willing to fly back to these Sardinian shores to test both rigs, head to head.
DBX707 Competitor Reviews:
2023 Aston Martin DBX707