By Amit Benjamin
With a licence to drive, we take Bond’s company car, the Aston Martin DBS V12, on its first UAE mission
Aston Martin and James Bond is an iconic pairing. Much like Big Mac and fries, Batman and Robin and, er, Terence Hill and Bud Spencer, mentioning one without the other is a tad pointless.
Unfortunately, however, even though I know a bit about Astons, I have absolutely no clue what’s happening in the world of everyone’s favourite superspy.
I haven’t seen any 007 films nor read the books. So I don’t know Goldraker from Moonfinger or why Kronsteen wanted to steal the Lektor cryptographic device in Dr No.
Admittedly, though, I am developing an interest in the exploits of 007, mostly because of the DBS, which I had for about a week.
And let me make it clear at the outset: It’s a stunning car, even though it has its share of niggles. For instance, there’s a smattering of Ford/Volvo bits in the cabin and there’s no uzis or plasma-powered laser guns on the bonnet. Shame.
Underneath the sublime new carbon-fibre and aluminium body, however, lie the innards of the DB9, more specifically the DBR9 racer.
The DBS is underpinned by the firm’s all-alloy VH platform, and shares several of the DB9’s body panels, such as the roof and sidescreens.
The wheelbase also remains unchanged, but the DBS sits lower by 25mm and has a 40mm wider track. Other differences include bigger air vents, a carbon-fibre lip and bonnet scoops at the front and a massive carbon-fibre diffuser and clear lens taillights.
It also gets a new body skirting all round and scoops to channel air smoothly around the car. The go-faster trinkets make the DBS look angry and mean, yet elegant nonetheless. In fact, I’m struggling to think of any car that looks better.
The cabin is immaculate — apart from the Volvo sat-nav and Ford mirror controls — and everything has a bespoke and upmarket feel. It’s well kitted too: The air-conditioning is fantastic, there’s a 10-speaker Bang&Olufsen audio system, parking sensors and lashings of leather, carbon fibre and Alcantara suede.
The cabin is extremely comfortable and an extremely nice place to be. That said, the rubber insulation linings on our test car were faulty, and created substantial wind noise above 100kph.
But that didn’t matter so much because the driving experience dwarfs everything else. Under the scoop-riddled bonnet lies the same 6.0-litre V12 engine that powers the DB9, however, in the DBS it develops 510bhp, while torque is bumped up to 570Nm.
It may not seem much when Corvettes are chucking out over 600bhp, but the DBS is a lightweight car. The bonnet, boot-lid, door opening surrounds and front wings are made of carbon fibre, and account for a 30kg weight drop compared to the DB9.
Further evidence of the race-car thinking are the carbon ceramic brakes, which are some 12.5kg lighter than a conventional system.
The end result is a car that’s 60kg lighter than the DB9. This means it is substantially quicker than the DB9 — it will reach 100kph in 4.3 seconds to eventually nudge 300kph.
But straight-line speed isn’t the best thing about the DBS — it’s the way it handles and feels in corners. The steering is precise and heavy, without being cumbersome.
Moreover, since up to 85 per cent of the DBS’s weight is positioned within its wheelbase, it feels planted in the corners.
Aero aids, such as a carbon-fibre splitter, flat-underbelly and rear diffuser, mean the faster you go, the grippier and more stable it becomes.
But despite the front-mid engine layout, it seems eager to head for the outside of a corner when pushed enthusiastically, and it’s noticeably bouncy at high speeds. Overall, the DBS is much livelier, chuckable and noticeably faster than the DB9.
Since it’s Aston’s new flagship, I was expecting its transmission to be somewhat like the hideous clutchless manual of the Vanquish, but thankfully that’s not the case. Aston has instead tweaked the ZF-derived Touchtronic six-speed auto gearbox of the DB9, and added steering-column mounted paddle shifters for manual shifting.
The gear-changes are much faster and smoother — drop a cog, floor the throttle and the DBS leaps towards the horizon instantly.
Shift up as the gear-display goes red and the transmission slams in the next cog with the ferocity of a race-car. Accompanied by an extremely intoxicating V12 roar, with a garnishing of transmission whine, this is an addictive combination. As a driver’s car, the DBS is up there with the best of them.
However, what makes things even better is that, unlike most mid-engine Italian exotica, the DBS isn’t highly strung or lairy all the time.
Press the D button on the centre console to put it in auto and the DBS is as manageable and comfortable as a Jaguar XKR. Driving around town, it’s not noisy, the ride’s good and visibility is superb.
It is one of the best supercars I have ever driven, mostly because it is almost like an ordinary car when you’re just sitting in city traffic or trying to get into a public car park.
The DBS is like the love-child of the soft and pretty DB9 and the loud and edgy DBR9 race-car. Actually, it’s much like the new Bond: Sophisticated and well-behaved when treated with respect, but has the ability to blow your head into several tiny pieces when provoked. You just have to remember you’re not a superhero when you’re driving it.