2008 Aston Martin DBS Review & Road Test
Power, poise, beauty and soul the DBS truly wants for nothing.
- 2008 Aston Martin DBS Coupe 6.0 litre V12 Six Speed Manual - $466,600 (RRP)
Power, Handling, Grace, Exclusivity, Comfort
High Set Gearshift Position, Handing It Back
- Words & Photographs by Matt Brogan & Anthony Crawford
Ian's first question was "What colour is the DBS?" to which we replied, "Lightning Silver". "Deep red dirt would make for a beautiful contrast," Ian offered "so you can either go up to the Northern Territory, or to the Cawnpore Hills, on the edge of the Simpson Desert."
As we’d never heard of the Cawnpore Hills, we were intrigued and so began the many months of planning required for such an adventure, but as we would soon find out as with most good ideas, there’s always a catch.
These particular hills are no ordinary garden variety mounds of soil, they are in fact called Mesa, Spanish for table (due to their flat-topped appearance), and are found in only two places on earth. In Australia they're conveniently located quite literally in the middle of nowhere, smack bang in the middle of the incredibly large 62,000 square kilometre Boulia Shire, 560km south of Mt Isa, which suddenly made the tyranny of distance, and the logistical challenge therein, seem almost overwhelming.
Boulia township, population 300, was to be our home base for several days and sits at the start of the infamously lonely one lane road known as the Min Min Way. This glorified goat track plays host to a strange phenomenon known as the Min Min light, which since the time of Burke and Wills has been documented for giving plenty of travelers the creeps whilst traversing the dark flat expanse at night. It is said that the unusual lights follow you for very long distances and to this day they have not been properly explained by science - at least we could outrun them in the DBS!
Our astonishing test candidate, Aston Martin’s stunning and highly sought after new DBS, drew a lot of attention on arrival in Mt Isa and as supercars go, they don’t get much newer than this one. Being thrown the keys to build number one (47 test vehicles precede) had ensured us absolute exclusivity and despite having a vast collective experience in driving such exclusive cars, we were all humbled at the offer to be first in the country to put wheel to road.
The DBS offers all the traditional values expected from a heritage marque in what can only be described as a salubriously powerful and remarkably beautiful package. Best of all, for a hectic hundred hours, it was all ours, along with a V8 Vantage for good measure.
Day one and shortly after landing in Mt Isa, we struck our first problem. The curious locals told us there were major road works going on over several lengthy sections of the road to Boulia, which meant that we had just hit our first logistical roadblock. After so much planning, effort and money spent the prospect of changing locations, after already traveling nearly 1700 kilometres, floored us and there was no choice left but to truck the two Aston Martins down to Boulia, an option which presented even more dangers.
It doesn’t matter one iota that there is three-quarters of a million dollars worth of the world’s most beautiful metal sitting on the back of two trucks, road-trains do not deviate from the centre of the road and do not slow down for any one, or anything. Getting beyond them is enough to fill any motoring enthusiast with dread.
The isolation of this geography made for some interesting repartee with the local folk, who were stunned to see such an expensive car brought to their amazing outback setting, but being one of only two places on earth to feature such a dramatic milieu, our decision to trek this far had been well worth the outlay.
Although we were itching to shoot some serious high-speed stuff on the main runway, we had a more pressing request from the Boulia school principal. All twenty students aged from five to 15 were in for a rare treat, as we gently eased the DBS and the V8 Vantage in to the school grounds where the kids went nuts with pictures in the drivers seat, along with the obligatory engine revving routine. The kids loved it and to be honest, we did too.
When we first drove the DBS in the UK back in February, the draconian speed restrictions and torturous road rules meant we had to curb our enthusiasm somewhat, but now with a runway six lanes wide and over a kilometre long - anything goes.
Finally it was time to exploit the race-bred attributes of a car that is essentially a road-going version of Aston Martin's blistering DBR9.
