A lovely old-school GT, but not the super-Aston its bodywork would have us believe

What is it?

Aston’s replacement for the Vanquish. It’s billed as a stand-alone model, but it doesn’t take a trained eye to spot the DB9 that lurks underneath.

List price is £160k, nearly £50k more than a DB9 Sportpack. Most of the panels have been reshaped, some of them in carbonfibre. Ceramic brakes are standard, as is a 510bhp version of the DB9’s V12 motor.

What’s it like?

Not what you might expect. Disregard all talk of an Aston supercar: this is an honest old-school GT that’s at its happiest covering long distances.

The DBS uses electronic two-stage Bilstein dampers (sport and comfort) and a bespoke Pirelli tyre to produce the most comfortable and capable chassis we’ve experienced from Aston.

Weight has been taken from the steering (a good thing), the limited-slip diff is a bit tighter on the over-run and, at 1695kg, the car is around 100kg lighter than the Vanquish.

It’s not a car that likes to be hustled: under duress the steering column moves slightly and there’s a slackness to the chassis, even with the dampers in sport mode, that dissuades you from such antics. In isolation, that’s no bad thing, but within the context of all that carbon and those splittery diffuser things, it’s just not what you expect.

It’s also a confusing package because the car’s exterior styling is so aggressive. As ever, looks are a subjective issue, but no-one can deny that a) it looks like a DB9 with a few body modifications and b) it’s a fussier shape than any of the other new-age Astons. Neither facet squares well with the price tag.

Still, we like the fact that Aston has developed this car to be at its best where most people will use it: on the road.

So what if it isn’t the road-scalpel we’d been expecting? It’s far more comfortable than a Ferrari 599 GTB: road, tyre and suspension noise are well isolated from the cabin and the drivetrain may do without some snazzy semi-automatic gearbox, but it shows that a good stick-shift stirring a lazy V12 will always be something to savour.

Claimed performance is 0-62mph in 4.3sec and 192mph all done. On price and poke, there is no comparison to be made between this car and the 599.

The levels to which Aston clearly felt it had to differentiate this car from the DB9 have made the interior’s life perhaps even more difficult than the exterior. There’s so much gimmickry, so many tiny buttons and different textures and surfaces that the effect is overwhelming.

And the new key system is idiotic: Aston calls it an ECU (that’s Emotional Control Unit, groan) and it requires the driver to push a key into a socket and hold it there for a couple of seconds. It just reminds you how good a proper key is.

Both standard and optional bucket seats are superb, the hi-fi is another excellent effort from Aston and the gearknob seems to have been borrowed from an Astra VXR. Oh dear.

I’m being harsh, because I’m sitting here wondering what this car should be, or rather what Aston wanted it to be. The carbon front splitter and rear diffuser seem to state uncompromised performance, and the vast 398mm ceramic brakes (which have the best pedal feel of any such items) would support such claims.

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And yet what Aston Martin has given us is a faster DB9, with some questionable body modifications and a drivetrain/chassis combination that's ideal for that weekend London to Nice dash.

The DBS is a car whose abilities and image are disconnected, and in being the only Aston without stand-alone styling, it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the range.

Should I buy one?

Sounds like you probably have, if Aston’s claims of a two-year wait in the UK are correct. It’s a lovely old-school GT, but it is not the super-Aston its bodywork would have us believe. That dichotomy will widen further when an auto box follows in 2008.

Chris Harris

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Wicksey 26 February 2009

Re: Aston Martin DBS

The best looking car for ages. I don't care if it looks like the DB9, the DBS makes the DB9 look boring.