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Aston Martin DBS (2008) review

Published:19 October 2007

Aston Martin DBS (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
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By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

I know Bond drove it last year but what’s all the fuss about? It’s a DB9 with a bodykit isn’t it?

Steady on. The DBS is certainly based on the DB9 but then so is the DBR9 racer that won the GT1 class at Le Mans in 2007. And you wouldn’t find anyone kicking sand in its face. Aston says the DBS is a very different car in character to both the DB9 and also the older Vanquish whose place the DBS effectively takes in the range – even if Aston reckons we shouldn’t see them as like-for-like.

But there’s more to it than war paint, right?

Right. But lets look at that war paint first: flared arches, aggressive front splitter, bonnet scoops, side skirts and a serious piece of carbon acting as a rear diffuser. You may prefer the more demure lines of the DB9 original, but you can’t deny that the DBS is a seriously handsome car with real road presence. And so to the stuff underneath that make-up. The bonnet, bootlid, wings and doors are made from carbonfibre, shaving 30kg of the total kerbweight and standard carbon brakes, the first on an Aston road car, shed another 12.5kg. In total, the 1695kg DBS weighs 65kg less than a DB9.

But it’s the same V12 engine

Yes, but reworked with bigger inlet ports and a higher 10.9:1 compression ratio to lift power from 450bhp to 510bhp. Torque remains the same at 420lb ft and is directed through the same six-speed Graziano manual ’box and out to the rear wheels via a shorter 3.71:1 final drive. It pulls hard from as low as 1500rpm in sixth gear and sings lustily through an exhaust system incorporating Aston’s usual trick bypass valves. But even with the valves open as the revs pass 3500rpm, the music is never obtrusive.

So with all that power and without all that weight it’s got to be a 200mph supercar...

Er, not quite. Will you settle for 191mph? That’s 5mph more than you’d be able to coax from a regular DB9 and the 0-62mph sprint falls from 4.7sec to 4.3sec. Not slow, but Ferrari’s 599 (similar layout and price) offers over 600bhp and hits 62mph in just 3.7sec. The DBS feels quick, clearly, but not shatteringly so. What strikes more is the amount of torque on offer, the kick in the back at mid-range speeds being far beyond what the spec-sheet suggests.

So how does it drive?

Like an Aston should. It’s refined, focused and fun with accurate, well weighted steering and the balance to let you play hero with the DSC switched out – although Dr Bez would rather you didn’t. But it’s maybe not the track special you were expecting. No bad thing, we say. Lambo’s Superleggera looks sensational and is sensational on a circuit, but suffers seriously compromised road manners as a consequence. Aston wants the DBS to feel at home on any road so has fitted adaptable dampers which can be switched between two positions via a console button. As with most cars so equipped, the harder sport setting is just too stiff for anything but the smoothest roads, so you’ll tend to stick with the standard setting. Which works fine until you really start to pile on the pressure. There’s just slightly too much float at higher speed. Aston knows this and is currently discussing whether to tighten the standard setting fractionally. The brakes certainly need no such fettling. The 398mm/360mm carbon stoppers are as big on feel as they are on reverse thrust. They're possibly the DBS’s stand-out feature.

Will I feel like Bond inside?

Emotionally? I couldn’t say. But you’ll certainly know that you’re not slumming it in a basic DB9 if that’s what you mean. There’s the ludicrously named but funky-looking Emotion Control Unit (it’s a posh key), the option of piano black for the centre console which feature some new knobs and, outside of North America, the option to save an extra 20kg by ditching the standard seats for some carbon-backed buckets. Don’t worry though North Americans – you’ll not notice the 20kg difference and the standard chairs look and feel almost as supportive.

Verdict

Those expecting some kind of Scuderia/RS/Superleggera DB9 might be disappointed, but we can’t see many customers feeling the same even after forking out £160,000 to get behind the wheel. They know they’re buying Bond’s car and the most exclusive car Aston makes and that will be enough. Aston’s new range-topper is an accomplished GT that – with a little tweaking – will be suited for any tarmac ribbon from B-road to race circuit. There are faster rivals, more overtly sporting rivals, but the DBS is the most useable. However for those who find the butch styling a little gauche, take heart in the knowledge that the brilliant and beautiful DB9 Sport Pack looks like a genuine bargain at £40k less. That's a very tempting proposition...

 

 

Specs

Price when new: £160,000
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 5935cc 48V V12, 510bhp @ 6500rpm, 420lb ft @ 5750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.7sec 0-62mph, 191mph
Weight / material: 1695kg/aluminum,carbon
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4721/1905/1280

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By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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