Once upon a time, the inline-six was Aston Martin‘s go-to engine. In its post-war era, the British company used this engine configuration for DB models II through 6 and finally in the DBS, dropping a Jaguar-borrowed I6 in the DB7 a few decades later.
Since the six-cylinder DB7 went out of production in the late 1990s, Aston has been all about V8s and V12s. That’s all changed this year, but not out of some historical urge - nope, the new DBX straight-six derivative seen here is all about tax.
It’s reserved for the Chinese market, where larger capacity engines are heavily levied. Aston Martin already has a technical partnership with Mercedes-AMG involving the supply of 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8s, so it makes perfect sense to hit up Affalterbach for a slimmed-down DBX. The chosen powerplant is the ‘M256’ inline-six mild-hybrid petrol found in various AMG ‘53’ models.
It’s good for 435bhp and 384lb ft of torque, making for a 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 161mph. The V8, for comparison, hits 62mph after 4.5 seconds and will keep going until 181mph.
As in the V8, all wheels are powered via a nine-speed automatic gearbox, with drive going to the rear axle via a posh carbon fibre prop shaft and an electronically-controlled locking differential. The whopping 21-inch wheels of the V8 model are retained too, along with the fat 285mm-wide front/315mm wide rear tyres.
Visually, there are very few clues to the under-bonnet differences. Lettering under the side gills on the front wings reads ‘straight-six’ (this area is blank on the V8), and although you still get bonnet vents, they’re no longer topped by shiny fins.
There are no plans to sell this mild-hybrid model elsewhere as far as we know, but Aston Martin is thought to be prepping a plug-in hybrid using the V8-based powertrain from the Mercedes-AMG GT E-Performance. If Aston’s version has the same state of tune, we’ll be looking at a DBX with 829bhp and 1033lb ft of torque - nearly double the power and more than twice the twist of this entry-level inline-six.