X Marks the Spot

Steve Vermeulen grabs the keys to Aston Martin’s new DBX and heads to one of New Zealand’s most picturesque luxury lodges, Kinloch Manor.

As the world slowly shakes off hibernation and starts to reopen, the Trans-Tasman bubble has naturally been met with much excitement. But with much still to explore locally, Steve Vermeulen grabs the keys to Aston Martin’s new DBX and heads to one of New Zealand’s most picturesque luxury lodges, Kinloch Manor.

Photos Vinesh Kumaran

It is never a bad day in the office when an invitation arrives to drive something a bit special and stay in a lavish setting. Seldom though, do I get to enjoy that perk with the family in tow.

Naturally, when the opportunity arose to showcase the stunning Kinloch Manor and bank some serious brownie points with my wife and son, I grabbed it with both hands. The transport? Aston Martin’s DBX.

“Well, okay. If I must.”

The DBX is infused with a sense of adventure which bodes well for a family getaway. Even so, I didn’t quite know what to expect. After all, a debut foray into high-riding, Labrador-toting SUV model isn’t without risk for any sportscar brand, not least one with over a century of pedigree, such as Aston Martin.

It’s all too easy to be blinded by nostalgia. But that’s simply not a realistic view of how we prefer to get around these days: SUVs from sportscar brands are the new normal. Or, at least in the DBX’s case, the new extraordinary.

Inside the DBX hides a superbly appointed cabin, richly perfumed by the leather covering over almost every surface. Aston Martin’s focus remains on the driving experience, and this goal hasn’t been complicated with superfluous technology as can be the case with German counterparts. Rather ironically, however, the Brit brand actually relies quite heavily on German tech, leveraging the expertise and scale of Mercedes-Benz for quality audio and infotainment systems.

A central dial allows for the navigation of all functions and there are just three basic driving modes. You don’t need to be an IT guru to navigate your way through the media, navigation and drive functions. Critical information, including the sat nav map graphic, can be presented within the high-resolution instrument cluster ahead of the driver as well.

Despite relying on external suppliers for some elements, Aston Martin chose to be the master of its own destiny and develop a unique SUV chassis. The end result is deeply impressive.

The DBX disguises its mass well, utilising double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension. Mechanically it is very advanced, but also benefits from the latest in air suspension tech that adjusts both compression rate and ride height. Electronic torque vectoring to each wheel helps keep the 2.2-ton vehicle on the driving line and 48-volt active anti-roll bars and adaptive dampers also keep body roll to a minimum. Believe it or not, the DBX exhibits less roll than the smaller, sportier Vantage. Meanwhile, the well-planted all-wheel drive system delivers traction and torque management for optimum acceleration on corner exit, or sure-footedness if you really want to go off-road.

Enroute to Kinloch, the family settles in comfortably while the 542hp (404kW) V8 eats up the miles ahead. What feels like no time at all passes before we’re on the country backroads of the Kinloch area, 20 minutes northwest of Taupo. Bright autumnal yellows and reds flash past the DBX’s panoramic glass roof as we purr towards our destination.

The family can’t help but voice a collective “Wow!” as we enter the Kinloch Manor’s grounds. Despite being shrouded in low cloud upon arrival, the vista remains deeply impressive with Lake Taupō simply refusing obscurity and dominating the horizon. Kinloch’s central lodge rises from the landscape like a white stone fortress, while blackened timber clad suites nestle sympathetically into the hillside. Everything is presented within the surrounds of a manicured golf course.

“It’s like a painting,” my son aptly suggests as we approach the Lodge.

Our suite, meanwhile, offers up another premium experience all its own. Two terraces opening onto the golf course provide panoramic views of the lake, while another large front deck invites relaxation, replete with sun loungers. We wouldn’t be catching many rays on this autumn visit but lighting the wood burner (one of two natural fires in Kinloch’s two-bedroom suites) and relaxing for a few hours in the lavish surrounds is the ideal way to leave the day’s busy schedule behind. While my wife soaks in the enormous tub, my son and I take a golf buggy to the course for a scenic tour, and some driving and putting practice.

The entire Kinloch experience is simply world class. We often forget just how magical our own backyard can be and investing in local luxury is arguably a far more rewarding experience for the world we inhabit right now.

As for the DBX, it certainly presents a compelling case for luxury you can take with you when you leave again.

Thanks to Luxury Lodges New Zealand and Kinloch Lodge for making our stay possible.
For more information on Kinloch Lodge packages, contact Holland Clarke and Beatson Travel.

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