2009 Aston Martin DBS Automatic

2009 Aston Martin DBS Automatic 2009 Aston Martin DBS Automatic
First Drive Review

Some days, it’s tough to be objective. These include those all-too-rare moments when we slide into the grippy driver’s seat of an Aston Martin DBS, which is one of the most achingly beautiful automobiles on the planet. Sure, it’s blatantly elitist, horribly impractical, and obnoxiously expensive, but when one pulls up and a dude jumps out and hands over the ECU key thing, all sensibility is abandoned, and the inner sybarite is the only influence you listen to.

Then again, isn’t such a swirl of emotion exactly what should happen with a car that costs more than $270,000? We think so, and thus we don’t apologize for savoring every minute of this particular two-day test drive in Los Angeles, hurtling from stoplight to stoplight along L.A.’s busy boulevards, where everyone who drives an Aston Martin is famous—or at least famous-looking. Even in L.A., the attention one gets in the flagship DBS is constant, and you can’t help buying into it. You have to dress up to drive this car.

Touchtronic 2

L.A.’s congestion provides the best reason of any for a potential DBS owner to opt for the excellent six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic transmission that has just been introduced on the DBS for 2009. Certainly, we tend to prefer three-pedal manuals over conventional automatics, especially when going balls out on the track or tasty back roads, as we did in last year’s comparo of a DBS manual and a Ferrari 599GTB. But whichever transmission is the choice, a comfortable, Alcantara-and-leather-lined interior and reasonable ride quality will be par for the course; they make the DBS the kind of exotic GT that owners can drive every day. If any of that time is spent in traffic, though, the appeal of an automatic tranny is understandable.

An evolution of the ZF-sourced six-speed Touchtronic transmission in the DB9, the DBS’s automatic is actuated by a row of buttons on the center stack and manually operated by fixed, column-mounted paddles crafted using leather and magnesium. In standard mode, the shift quality is decidedly relaxed—good for those moments when the significant other is aboard—but in sport mode, crisp and quick up- and downshifts allow the 5.9-liter V-12’s 510 sonorous horses to faithfully heed the commands of the driver’s right foot. Compared with the transmission in the DB9, the final drive is shortened from 3.15:1 to 3.46:1, enabling the automatic DBS to accelerate to 60 mph in a claimed 4.3 seconds—the same as the manual version—on its way to the same top speed of 191 mph.

If there is a bone to pick with the automatic, it is that any sort of raucous, roaring throttle-blipped downshifts are missing when coasting to stoplights or slowing for corners, even in the sport setting. The auto does rev-match on downshifts, but the sound is less conspicuous than we’d prefer.

Mild Updates for 2009

For 2009, a set of gorgeous new diamond-turned 20-inch wheels are available for $3190 (saving a not-unsubstantial 4.4 pounds per corner), and a vestigial rear seat becomes an option. A 10-speaker, 16-channel Bang & Olufsen sound system is standard. Otherwise, the car is unchanged from when it first appeared 18 months ago, save for its second film credit as the preferred ride of 007. It still offers a thorough package of component upgrades that are designed to dial up the excitement in the handling department but are also effective in reducing weight to a lean 3836 pounds, the standard carbon ceramic brakes being an example. The DBS still uses a gorgeous sapphire-capped Emotion Control Unit in place of a conventional key.

The Aston continues to wear big fat 20-inch wheels and flared aluminum and carbon-fiber body panels that—it’s worth saying again—render the DBS one of the most beautiful cars in the world. And of course equipping the DBS with the new automatic doesn’t make it any less gorgeous. In fact, any transmission capable of turning arduous slogs through L.A. traffic into effortless show-off sessions might indeed make the DBS even more beautiful. Can this Aston get any hotter? Perhaps this fall, when a convertible DBS Volante finally appears on our shores, we’ll find out.