Dallas, TX - We're in Dallas, driving the DBS, a car that is built on design. It may seem odd to say since all Aston Martins are built on design and performance, but this car took design to a new length.
Both the DBS concept and Daniel Craig made it into the movie, Casino Royale because of their striking beauty and underlying strength. The production version will car-star with Craig in Quantum of Solace. The car shows up in May, the film in November. I'll take one of each, the guy and the car.
The first time I saw the DBS was on the 18th green in back of Pebble Beach Lodge the morning before the 57th Annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August, 2007. The ocean waves were lapping just feet away. It was only 8am, but the sun was shining so bright everyone was wearing sunglasses to keep from squinting. It was the picture perfect day for Ulrich Bez, CEO, Aston Martin to unveil the his new baby.
One of the first issues Bez addressed was whether that this was a Vanquish successor. Bez says it is a different car, a new car. Historically, this car will bridge the gap between the DB9, which was built from the race car DBR. The DBS is a car that can be raced, um I mean driven on the road.
Carbon fiber stands for lightweight sturdiness. This is the first Aston Martin that utilizes this much carbon fiber in the car, down to the carbon fiber splitter in the front. David Browne, General Manager Sales Operations and Product Marketing, Gaydon, UK talked about the difficulty of painting and shining carbon. Some of the task ended up being hand-done.
Most sports cars these days allow for normal driving, or sports car driving. With Aston Martin there are three modes of driving. The first flick of a switch allows you to be a responsible driver, the second an ambitious driver, and the third mode lets you be the guy who brags because he has to call his doctor four hours after taking a little blue pill.
Aston Martin took great strides to make this car a living emotion, right down to the keyfob. Just to start the engine, to listen to the sound, to know the car is yours, Aston Martin knew this was emotional. They know that a person that owns an Aston will pay extra to be able to go into their country club and casually drop their $2,000 emotion control unit (ECU) on the bar as they casually order a $15 glass of wine. On the end of the ECU is a piece of sapphire crystal, the same resilient crystal that watch manufacturers use.
Marek Reichman, Design Director, Aston Martin DBS, talked about the design of the DBS, the lowness to the ground, the sinuous form. Reichman designed the Rapide, a show car that was shown in Detroit in 2006. This is the first production car that Reichman has designed for Aston Martin.
Reichman talked about how expensive the headlights were, but they had to be created because they were so full of expression. When asked what his favorite part of the car was Reichman went right to the front 3/4 panel, "because of the pronounced muscle that you get out of the fender, and the extra width that it gives the car". Reichman went on to say that it wasn't because of someone looking at the car, but because the driver can see the fender.
As we drove along people looked twice, kids getting out of school stopped and starred, but the best view comes from behind. As a red car, clearly on the race setting, passed we noticed the DBS has a definite stance on the road that shows off the rear-wheel drive power points. The DBS is a front to mid-engine, rear-wheel drive car that gives the driver a feeling of G-force as they pull away from any other car.
There is a saddle in the back of the car where all the wobbly bits will end up. As Reichman says, "this is a 2+0 - there is no room for a person in the back. The IPOD is hidden in the center console and can be accessed through the NAV system. The center console between the passenger and driver could be reconfigured. You can't put a water bottle, or anything else that will stick up, in there because you will hit it with your elbow when you change gears.
The interior seats are covered with soft semi-aniline leather seats, and accented with Alcantara leather trim. The DBS logo is prominently displayed, without being intrusive. The instrument panels are on a dark background that works nicely with the chrome ascents. But if it looks like aluminum, it is aluminum. This car is lightweight, not just in looks.
The DBS gets 510 horsies at 6,500 revs, 420 lb-ft of torque, with a top speed of 191 mph and a 0-62mph time of 4.3 seconds. The V-12 6-liter powerful engine is complimented with equally powerful, and new for the DBS, carbon ceramic brakes.
Imagine James Bond in an Aston Martin, in a harrowing chase, weaving through traffic, bullets blazing. Bond screams to a stop in front of a bar. Someone looks at the car, and looks at Bond, flicks his head to the car and says, "Ey Mate, Is that a bio-fuel, alcohol car?" As Bond steps into the bar he nods, "Right, shaken, not stirred"
John Walton, Aston Martin's North American Vice President was excited that Lord Drayson was racing an Aston Martin, the first ever GT car to race using E85 Bio-Ethanol fuel. The car didn't finish, nothing to do with the energy, all operator error.
I asked Walton why ethanol, not diesel. Walton says the new shareholder ownership "gives us an opportunity to explore new fuels. We haven't any immediate plans on diesel, but then again, we're not ruling anything out."
I also asked Walton how they were going to meet the CAFE standard of 35 mpg by 2020? Unless someone inside the government thinks with some common sense Aston Martin, and other niche auto manufacturers, will be made to meet the 35 mpg CAFE standards. If a car company is only selling about 250 cars a year in the United States should they be made to meet the same requirements? "We are, collectively, discussing this with the government. we are hoping that legislation will be capped on how many cars can be brought in by a manufacturer, otherwise it changes the brand forever." Walton is hoping that common sense and balance will prevail.
Something the government should consider is 85 percent of Aston Martins ever made, since 1914, are still on the road, and 90 percent of an Aston Martin is recyclable. Aston Martin know this because they have records of almost all 40,000 cars ever made.
While the Aston Martin DBS is a beautiful car to look at and even sweeter to drive, it becomes apparent quickly that Aston Martin has designed this car with one person in mind, the owner.