Aston Martin DBS review

Both elegant and aggressive, the Aston Martin DBS coupe assumed the flagship position formerly held by the V12 Vanquish when it debuted for the 2008  model year, and brought a famed nameplate from the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s  back into the line. It offers a stunningly modern take on its predecessor’s old-money British sports car styling, albeit with aluminum, magnesium alloy and car-bon-fiber composite body panels and lightweight aluminum underpinnings to minimize the car’s sheer mass.

Aston Martin DBS

Available as a closed-roof coupe or Volante convertible, the DBS eschews prototypical exotic sports car excess in favor of a more organic wide-track look. Up front, broad and narrow upper and lower front grilles are flanked by elongated oval headlamps that flow upwards nearly horizontally into the muscular front fenders, and all the way rearward across the car’s low-to-the-ground fastback profile. Purists will note that the trademark Aston Martin air vents remain located on the front fenders, just rearward of the wheel wells. A limited-production Carbon Black coupe edition ramps up the car’s appearance inside and out, with added exclusivity. There are no major changes to the line for 2011.

Like the Vanquish, the DBS packs a hand-assembled V12 engine, a 6.0-liter version that brings a full 510 horsepower to the pavement. While that’s 10 fewer horses than the old Vanquish could muster, the DBS is slightly quicker off the line, due in large part to its lightweight construction, and is able to reach 60 mph in a little over four seconds. (While that’s certainly more than quick enough for most motorists it’s actually a bit slower than some of the hottest cars in the exotic segment, certainly those in the DBS’s upper-$200K price range.) The car’s exhaust is specially constructed to deliver a quieter aural experience at lower speeds, with special by-pass valves at open at 4,000 rpm to generate an exhilarating exhaust note for more-aggressive operation.

Not only is the V12 front mid-mounted, which means it essentially resides behind the front wheels, the DBS’s transmission is fitted at the rear axle; this combination yields a nicely balanced front-to-rear-weight distribution that places 85 percent of the car’s weight positioned between the wheelbase. This translates into added stability and agility through the curves. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, with a quick-shifting six-speed “Touchtronic” automated manual alternately available. The latter can be left to its own devices or taken through the gears manually via steering wheel-mounted magnesium paddles.

To help further its superior handling prowess, the DBS rides on lightweight 20-inch alloy wheels and Pirelli P-Zero performance tires, and features a racing-derived suspension with an Adaptive Damping System that automatically adjusts the car’s ride and handling characteristics according to five driver-selectable operating modes. A “Track” mode automatically sets the dampers in their firmest positions for peak cornering abilities, through at the expense of a rougher ride than most wealthy buyers would tolerate over pockmarked pavement.

Similarly, the DBS’s Dynamic Stability Control system, which normally works to help keep the driver from spinning out during extreme handling maneuvers, includes its own Track mode that lets accomplished drivers slide a bit through the turns by allowing added wheel spin before intervening.

The assignment of bringing all 510 of the V12’s horses to a controlled stop goes to the DBS’s carbon ceramic antilock brakes, which are both stronger and lighter in weight than conventional binders.

The weight-reduction initiative further finds its way into the DBS’ cockpit, and goes so far to include touches like carbon fiber door pulls and carpeting that’s woven from lightweight materials. The leather-upholstered interior is otherwise both rich and handsome, with white-on-graphite gauges and aluminum controls that carry the look of precision, like a fine timepiece. A sapphire starter button glows red when the key fob is inserted into a slot in the dashboard.

Owners can choose between the standard sport seats or ultrathin racing-type seats that are better suited to competition in “gentleman racer” series. There’s ordinarily a small storage area located behind the coupe’s front seats, which can be fitted with a small rear bench seat at a buyer’s request (it’s standard with the convertible). Since rear legroom would be virtually nonexistent in this case, we’d expect this addition would be more for looks – turning it into an upholstered cargo space – than sheer practicality.

The DBS Volante’s convertible top nicely protects occupants from both the elements and road noise via a layer of Thinsulate material. The five-piston hydraulic pump that operates the top is itself encased in a cocoon of noise and vibration-reducing materials to ensure that the 14 seconds it takes to raise or lower the roof is maintained with serenity. The top stores neatly beneath a hard tonneau cover. Twin roll bars instantaneously spring into position to protect passengers’ heads in a rollover collision.

As one might expect, the DBS offers the requisite array of upscale amenities, including a 13-speaker custom designed Bang & Olufsen audio system with iPod integration, a Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone interface and a GPS navigation system.

Overall, the Aston Martin DBS is an exotic “supercar” that falls somewhere in between posher coupes from Bentley and Rolls-Royce and more-ferocious ones from Ferrari and Lamborghini, It pays homage to its British roots with upper-crust accommodations, spirited acceleration and dynamic performance that would once have been reserved for the race track.

Aston Martin DBS Quick Facts

Engine: 6.0-liter V12
Horsepower: 510 @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 420 @ 5750 rpm
City/Highway: MPG 11/17
Transmission: 6-Spd Manual, 6-Spd Auto Manual
Drive: Rear
Wheelbase: 107.9 in
Overall Length 185.9 in
Width: 75.0 in
Height: 50.4 in
Curb Weight: 3,737 lbs
MSRP: $273,000 - $286,500

Did You Know?

Aston Martin vehicles have long been associated with James Bond movies, and the DBS is no exception. The original DBS was featured in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s  Secret Service, while the latest iteration co-starred as 007’s ride of choice in the 2006 film Casino Royale and the subsequent 2008 installment, Quantum of Solace.