A well weighted clutch offering precise feel and feedback comes as a pleasant surprise to the left leg and with the superbly ratioed, six-speed Gratziano gearbox offering light, direct shifts any driver worth their salt should master the DBS effortlessly. Perhaps my only criticism, if any, at this point is the gear lever position does tend to throw your elbow toward the passenger seat instead of aftward.
The DBS proved time and time again to be astonishingly quick off the line over several timed 400 metre runs, but what impressed us most, was its huge torque, spread evenly through all six gears. It just doesn’t let up, even in sixth the DBS still pulls as hard as a Mt Isa road-train. As quick as it is, it’s not just the acceleration that impresses when it comes to the DBS but also the ease with which you can sail through the six speeds. As I said in our first steer, the DBS is the user-friendly supercar.
After shooting plenty of entertaining footage for our upcoming video it was time to hand the cars back for refueling. Meanwhile we journeyed out to the Cawnpore Hills before day's end to see if it was the spectacle we'd been so keenly anticipating - it had better be, as it's a big desert, and I have a shovel.
What lies beneath the Aston Martin's purposeful yet transcendently beautiful exterior is a technologically masterful and modern vehicle with power, poise, balance, and, perhaps surprisingly, grace. As Aston Martin themselves put it, Power, Beauty, Soul.
It's a highlight feature of the car and coupled with a three tier (on/track/off) traction control system means a DBS buyer can be assured of the car's set up in any application, be it a high speed cross country cruise, day at the track, or an evening jaunt to the opera.
As for the interior, the handsome stitch work is precise, millimetre perfect and compliments the sumptuous leather with the kind of lavish and bespoke workmanship expected from a timeless classic, which I have no doubt the DBS will become in the years to follow.
To ensure parity when fitting décor to the DBS, Aston Martin assure that all the hand stitched leather work is completed by a single operator to maintain a uniform style over all surfaces of the vehicle’s interior. Though the cabin’s overall ambiance is a masterpiece, its simplistic layout hints subtly at its race bred heritage almost masking the extravagance of the underlying works. Organic Electroluminescent back-lighting offers a crystal appearance to all cockpit switches and sharp instrumentation detail at night.
A stunning sapphire key fob, or in Aston speak ECU (Emotional Control Unit) sits as a splendid centre piece high in the dash for that constant reminder that this truly is a splendid and personal machine that reflects properly the sophisticated personality of a car that still encompasses so many of the everyday features many supercars seem to leave behind. An iPod connector in the centre console, crisp 700W stereo with six CD player, climate control, Bluetooth mobile phone functionality, 3D Satellite Navigation plus an array of cockpit switches and dials all simple to understand and logical in function.
The ambient cabin lighting upon unlock is effective yet discreet and by further use of the crystal LED lights does not contrast against the instruments making for an inviting ambiance so well finished and so uncompromised in character that you're struck with it's beauty wondering why so many other manufacturers don't use similar themes in highlighting the beauty of their own machines.
To me at least, DBS represents the finer qualities of a true vehicular masterpiece and is for so many reasons as near to perfection as any supercar has yet come. Pure class. Not only is it stunningly beautiful and so very fulfilling to drive, it also managed to perform flawlessly despite conditions far more arduous than I'm sure the boys at Gaydon ever even thought to anticipate.
Four days of driving, three support vehicles, two Aston Martins and one well worn chase car saw the curtains on our remarkable adventure drawn to a close and despite testing the limits of all involved to the extreme, it was the illustrious new Bond car that fared best, showing not even a hint of exhaustion from such an unparalleled road test.
As for the rest of us, despite sand in places we never knew we had, sunburn all over, red dust in our camera equipment and wind still ringing in our ears, the 18 hour days, 32 degree heat, road-trains, camels, and dehydration had been worth every moment, and now represent a piece of Australian motoring history the likes of which myself, nor the Cawnpore Hills are likely to see repeated any time soon.
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