Full 2012 Aston Martin DBS Review
What's New for 2012
A Garmin navigation system replaces last year's nav unit, and beam-blade wipers are standard. Brake calipers still come in standard black, but now you can order them in gray, red or yellow as well.
The front-engine rear-wheel-drive sports car was once at the pinnacle of motorsports. Then clever engineers realized the benefits of locating the engine amidships and racecars and exotic road cars have never looked the same--except at Aston Martin. Squint at the 2012 Aston Martin DBS and you can see all the way back to 1959 when the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato first appeared. Credit goes to that infamous British perseverance. The Aston Martin DBS still adheres to that traditional layout, but with decidedly modern looks and unquestionably advanced technology beneath.
The DBS's mighty 6.0-liter V12 might not be the most powerful engine in the realm of sports cars, but there are precious few engines that sound as sweet. With only 3,700 pounds to propel down the road, we can assure you that it is sufficiently potent. Also, by combining the transmission and the limited-slip differential into a transaxle unit, the front/rear weight distribution is nearly perfect--so much for slant-nosed mid-engine exotics. The DBS retains the classic long-hood short-deck Coke-bottle shape that never grows old, but its bulging fenders and gaping grille have been optimized for cooling and aerodynamics as well.
The structure beneath the composite, aluminum, and carbon-fiber body panels and ventilated hood is thoroughly modern. Pressed, extruded, and cast aluminum components are bonded together to create an extremely rigid platform that allows the sophisticated adaptive suspension to work as it was intended. Monotube dampers function within five separate modes to modify the DBS's ride and handling characteristics. Tremendously powerful, standard carbon-ceramic brake discs measure nearly 16-inches in front and 14-inches at the rear and are gripped by 6-piston and 4-piston calipers respectively.
The made-to-order interior reveals an equally obsessive attention to detail. Adorned with flawless leather and faux suede, plus accents of aluminum, carbon fiber, piano-black wood, and glass buttons, every inch of the cabin is a miniature study in true quality and tasteful execution.
Peers? There are only a few. The Ferrari 599 is designed and built in much the same way as the Aston Martin, and it will likely outperform the DBS, but cost more. The Bentley Continental GT Speed is equally luxurious inside, but it lacks elegance on the outside. Finally, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG will command as much attention as the DBS, but its driving dynamics are sterile in comparison. In a world where we often hear, "They just don't make them like they used to," we're glad Aston Martin still does. The 2012 Aston Martin DBS may look like a modern take on a retro design, but its sexy flanks hide more technology and fierce potential than one might imagine.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Aston Martin DBS is available in coupe and convertible (DBS Volante) body styles. Both coupe and convertible can be ordered with a comprehensive Carbon Black trim package. Two seats are standard, although you can have the standard rear parcel shelves replaced by two tiny seats as an option.
Standard equipment includes 20-inch wheels, an electronically adjustable suspension, carbon-ceramic brakes, xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, automatic power-folding outside mirrors, glass-faced switch gear, cruise control, a heated eight-way power driver seat with memory functions, a heated four-way power passenger seat, leather/faux suede upholstery (full leather in Volante), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, a Garmin-based navigation system and a 10-speaker 1,000-Watt Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system with an in-dash six-CD changer, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod interface. The Volante convertible features a fully powered soft top and hard tonneau cover. Both coupe and convertible also come with an umbrella in the "boot." How very British.
Major options include the aforementioned Carbon Black treatment (unique paint, wheels, brake calipers, interior trim, paddle-shifted automatic, and 6-way lightweight seats), seven wheel designs, upgraded performance tires, a suede-trimmed steering wheel, lightweight carbon-fiber/Kevlar seats, and satellite radio. There are a number of customization options including piano-black interior trim, personalized sill plates, full leather upholstery, a custom-fit leather saddlebag in place of rear jump seats, and special-order paint colors. Our favorite option: We know of no other carmaker that offers a wristwatch transponder that replaces the remote key fob. Of course, Aston Martin teamed with Swiss Jaeger-LeCoultre for this pricey James Bond-inspired accessory.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Aston Martin DBS is powered by a 6.0-liter V12 that produces 510 hp and 420 pound-feet of torque. A rear-mounted six-speed manual transaxle is standard, while a six-speed automatic with shift paddles on the steering wheel is optional. Aston Martin estimates the DBS coupe will accelerate from zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.3 seconds and achieve a top speed of 191 mph (limited to "just" 183 mph for the automatic transmission). The EPA estimates the manual-equipped DBS should earn 11 mpg city/17 mpg highway/13 mpg combined and the automatic, 12/18/13 mpg respectively.
The 2012 DBS comes with a fair amount of safety equipment for an exotic sports car. Stability and traction control are standard, along with antilock carbon-ceramic disc brakes. Side airbags and front and rear parking sensors are standard. The convertible Volante features tilt sensors, pop-up roll hoops, and A-pillars that are said to withstand more than twice the weight of the car itself. Official government crash tests have yet to be conducted, but if you are to believe the James Bond movie Casino Royale, a DBS coupe can flip nine times and allegedly, the driver survives. So there's that.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the 2012 DBS is one of the finest examples of English craftsmanship. It's difficult to find a surface not covered in soft leather or faux suede. Subtle carbon-fiber trim lines the doors, while tasteful alloy trim and optional piano-black trim (a must-have) adorn the center console.
For 2012, most of the buttons on the center console are fashioned from glass, which is certainly a swanky touch, while the layout of those buttons, with its central LCD, is adapted from Volvo and is a user-friendly and attractive interface. We've yet to sample the new-for-2012 navigation system, but it must be better than the one it replaced.
Although they look exquisite, the gauges are another point of contention. Not only do the speedometer and tachometer rotate in opposite directions (the tach spins counter-clockwise), but also the speedo features such a huge range (up to 220 mph) that spans just 2/3 of the dial itself that you have to rely on the redundant digital readout in the trip computer for a precise rate of progress.
Pack light because the trunk holds only five cubic-feet of luggage. And at just 78 cubic-feet of total interior passenger volume, the DBS is classified as a minicompact. Surprisingly, even tall drivers will find plenty of head- and legroom in the DBS, although the passenger seat annoyingly doesn't adjust for height. Finally, the optional rear jump seats are not intended for adult passengers.
The 2012 Aston Martin DBS is surprisingly easy to drive. The clutch effort is light and the pedal travel is short, while the shift lever snick-snicks through the gates with precision. The steering is friction-free and the cabin's decent visibility makes it feel less intimidating than some other exotics. Not only is it easy to handle, the DBS is also surprisingly comfortable. Although the ride is firmer than the DB9's, the DBS is never punishing due to the 5-mode adaptive dampers. The optional automatic transmission may not be as engaging as the automated manuals found in competitors, but it's also a lot smoother in everyday driving.
Of course, the 510 hp flowing to the rear wheels of this 3,737-pound coupe means the DBS is still a car that must be shown respect. Even a dollop of excessive throttle will get the tail wagging in the corners even with nearly two feet of rear tire rubber on the ground. Thankfully, the stability and traction control systems offer three settings: default on, a more permissive track setting, and fully off for those who dare.
The DBS seems more at home on long, high-speed sweepers than in tight hairpins. In any setting, the electric-assisted power steering offers little feel but impressive precision. If you want a balance between grand touring comfort and hard-core driving histrionics, the DBS is it.