- Available from £63,000
- 5.9 litre petrol V12, rear wheel drive
- Evocative engine, lovely cabin
- Choice of manual or auto
- Some teething troubles on early cars
- Generally reliable now though, and temptingly affordable
A Venn diagram of James Bond fans and Aston Martin fans would show quite a large overlap between those two groups. What must they think, then, whenever a new 007 movie comes out, because they know full well that at some point in the flick they will be forced to witness the gruesome spectacle of a lovely Aston being smashed, machine-gunned, sawn in two or generally blown up.
The Astons chosen for Bondage hardly ever make it onto public sale before they're being ritually destroyed for our viewing displeasure. The new-generation DBS that we're looking at in today's buyer's guide was spectacularly totalled a good year before it appeared in showrooms thanks to a world-record barrel roll in 'Montenegro', or the Millbrook Proving Ground as it is also known, for the sake of Casino Royale, the franchise's 2006 effort. It seemed a poor reward for a car that ushered in many brand-first features for Aston and that was regarded by many as a better drive not only than the £48,000 cheaper DB9 but also than the Ferrari 599 also launched in 2007 with a £40,000 higher price tag and 100hp more power.
After that Casino Royale crash, Daniel Craig found himself sitting naked in a seatless chair while a runny-eyed chap in black took a few hefty swings at his undercarriage with a knotted rope, an uncomfortable shoot by all accounts. Nobody at AM minded any of that because it was all good publicity and the Reichman/Fisker-designed DBS that debuted at Pebble Beach in 2007 was riding on a wave that had started four years earlier with the equally brilliant debuts of the DB9 and, two years later, of the V8 Vantage.
Based on the Ford-resourced VH Generation platform that had earlier appeared in the 2005 V8 Vantage and the DB9, the DBS was installed at the top of the Aston range (leaving aside the limited production One-77) as a kind of higher-performance DB9, a car it trumped on lightness (by 30kg), power (by 40hp) and acceleration (0.7sec quicker through the 0-60). It was also the chronological meat in a Vanquish sandwich, succeeding the 200kg heavier gen-one Vanquish of 2001-05 and preceding the gen-two Vanquish of 2012.
All three cars were powered by Aston's long-running 5.9 litre V12 engine. The AM11 version in the DBS produced 510hp at 6,500rpm and 420lb ft at 5,750rpm and could be had with a choice of 6-speed gearboxes. There was a Graziano manual on the first DBSs (but not on the succeeding 'VH310' Vanquish) and that was discontinued in 2011, a year before the removal of the DBS from the Aston range, or, a bit later in 2008, a ZF Touchtronic II automatic. This was the default transmission choice for 2010MY cars, continuing into the first two years of the gen-two Vanquish before it was replaced by the 8-speed Touchtronic III.
Thirty 2008MY DBSs were built, almost all of them factory demonstrators. Deliveries of the 2009 model-year coupes began in early 2008, with a convertible Volante version following a year later. By far the biggest number of DBSs were made in this 2009 model year - 1,365 in total.
When the DBS went on the UK market the first two years' allocation was immediately sold out. By the end of the run just over 2,500 cars had been built, making it around five times rarer than the DB9/Virage coupe. Just over 900 of these 2,500 cars were right-hand drive, about 730 of them supplied specifically for the UK market.
SPECIFICATION | ASTON MARTIN DBS
Engine: 5,935cc, V12, 48v
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 510@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 420@5,750rpm
0-62mph: 4.3 secs
Top speed: 191mph
MPG (official combined): 17.2
Wheels: 8.5x20 (f), 11x20 (r)
Tyres: 245/35 (f), 295/30 (r)
On sale: 2008 - 2013
Price new: £160,000
Price now: from £63,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it's wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
There's no getting away from the fact that, even when it's all made of alloy, a six-litre V12 engine is big and heavy. To keep the DBS honest from a handling perspective Aston put their V12 well back in the car and combined it with a rear transaxle and carbon propshaft. As a result the car feels surprisingly light on the road and quite different (in a good way) to the DB9.
Although sound is always a subjective thing many consider the DBS to be the best-sounding V12 Aston. The engine had an active bypass valve which opened at engine speeds above 5,500rpm to flow more air into the engine for extra performance. Unfortunately this wasn't the same as the inlet manifold 'breathing' phenomenon that reared up on early cars, in which the engine speed seemed to be varying without there being an actual change in engine revolutions. Stronger manifold assemblies resolved the issue on later cars. Low-mile cars could suffer from oil leaks past the sump gasket.
Although you didn't have to look far outside Aston Martin to find better automated manuals, the 6HP26 6-speed Touchtronic II gearbox was a superior unit to the lumpy version the first Vanquish was saddled with. The TII added 30kg to the DBS's weight but it ran through the 0-62 in exactly the same time as the manual, locked up more promptly than the old Vanquish box, shifted 20 percent faster than the DB9, eked one more mile out of every gallon in average use than the manual and generally added more 'grand' to the grand touring experience.
