At almost two million acres, Los Padres is one of California’s largest national forests and consists of two distinct sections. In a state not short on natural wonders, it offers a striking array of coastal vistas, desert crags and rocky backcountry, starting north of Big Sur’s famous cliffs and winding down in the valley just before the initial ascent outside Los Angeles.

On its southwest edge, the city of Santa Barbara has long been a gateway to explore the heart of Los Padres. Like the blade of a rugged camping knife, the Santa Ynez River cuts a sharp canyon through a broad section of the wilderness, with denser, brighter greenery growing on either side, encouraged by a cooler microclimate.

The proximity to LA offers a special opportunity to enjoy a night under the stars, then retreat back to the comforts of modern life. In other words, it’s the perfect environment to unleash the power of the Aston Martin DBX — a grand tourer that feels just as at home traversing rocky terrain as it does winding through town.

Great escape: A Californian road trip with the DBX

My fiancée and I collect our DBX at the Spanish-inspired rotunda of The Ritz-Carlton Bacara. A jaunt out for dinner proves a worthy introduction to the nimbleness of the DBX, as it sticks smoothly to the coastal tarmac roads.

Any good vehicle for weekend camping needs to have the space to carry gear with ease and our DBX, outfitted with Q by Aston Martin trim and finished in sunny Golden Saffron bodywork, does not disappoint. Two buttons fold the rear seats fully flat, protecting the Dark Knight leather, while unlocking 638ltrs (22.5ft³) of stowage space. There is more than enough room for all our kit, and even a bit extra for anything we might pick up along the way.

Highway 154 is the main route into Los Padres, quickly rising out of Santa Barbara into the mountains. Patches of broken rock, which make lines in the sun-bleached gravel, are easy work for the DBX. Its accomplished suspension and all-wheel drive don’t even require a change in drive modes, as all four tyres sublimely grip the terrain. Just off this road, our chosen campsite overlooks the canyon with the Santa Ynez River flowing below. 

Great escape: A Californian road trip with the DBX

After a restful night, we awake to a fiery sun (elevation intensifies the California glow), then pack up and head back toward the city. The DBX is such a pleasure to drive, we decide to take the long way around the mountains and pick up Highway 101 along the coastline. We arrive at our next overnight stop, Hotel Californian, with plenty of time to explore Funk Zone, a rich mix of wineries, restaurants and shops juxtaposed against California’s Spanish Mission-style architecture.

There’s a new energy here that defines the future of Santa Barbara, much like the DBX does for Aston Martin. Certainly its greatest strength, the DBX is as perfectly in keeping with this environment as it is when ascending rocky crags. Perhaps the best word to describe this new flagship is balance. The DBX is always up for the challenge — whether it’s California’s notoriously uneven freeways or the curvature of a rough back road. It conquers all and has a hefty appetite for more.

Great escape: A Californian road trip with the DBX

Our drive back to the airport offers an opportunity to reflect on a weekend well spent with this marvel of engineering. To truly be an SUV, a modern grand tourer has to perform when and where it’s asked, and without breaking a sweat. Not only does the DBX meet that standard, it also exceeds it and readily asks for more. It leaves you with the feeling of a great camping trip: refreshed from the great outdoors, and already anticipating your next expedition.

This story is an extract from an article featured in the AM49 issue of Aston Martin magazine, out now. If you're not already a subscriber, visit magazine.astonmartin.com/magazine-subscription so that you can read the full story. 

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