First Drive: Aston Martin DBS
This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2012.
By Matt DeLorenzo of Road & Track
Cahors, France — Somewhere southeast of this idyllic French town on a sweeping two-lane country road, I got the giggles. The kind a schoolboy gets when hes pulling a fast one. But in this case, I was pushing a fast one: Aston Martins 510-bhp 6.0-liter V-12-powered DBS.
With a powerband as broad as the Airbus A380s we saw parked on the tarmac upon our arrival a day earlier in Toulouse, the DBS delivers turbinelike thrust, no matter what cog is selected on the 6-speed gearbox. Merely squeezing the accelerator provides ample power to fly the 3735-lb. 2-seat ber Aston through the sweepers.
But the temptation to downshift and run the engine up through 4000 rpm where the auxiliary flaps on the exhaust would pop open was too great to resist. The full-throated song of 420 lb.-ft. of torque on tap is pure magic.
The DBS sits atop Astons line, but dont call it a Vanquish replacement in front of AM Chairman Ulrich Bez. To him, the Vanquish will always be the Vanquish; this is the DBS, he sharply asserts.
Still, there are valid comparisons to be made. Both share the VH (vertical-horizontal) platform that underpins both the DB9 and V8 Vantage. Both Vanquish and DBS are powered by pumped-up versions of Astons brawny 12-cylinder engine. And both carry only two people.
While the DB9 has a little GT in it, thanks to its 2+2 seating, the DBS is built with purely sport in mind, albeit a luxuriously outfitted expression of sport. Inside, theres the stitched leather coverings on virtually every surface, watch-inspired instrument graphics, metal accents and the crystal ECU (emotion control unit), a cigarette lighter-sized element thats inserted in the ignition and pressed to bring the car to life.
Outside, the DBS has a purposeful, bold and, at the same time, elegant shape. While the Vanquish sports crisp lines and a sharklike nose to convey speed and power, the DBS is more rounded, yet you know beneath that skin are ripped muscles. The DBS owes more to the DB4 Zagato (but without the bubbled roof) than it does to the Vanquish.
So, in that sense, the DBS is its own creature and still unmistakably an Aston. I had the opportunity to sample both the Euro and U.S.-spec versions. The principal difference is an optional one-piece carbon-fiber-and-Kevlar sport seat that the Europeans will get, but Americans wont because of its lack of side airbags.
These buckets save about 50 lb. and are nicely supportive, although a little light in the padding. And although the seats can be electrically raised, lowered and tilted, they offer fewer adjustments because of the fixed rake of the seatback. The cushier stock seats with side airbags were nicely supportive, and the adjustable seatback angle made settling in behind the wheel much easier.
The only other disquieting note was the center console. It has a high cover that made my grasp of the shifter a bit awkward. The lid itself has a T-bar release that forms the divider in the exposed cupholder right about where you rest your elbow. Aston devised a little leather-covered foam support that fits into this orificeits effective, but not particularly elegant.
For all its power, the DBS is quite demure in low-speed operation. The steering is well-balanced, firm and precise. Clutch take-up (the DBS only comes with a conventional 6-speed manual) is positive and not too heavy. However, on one particular model, engagement was near the top of the pedal strokeseveral times while upshifting, Id zing the revs as the engine would decouple before I could back out of the throttle completely.
The DBS is the first application of carbon-ceramic brakes at Aston and the 6-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers do an amazing job of bringing this car down from speed with a decided lack of drama.
The suspension is taut, nicely tuned and provides enough compliance, at least on French country roads, to impart a comfortable ride. There is a sport mode that stiffens the shock absorbers instantaneously. Its so stiff that its better left for track days than any serious on-road workhowever, when you switch it over on imperfect roads, the car jiggles so much your voice sounds like youre talking through a fan. More giggling.
Of course, the $265,000 sticker wipes the smile off faces of those with lesser means. However, if you can foot the bill, the grin will come right back on the open road.
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