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Aston Martin DBS Carbon Edition review (2012 onwards)
What - Aston Martin DBS Carbon Edition
Where - Gaydon, UK
Date - January 2012
Price - From £186,582
Available - Now
Key rivals - Ferrari 599, Bentley Continental GT, Aston Martin Virage, Mercedes SLS AMG
We like: stunning paint finish, bespoke feel, enthusiastic drive that's made for British roads, sheer man-hours that have gone into it, relative value
We don't like: big engine feels small at low revs, centre console's style over clarity, fixed paddles, needs more gears
Aston Martin produced 4,200 cars last year. As such, it has an extremely close relationship with its customers. What do they ask Aston for? Ever-more bespoke models: increasingly luxurious and jewel-like versions of the cars they know and admire.
The Aston Martin DBS Carbon Edition is the firm's latest answer here: the most couture-like DBS yet launched. Bespoke materials and special features not available on any other DBS aim to make it a must-have for those seeking something extra-special.
Visually, it is stunning. There was a Carbon Black DBS in 2009: the 2012 Carbon Edition offers two new colours as well: orange and grey. All have a jaw-dropping lustre thanks to seven layers of paint that are given 25 hours of flattening and polishing. It's unbelievably deep and rich.
Subtle additions set it off: diamond-turned 20-inch wheels (the glass-like appearance is amazing), black grille and bonnet grilles, carbon door mirrors, smoked rear light covers with carbon inlays and matt black Zircotec-coated tailpipes. Details, yes, but there's no missing them in the metal.
Mechanically, the DBS Carbon Edition retains the standard car's V12 engine and its suspension is unchanged too. This helps provide another surprise: it's surprisingly good value. No options are available as they're all fitted as standard, for less than the cost of adding them onto a standard car: the £6,000 premium seems almost like a bargain.
The DBS Carbon Edition is arriving in dealer showrooms now, in coupe guise tested here, with a Volante convertible also available. If it proves to be a hit, expect to see more Carbon Edition Aston Martins in time...
The 510hp 6.0-litre V12 receives no more power, and the only change to the standard six-speed Touchtronic automatic are carbonfibre inlays for the standard (fixed, rather than wheel-mounted) paddleshifters. Who cares: this remains an epic engine.
Despite its capacity, the wailing, howling motor needs a few revs to give its best (from 3,500rpm, as a guide) but when you're in the 5,000rpm sweet spot, performance is searing. There's a cultured intensity to its pace whose depth you just don't get from lesser (or, dare we say, turbocharged) motors. It's a true epic.
The noise is wonderful too. A V12 makes a richer and more complex noise than any other engine, which Aston has enhanced with a melodious exhaust complete with bypass valve for higher-rev impact. It's a treat, cultured like, say, a classic E-Type Jag yet beautifully well mannered with it.
Its automatic gearbox needs an extra ratio or two though, given the relative lack of lower-rev vim. Fixed paddles aren't ideal when cornering either. However, don't suspect that because it's an auto, it's soft in response. The lack of slack in the drivetrain gives a satisfyingly direct connection almost as immediate as in a manual car.
Ride and handling
You may not notice the DBS' sportier chassis straight from the off. It has stiffer springs and anti-roll bars than the DB9, which give a more athletic feel, but it's still a stage removed when pressing on. It seems just a little bit soft and disconnected.
Solution? Select the Sport setting for the adaptive dampers. Enter a more energetic ride along with handling that's quite transformed. It's more lithe and faster in response, more athletic through switchback corners and, crucially, much more involving and sports car-like. Despite its size, it shrinks around you.
This is undoubtedly the preferred mode and, once you're accustomed to steering that's more weighty and confident than intricately detailed, the DBS becomes a very satisfying supercar to drive. Despite its power, there's confidence to be gained from driving it fast, the car is very well suited to broken and winding British roads.
The ride is a key factor here. It's stiff, yes, with racecar DNA, but this breeding extends to the damping quality too: it's not rock-solid so can still breathe over undulations, keying into the road surface no matter how challenging it is. Body control is impeccable too - oh, and the huge carbon brakes are both powerful and swimming in detail-packed feedback.
The fiddly, button-laden centre console looks like a jewellers' shop window: shiny, rich and expensive, but quite baffling at first glance. Real glass buttons abound and even spying the button that puts the gearbox into Drive isn't obvious. This is all part of the Aston allure...
It's a familiar cabin too, also seen in the DB9 and Virage. Occupants sit low, on firm seats that feel like luxury racecar buckets, with the long dash, raked windscreen and structural door mirrors all giving supercar cues. Occupants feel set well back, near the rear wheels, with a long nose stretching forward: the classic sports car layout (which does mean the rear and boot are tiny).
The Carbon Edition enhances it with hand-laid carbon fibre trim following the shape of the dashboard. There's also soft semi-aniline leather in black or orange, with a choice of stitching that extends not only to the colour, but also to the type of stitch fibre. Coarse or soft? You choose... then, 70 man-hours will be spent making it a reality.
The pleated leather roof lining of the Carbon Edition is bespoke too, helping set off the DBS standard treats of watch-like glass dials, plain-look but feel-good steering wheel and classy Bang & Olufsen stereo. Even opening the door is an event thanks to it cantilevering up like a gullwing wannabe.
Economy and safety
You can use a £100 tankful in under 200 miles with the merest hint of commitment: 17.3mpg combined is hardly green. It's not meant to be though, and Aston owners are more than likely to have a diesel BMW or Mercedes as their main car to offset this.
Safety is helped by exceptionally high limits and an exceptionally strong chassis. Sitting within the DBS Carbon Edition feels like being in the cockpit of a racecar: you can sense the strength of construction around you, which is very reassuring.
The MSN Cars Verdict
The DBS Carbon Edition doesn't drive any differently to a regular DBS. No bother: it remains a very charismatic GT supercar well-suited to British roads. The allure comes in the details, which turn the DBS into something even more bespoke and elegant.
Look elsewhere if you want an all-new Aston. The DBS is, instead, a tailor-made one: it's fine to drive, but it's also a car you'd be particularly proud to own, too.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||6.0-litre V12|
|Torque, lb ft||420|
|0-62 mph, secs||4.3|
|Top speed, mph||191|
|CO2, tax||388g/km, 35%|
|Ratings||Aston Martin DBS Carbon Edition|
|Ride & handling||*****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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