When you're trying out a possible Touchtronic for purchase make sure that the gear selection buttons perform as they're supposed to. A system reset will sort out any problems pro-tem but for a more permanent cure you'll need a factory-approved reflash of the ECU.
There are fewer manual DBSs than automatics, but not by as big a margin as you might think, with 984 out of the 2,500-ish total using the big stick. The twin-plate clutches on early manuals used noisy friction material that could make itself known when trickling around.
Not a lot goes wrong on the mechanical side, or on any side really once you get past the teething troubles that showed up on the first cars. Preventative maintenance is the mantra. Specialists know that a failure to keep on top of things will come back to haunt the owner in a large financial way. Diff fluid is a good example. It should be changed every four years, but that doesn't always happen if the car is being looked after (or not) by a non-specialist.
The DBS ran independent double-wishbone suspension all round with two-mode (comfort and sport) adaptive damping, dynamic stability control with three modes (one of which turns it off), anti-dive on the front and anti-squat on the rear. Early grumbles about over-softness were quickly resolved by revised damper and chassis settings that endowed this big GT car with really well sorted handling and excellent ride quality. The engine easily overcomes the rear tyres though, so if you're lead-footed expect to be illuminating the TC light on a regular basis.
The top seals of the Bilstein monotube shock absorbers could leak on earlier cars, an issue that was rectified on later ones by a switch to double seals.
Not for the first time in PH buyer's guides we come to the sometimes vexed question of carbon ceramic brake discs. The DBS was the first Aston to have these as standard. On any car they provide great stopping power and are very long lasting (100k seems to be the generic default estimate), and the pedal feel on the DBS's four-corner system was very highly rated as ceramics went, but when the time does come to replace the Brembo units on a DBS you'll be looking at a bill that, for a complete set of discs and pads, will be well into five figures.
Switching to a steel setup will reduce stopping performance and introduce fade on the track but some internet experts reckon that the added weight of steel helps to 'plant' the car. That's up for discussion, but one thing you should be aware of is the potential for the Aston's disc carrier bolts to snap off when they get hot.
Steering was revalved for the DBS and was much lighter than on the DB9, which you may see as a good or a bad thing depending on your personal taste.
The DBS is a bit of a looker to say the least, and it's even better in the flesh than it is in pictures. Just don't dwell too long on its from-a-distance visual similarity to the DB9. There was decent practicality. Golfers could just about get a set of clubs in the boot of a DBS coupe, although it was easier to wedge them in (sic) if they were of the new-fangled one-length variety.
For an extra £11,000, coupe buyers could have the original '2+0's' parcel shelf replaced by small back seats and extra upholstery, creating the '2+2' version that eventually became a model in its own right. After the first 750 or so DBSs had been built the 2+2 became the most common format, accounting for around 17 of every 20 cars. By the end of production the 2+0s/2+2 split was pretty even at around 1200/1300.
Some say that the 'best' DBS is the 2+0 manual, but from a rarity perspective the manual 2+2 would be the one to go for as only a hundred or so were made. 2+0 Touchtronics are even less common in the UK, with just 27 examples.
Carbon fibre was used extensively on the DBS. As with the ceramic brakes, this was a first for Aston. It wasn't just used for the usual add-ons (front splitter, rear diffuser) but also for the bonnet, boot, front wings, door opening surrounds and boot compartment. Combining all that carbon with aluminium for the roof and the DB9-style upward-opening 'swan' doors (to avoid unwanted contact with kerbs), Aston managed to bring the DBS in at 30kg under a standard DB9.
They reckoned that the only steel in the DBS was in the rear subframe, but it's dangerous to run off with the idea that aluminium is a miracle cure for corrosion. Water ingress behind the door handles can mess up the paint. Water can also get into the boot or even the fuel tank via the filler cap. The Volante's power roof can be deployed in either direction in 14 seconds and at any speed up to 30mph, but if water gets into the hood latches that will not be cheap to fix.
If you're a fan of bright primary colours the DBS might not be for you. Three out of four were painted in black, grey or silver, the Casino Royale grey/silver hue accounting for around 15 percent of total DBS production, with Quantum Silver not far behind. Plenty of other colours were available, but many of these were only seen on single cars.
If the driving light bulbs in the main headlight assembly fail it's a pain because replacing them entails whipping off the bumper, front wheel and a few other bits.
The button distribution on the new-for-the-DBS centre console can be thought confusing and over elaborate. The speedo and tacho aren't paragons of design either, and the gearshift on the manual sits a bit too far back, but the overall impression you get in a DBS cabin is of a well judged mix of old-school English and modern materials. Squeaks and rattles do develop over time but generally speaking it's a superb environment for long-distance touring, the only blot on that horizon being the smallish 78 litre fuel tank.
The optional electrically-adjustable fixed-back carbon bucket seats are very comfortable for human beings of a normal shape, like James Bond. If you were wondering, the answer to your next question is yes of course he drove a manual.
In the quest for lower weight Aston even managed to lighten the DBS's carpets by weaving in thin layers of carbon fibre. The DBS was also notable for making a Bang & Olufsen sound system available in an Aston for the first time. It became standard kit when the Touchtronic arrived and even now there's childish joy still to be had in watching the tweeter turrets rising up.
