British supercars come no better than Aston Martin’s gorgeous DBS. Jonathan Crouch checks it out…
Bond is back – and so is Aston Martin. In place of the rather cumbersome Vanquish comes the gorgeous DBS, introduced to us by 007 in Casino Royale. All right, at its heart, it’s no more than a development of the more affordable DB9 but it’s smarter, cleaner and because it’s lighter, significantly faster. What’s not to like?
The Vanquish was the car that brought Aston Martin into a new era, courtesy of Ford ownership and money. The DBS heralds a new era too. Though developed under Ford, its future lies firmly with a consortium who promise to make Aston Martin a desirable niche sportscar maker with its own direction rather than a premium brand tied to a multi-national corporation. No more borrowed bits or restrictions on development, we’re promised. Perhaps that will mean Astons becoming even more exclusive. Production of DBS models will be no more than 500 units for worldwide annual sale after all. In comparison, Porsche 911s are like Fiestas.
The engine bay isn’t where much of the development budget for this car was spent. The Vanquish’s familiar 48-valve 6.0-litre V12 still resides here, though it’s been enhanced with a smarter bypass system that opens at higher revs to provide additional intake air. There’s also a slightly higher compression ratio and reprofiled inlet ports, all of which, Aston claims, gives the car a bit more zip at higher revs. You wouldn’t know that from looking at the bald statistics – maximum power of 510bhp and torque of 420Ib ft, a step down from the figures recorded by the old Vanquish (520bhp and 425Ib ft).
Yet this car is significantly faster and the reason isn’t hard to find. Carbonfibre body panels (a first for Aston Martin), lighter seats and lighter brakes help to curb weight by 120kg (around 7%) over the portly Vanquish. All of which helps the DBS towards the kind of pace that sets it clearly above any car the marque has yet produced. Rest to sixty takes just over 4 seconds and rest to 100mph occupies only 9.4s. The top speed? 191mph. The awful semi-automatic transmission of the Vanquish has been ditched for a far more satisfying 6-speed manual. The brakes are ceramic, likely to be a huge improvement on the steel discs previously used which tend to fade easily with hard track use.
"This is also the first real driver’s Aston we can remember for some years…."
The lighter weight of course has handling benefits too and this car will clearly feel more agile to owners used to the more GT-orientated set-up of its predecessor. There’s quicker steering and suspension that has been both stiffened and lowered. Despite this, the engineers have gone to a lot of trouble to ensure that the ride feels comfortable over rough surfaces.
Designer Marek Reichman had to base the DBS on the existing DB9, so there were inevitably some compromises that the clean-sheet Vanquish creators didn’t have to concern themselves with. Aston Martin describe this car as ‘the culmination of the DB bloodline’, designing it to bridge the gap between the more GT-focused DB9 and more track-focused Astons like the DBRS9 racer. Reichman’s brief at the beginning was to lower the DB9 design by 20mm, add 20-inch wheels (for the first time on an Aston), widen the track (by 20mm at the front and 40mm at the rear) and make the whole look that bit more aggressive. Most will agree that he’s succeeded.
For some potential owners, the fact that the DB9’s two rear child seats have been ditched will be bad news, making car unusable for the infrequent occasions when they have to step in on the school run or run friends back from the pub. No one will be surprised by the lack of luggage space however. Specially tailored Aston Martin luggage is probably a must.
Build quality from this marque has come on hugely in recent years, now a match for the best Aston’s German rivals can offer. Expect to pay around £160,000 for this car, which sounds – and is – a great deal of money. However, the £180,000 that Ferrari will ask of you for a (much uglier) 599GTB is even more. Lamborghini’s Murcielago at £192,000 is even more ridiculously priced, though the smaller Gallardo can be yours for £145,000. A tougher nut for the DBS to crack are cars like Porsche’s desirable 911 Turbo at around £98,000 or, even more affordably, Audi’s R8 at as little as £77,000. Both cars are effectively as fast as the DBS but lack its feeling of exclusivity.
Equipment includes everything you would expect from a car like this: electric memory heated sports seats with ten-way electric adjustment, parking sensors, a trip computer, power-folding mirrors, those gorgeous 20-inch alloys, sat nav and a beautifully finished interior set off by an all-alloy centre console. There’s a very sophisticated car alarm and a Tracking device should the worst happen. The tyres are special DBS-spec Pirelli Corsa affairs (245/35 front and 295/30 rear) that you won’t want to have to replace in a hurry. Following the poor reception given to the old Vanquish’s semi-automatic transmission, there’s no auto F1 paddle-style option.
No one buys a car like this and expects it to be cheap to run. Don’t expect to average better than around 20mpg even if you do a fair few motorway miles. There’s also the irritation that the fuel tank is only 78 litres or 17 gallons (compared to say, a Ferrari 599 GTB’s at 105 litres) which will make the car seem even thirstier than it is. Insurance of course is up at Group 20. Better news comes in terms of depreciation. Because of the car’s exclusivity, expect residual values to be as high, if not higher, than Ferrari’s. Servicing costs will inevitably be high, as for any supercar of this sort.
Overall, you have to consider the DBS a job well done by Aston. Given that they had to base the design on that of the existing DB9, this car has a remarkably unique personality – and is far more desirable at an asking price ‘just’ £50,000 more. If you’ve just won the lottery, it’s a price hike worth swallowing. This is also the first real driver’s Aston we can remember for some years. The V8 Vantage isn’t really a great track car but this one will be much more at home on circuit days thanks to more focused handling and those fade-free ceramic brakes. Not that many DBS models will end up being thrashed in this way. They’ll signal success in the way that Astons always have. And always will.