First Drive: Aston Martin DBS
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At first glance, the DBS comes across as little more than a DB9 ‘special edition’ with a loud bodykit and a few extra horses under the hood. However Aston Martin is adamant that the DBS is a completely different car, at least in character and feel, if not styling. In fact, the DBS has all the ingredients for a brutal sports car rather than a Grand Tourer: a hand built V12 engine with 517 horsepower, upgraded suspension from the DB9, ceramic brakes, huge 20” tires that are 245/35 at the front and 295/30 at the rear and a stability control system with a track mode.
The DBS claims a top speed of over 300km/h and a 0-60mph time of just 4.3 seconds drawing ever closer to the performance benchmarks set by Ferrari and Lamborghini. The car already has a reputation after being briefly driven in the last James Bond film, Casino Royale, but the short chase and subsequent destruction left us wanting more. That’s the reason we’re here in the UK test driving the production model of the movie car.
Visually and structurally it is easy to see how the car was born from the DB9. But where the DB9 is a gentlemanly grand tourer, the DBS has an altogether more aggressive appeal. Lovers of clean lines and Astons of old will be turned off by the more in-your-face attitude of the DBS but others will be attracted by the very same thing.
The interior of the DBS is simple and elegant; the dodgy Ford ignition key found in the DB9 has thankfully been removed and replaced with proper key fob. The driving position is excellent and the seat and pedals are perfectly aligned and electrically adjustable. The leather dash is accompanied by an aluminum (or you can have it glossy black) centre console that is both simple and elegant and yet make the car feel like a bespoke item. However the Alcantara seats, made of carbon-fibre and kevlar, remind you that this is no soft-fisted GT.
The aluminum and magnesium frame ensures the Aston retains excellent rigidity while still maintaining a weight of 1695kg, 65kg less than the DB9. This weight advantage and the extra rigidity reveal themselves most when cornering. Compared to the DB9, the steering is precise and informative and the direction-changes are completed reactively and quickly, with the sport suspension settings greatly adding to the abilities of the DBS by keeping body roll to a minimum. The 6-speed manual transmission was lacking and at times felt clunky, but with no auto option for at least another year, punters will have to make do with what’s on offer.
The suspension set up is bang-on, with even the Sport setting not being bone-jarringly unbearable on roads that aren’t perfectly smooth, but at the same time giving you the stiffness to enjoy a twisty mountain road.
Aston Martin has finally joined the exclusive club of companies that can offer carbon ceramic bakes on their vehicles with the DBS. Unlike other cars, the DBS gets these brakes as standard with 398mm discs and six-piston calipers on the front and 360mm with four piston calipers in the rear to provide some impressive stopping power. Here, too, you can see that Aston Martin has spent considerable time fine tuning braking performance. They don’t bite as hard as those from other companies and are instead progressive and easy to toy with.
While the V12 engine comes from the DB9, the compression ratios have been altered to produce an extra 45kw at a higher rev range. Above 4000rpm, the Aston really starts to pull and you can hear the difference as the V12 engine growls almost savagely. The improvements to the engine, suspension, brakes and aerodynamics all make the DBS a fairly complete package and we have to agree with Aston Martin’s claim of it being a very different car to drive.
The only real issue with the DBS is its staggering price figure – €83,000 more than the DB9 and around €20,000 more than a Ferrari 599 GTB, which is widely regarded as one of the best supercars in recent years. While there’s no doubt that this car is a real head turner at the end of the day there are more polished packages available from Ferrari or Lamborghini. But if you want a quintessentially British supercar, look no further.
First Drive: Aston Martin DBS