The scratchproof sapphire crystal ignition 'key' or lozenge that turns into the start button was rather cheesily called the Emotional Control Unit by Aston but it is a lovely thing - as it should be at around £2,000 a go.
Power, Beauty and Soul are the words that come up on the screen when you fire up a DBS. That might sound cheesy, a bit like the crystal key, but the fact is that the DBS lives up to them.
Look up 'DBS' in PH Classifieds and you'll see prices of between £130,000 and £175,000, but they'll all be for the classic six-cylinder and V8s DBSs of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The modern DBS is considerably cheaper. Values took a big tumble in 2018, hit by a perception that the DBS was maybe looking a little dated and also by a degree of belt-tightening among buyers nervous about global economic prospects. Some say the DBS now represents a very good buy for those who like the idea of buying a car, enjoying it, and then selling it for very probably the same sort of money that they paid for it.
Word on the DBS street is that you're better off with a car from 2009-on as earlier examples are more associated with teething troubles. The youngest car in our classifieds, this 2011 coupe in black, also turns out to be one of the most affordable at £74,950, demonstrating the value-depressing effect of mileage, although 27,000 is hardly scary especially when it comes with a full main dealer service history.
DBS prices do seem to vary wildly. At £81,000, this privately owned 15,700-mile 2009 manual is nearly £30k cheaper than a dealer's 13,800-mile manual from the same year. Mileage impacts on DBS prices more than age. A 2010 Volante with 50,000 miles will be cheaper than a 2009 Volante with 42,000 miles. Convertibles are relatively rare on the market, but the preference for coupes among DBS buyers means that the Volantes that do pop up don't attract inflated prices. This 2010 car with 22,000 miles and a full Aston history seems like good value at £76,995.
At the beginning of this piece we talked about the DBS's appearance in Casino Royale, but we didn't mention the fact that it was given another outing in the next Bond flick, the peculiarly-named Quantum Of Solace. Only a couple of the stunt cars survived the filming process,all six of the 'hero' (ie non-stunt) cars that Aston supplied made it through unscathed. One was retained by the factory, but the other five were sold to customers. Find one of them at the right price - they were all German-spec left-hookers in Quantum Silver - and you'd be unlikely to lose money on it.
Among the (quite a few) limited or runout special editions was the DBS Carbon Edition, a reprise of the earlier Carbon Black coupe. It came in Flame Orange (just 13 of those), Ceramic Grey or Carbon Black with gloss black diamond-cut wheels, black or orange leather, tailored carbon fibre trim and an optional 'glass veneer' paint lacquer. 84 were sold, with just two featuring the manual box. A 3,000-mile car was auctioned in July 2020 for £82,500.
A hundred Ultimate Editions in Quantum Silver, Carbon Black or Silver Fox were meant to be issued in 2012 as either a 2+2 coupe or Volante, with quilted leather everywhere (including headlining). Some reliable-sounding sources suggest that only fifty nine were built. Even rarer was the UB2010, forty of which (50/50 split coupe and convertible) were scheduled to be built to commemorate Ulrich Bez's ten years as CEO of the company. Maybe that was seen as a thin sort of excuse, or maybe Bez's preferred colour scheme of Azurite Black with blue brake calipers and metallic bronze leather didn't hit the right style note. Whatever it was, it's thought that in the end just ten UB2010s were made.
Rarest of all was the unashamedly China-facing DBS (Year of the) Dragon 88 of 2012. On paper, the trim comes across as a bit blingtastic - golden dragon headrest embroidery anyone? - but strong body colours make the reality somewhat better than the spec might suggest. In best feng shui tradition, a lucky 8 examples were made. A 112-mile example was up for sale at the 2017 Mecum auction in Monterey at an estimate of $250,000-$375,000 but we don't know if it sold.
In 2016 Aston launched a 'Timeless' approved used car scheme across its worldwide dealer network which gave AM models from the last 10 years a one-year warranty with roadside assistance, technical inspection including hardware and software updates, an Aston Martin provenance certificate and verification of the car's service history. If you're buying outside the network, it goes without saying that a full service history is the bare minimum amount of paperwork you'll need.
Having bought your DBS, an Aston Martin Extended Warranty will cover you against unexpected repair costs. That works on any Aston Martin up to 40 years old (depending on which of the two levels you choose) and handily includes use of the car at any official Aston Martin On Track events. Assuming your car gets through the qualifying Aston tech inspection, the Extended Warranty runs for either 12 or 24 months and is renewable depending on age and mileage (of the car, not you).
For a zillion times more info than we've provided here on the DBS (and indeed on any modern era Aston) you'd do well to pick up a copy of PHer Grant Neal's excellent book The Definitive Guide to new Gaydon era Aston Martin. Not the snappiest book title ever but it does what it says on the tin. Look for it on Amazon Kindle. There's also a really useful PH sticky here giving heaps of info on independent garages, detailers, paint codes, wheel alignments, trim, quick fixes to common problems and FAQs.
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