8 Apr 2013

Aston Martin DBS review

Does driving an Aston Martin make you cool?  George Phillips has been driving an Aston Martin DBS for a week.  He tells us

It is hard to define ‘cool’. There are some inanimate objects that ooze style and class effortlessly - for no discernible reason people lust after them. Some things can turn heads wherever they are and are loved universally. In the car world, nothing does ‘cool’ better than an Aston Martin.

I know this, because for the last week I have had the keys to a DBS. To all intents and purposes this is no different to many cars on the road, but the DBS is showered with admiration and awe wherever is goes. Heads swivelled, jaws dropped and smiles beamed from every direction. I was talking to a family friend who owned a V8 Vantage, the baby of the group, and he encountered the same thing. He even had someone give it a hug whilst sitting in a traffic jam. It seems that putting an Aston badge on a bonnet is an instant entry into the club of cool.

Maybe it’s because of the whole James Bond thing, or the fact that it’s ‘British’. Maybe it’s the power, the speed or the noise. It’s most likely to be a mix of all of these, plus many more reasons. The fact is, the DBS was respected and loved by almost everyone who saw it, and rightly so. This is one hell of a car.

Aston Martin’s USP is that its cars are beautiful. The DBS is no exception; while most couldn’t tell the difference from the older, cheaper DB9, it possesses some subtle features which go a long way in creating a more aggressive look than its daddy. The bold bonnet vents, combined with beefy flared wheel arches makes for a more serious, threatening front end. While a carbon fibre diffuser and frosted taillights at the back give the impression of a hunkered down road-racer compared to the sleek and slim line DB9. It looks superb.

To drive, the DBS is not a ‘take no prisoners’ street legal race car. The acceleration is not savage, put your foot down and there is a momentary low pitch snarl when you can feel the car girding its loins, then at around 4,000rpm there is a change in tone as the car roars and settles into an unremitting surge of speed. Once it has asserted itself upon the tarmac, the rear wheels effortlessly propel you to licence losing speeds. This is a fast car by any standard, a very fast car, but the delivery of power is so smooth and seamless that it never feels dramatic. Brutally quick, yes, but not dramatic.

What are dramatic, however, are the brakes. Aston Martin has fitted huge carbon ceramic discs all round, meaning they are capable of being punished again and again with little fade in performance. It also means the DBS can stop on a pinhead.  Despite this particular car having a squeaky brake, I almost enjoyed the braking ability more than the acceleration. In the DBS you brake at the corner, rather than before it. Stomp on the middle pedal too soon and you pull up at a full stop way short of the mark. It was comical deceleration.

This is very much a Jekyll and Hyde car. One personality attacks your senses with muscular power and ferocious noise. The other quietly soothes your brow and comforts you. The huge 6.0 litre V12 provides 570NM of torque, which is available in any gear, at any speed in order to swell you confidently and comfortably towards the horizon. In sixth gear at motorway speeds, the engine is virtually silent. This car is extremely refined.  Despite the low profile tyres road noise is minimal and the ride is simply sublime. It took supermarket car parks, poor roads and long journeys in its stride. I could easily live with the DBS every day.

The interior goes a long way to making this car such a joy to drive. The cabin is a sumptuous mix of hand stitched leather, soft suede and carbon fibre. The seats are a masterpiece.  They manage to be consistently supportive for both your back and arms whilst also providing heaps of comfort beyond what the slender bucket seats would have you believe. The steering wheel sits charmingly in your hands, allowing you to take full advantage of the beautifully weighted steering. The dials and buttons are simple and sophisticated, and Aston Martin has managed to create a gearstick shape which feels perfect however you hold it. It is a truly wonderful place to be.

Having said that, you don’t get a whole lot of build quality for your £180K. On my car the stitching across the whole passenger side dashboard had come adrift, meaning I spent the week with a monumental urge to tuck the lining back in. On the last day of my time with the Aston, the passenger window developed an unbearable rattle, hinting that it was about to smash into a million pieces at any point. Worst of all, however, was the satnav which looked like it had been bought from a bargain bin at Halfords and stuck onto a square of spare plywood with double sided tape. It was so grotesque I kept it down and out of sight the whole week.

These issues are but small thorns in the side of an otherwise great beast. The DBS is a sensation.  It manages to deliver the thrills of a full blown supercar combined with the relaxing drive of a luxury long distance cruiser. At 180 grand it is an absolute bargain, because you really are getting two cars in one.

It’s worth that price for the ridiculously wonderful howl of that bellowing V12. But most of all it’s worth it because it makes you and everyone around you happy. I miss the DBS. I miss the power, and the noise and the looks. But most of all, I miss being cool.