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Reader test: Aston Martin DBS

2008-09-25 11:29

James Savage

The DBS is as daunting to look at as a nightclub bouncer who hasn’t yet met his quota for throwing people out of a club. Its sleek design stares you down and whispers, “I dare you” before you nestle into its superb suede-covered racing seats, cheekily embroidered with the DBS badge at the nape of your neck.

It takes a few moments to pluck up the courage to start the V12 sitting somewhere between your feet and St Peters Golden Gates. You insert the beautiful, Swarowski-crystal smartkey (which costs as much as an average car to replace if you lose it) and suddenly you are met with the sound of 510 angry horses neighing at you for waking them.

“The clutch is sensitive,” I’m told by the showroom manager.

“Thanks”, I say confidently, while screaming inside. I ease the six-speed manual gearbox's shifter into first and release the handbrake. Slowly releasing the clutch I immediately feel the monster beneath me get up onto its haunches and grumble as it edges its way out of the showroom. The car is now mine and what a day this is going to be!

First things first

Before I get too far I familiarise myself with all its gadgets. My first port of call is to phone all my friends and make them jealous; I had bought airtime just to do this. My phone is synced to the Bluetooth system in the car and all calls can be controlled at the steering wheel. With the toggle ergonomically placed near the gear stick you control the autonav, Bluetooth, iPod / auxiliary / 10 CD / radio sound system. I say sound system but "theatre" justifies it more.

The steering wheel is positioned low down and close to your torso, reminding you never to use less than two hands unless changing gear or wiping the sweat from your brow. The 380 kW pushing at your backside will eat you if you let your guard down. At R3.5 million I wasn’t about to let my guard down. It was price, not safety, which was of concern to me.

Speaking of safety, this car has more airbags than a jumping castle and the ceramic brakes take you from 180 km/h to zero in the space of about 400m. If someone is ever choking on something, forget the Heimlich maneouvre. Stick them in a DBS, take it to 120 km/h in 4.3 seconds and then stand on the brakes. Anything once stuck will soon be resting nicely on the dashboard. And it's a great dashboard too, with double-stitched leather and racy red detail. Yummy!

The boot is big enough to fit a large suitcase, but I would imagine if you can afford the car you can probably afford to have someone run behind you carrying your belongings.

Handles like a ...

Being Aston they put the engine in the front and defied critics by managing to create a car that handles better than a four-wheel drive Carrera. I did find that when taking off quickly in a straight line, the back tested you a bit, as would any ridiculously cool sports coupe – I’m not complaining!

Now keeping the beast on the road requires some rubber. The 19-inch lightweight alloys lend a graceful and sophisticated edge to the rest of the magnificence that is the DBS. The disc brakes are equally man-sized, with a compromise being some brake noise at low speeds.

The DBS's body is almost all carbon fibre and the gearbox is a six-speed manual with no fancy bits and pieces thrown in. It’s a real car and demands that you drive it as such. It thanks you for double-clutching and strokes your pride when the traction control silently steps in, like R2D2 does for what’s his name.

That scorned tiger

The adjustable suspension lets you play a little harder, but if you’re feeling a bit lazy after a long day selling stocks and merging businesses, you can enjoy all the bells and whistles of a luxury sports coupe knowing that all the anger and violence of a scorned tiger is just a toe-push away.

If the 0 - 100 km/h brought tears to my eyes, the G-forces pushed them back in so I still looked cool in traffic. I did begin to wonder though, “Would I ever get used to the attention it attracts, the whistles, the hands covering mouths, the people taking longer to pull off from a green light just because they want to see and hear you pull off first.” And I realised that I wouldn’t.

The beauty of Aston Martin is its rarity and uniqueness. You don’t see a DBS, DB9 or Vantage as often as you see a Porsche, Lambo or Ferrari speeding past you. I would drive a Maserati six days a week and then take this out to remind me what a real car is...

Driving the DBS was a dream come true, but returning it was a kick in the ribs. The experience was worth it for the awesome experience of test driving Aston Martin’s DBS, which is a mind-blowing orchestra of precision engineering, beauty and spine-tingling titillation.


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