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First Drive: Aston Martin DBS Carbon Edition car review


PAYING homage to the past without being enslaved by it is no easy task. All car manufacturers face this particular problem with their latest products, needing to balance progress of the brand but without jumping too far ahead and leaving behind customers who love the current cars.

It’s an even bigger problem for someone like Aston Martin, a firm steeped in history and with a brand image that is intimately tied to past products; the classic DB5/6 is one of the most famous cars in the world thanks to its association with a certain secret agent. But how does that help you sell a new car?

Spend a few minutes drinking in the details of this DBS Carbon Edition and you can’t help thinking that Aston Martin has got it absolutely spot on. It starts with the grille and its distinctive shape that echoes those classic ‘50s and ‘60s icons. But sandwiching that is a carbonfibre splitter and LED headlights, details that have 21st Century written all over them. This Carbon Edition also adds the choice of diamond-turned alloy wheels with two possible finishes, carbonfibre door mirrors and rear light surrounds. There are two unique colours to this model too – a Ceramic Grey or the pictured Flame Orange, all of which go through a 25-hour hand finishing proves. The DBS usually wears more sober shades but this is the ultimate DB9 after all, and the vibrant paint draws out the sensuous curves.

Climbing inside always brings with it a sense of occasion. The flip-up door handles are a triumph of style over function; yes they are a little more awkward to use than a normal handle but it is so worth it for the looks. Pop the handle and the doors swing out and up, easing your entry but also looking very slick. In the cabin the DBS Carbon Edition unsurprisingly adds yet more carbonfibre – this time laid over the top of the dashboard while the lower half is finished in piano black. The roof lining is also finished in quilted leather, meaning every surface is a visual and tactile treat. On a more practical level the DBS also now receives the upgraded Garmin sat-nav system which is a big improvement on the old set up which was getting on a little.

These enhancements certainly add to the sense of occasion that comes as standard with an Aston Martin and particularly the DBS, and act as the perfect appetiser to the driving experience. The starting routine remains the same, slotting the sapphire glass oblong key into the centre of the dashboard, followed by a rapid whirr and a snarl as the magnificent V12 fires into life. This is a sporting GT car, effectively at the top of the Aston range and therefore nothing less than 12-cylinders will do.

Getting going requires a simple push of the D button in a Touchtronic II-equipped model, and dropping the fly-off handbrake which is a lovely nod to older Aston Martins. The DBS has the Sport suspension mode as standard, so starting off in the default mode gives you ride quality more comfortable than you might expect. It’s no limousine of course – you know the bumps are there but they don’t disturb, so you are always aware of the road beneath you, just as you should be. And in this mode it can do what it should be capable of; namely covering long distances with ease and in fine style. So you might need to refuel fairly regularly, but parking up once in a while to admire the view is no hardship.

But you’ll want to explore the sporty side to the DBS, and punching the Sport button sharpens the throttle response as well as tightening up the dampers. A flick of the paddles gives you control over the gearbox, and immediately you can feel the car tighten up, ready for action. If you’ve not done so already exercising that big V12 is a lesson in how a mechanical thing can live and breathe; the Aston delivers a series of thrilling sounds from its exhaust pipes, piling on speed relentlessly and egging you on to push harder. The raw figures say plenty – 191mph and 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds – but it feels faster than that.

Then you have the carbon ceramic brakes that shed the speed time after time with consummate ease, allowing you to charge up to a bend in complete confidence. And when you ease the DBS into that bend you have the classic front-engined, rear-wheel drive set-up to inspire confidence. But this is still a modern car, with two-stage ESP to suit your confidence and the conditions, and so it grips and communicates as well as you would hope. Ultimately it may not be quite as fast as its younger rivals, but it’s for you to decide whether that is more important than the size of your grin as you exit a bend, rear tyres lit up and 6.0-litres of muscle roaring away.

At this end of the pricing scale it’s all about sensations, the experience and how a car makes you feel. The DBS is unutterably pretty, scintillating in its speed and is dripping with charisma and presence. That should be enough to please anyone.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Aston Martin DBS Carbon Edition, £186,582 Engine: 6.0-litre petrol producing 510bhp and 420lb.ft of torque Transmission: Six-speed automatic driving the rear wheels Performance: Top speed 191mph, 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds Economy: 17.3mpg combined Emissions: 388g/km of CO2

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power5 (high performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy1 (poor fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups1 (very high costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats4 value verdict:    stars

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