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Aston Martin DBS Touchtronic (2008) review

2014-11-30 Read: 294x

First Drives

Not even James Bond has driven the Aston Martin DBS Touchtronic yet. Quantum of Solace is just about to open but Daniel Craig must content himself with the standard manual DBS. We’ve already driven his likely next car: the DBS Touchtronic with an automatic gearbox, a new Bang and Olufsen sound system and gorgeous new optional wheels. Read our full review here...

An auto? Isn’t that a bit soft for the hardcore Aston Martin DBS?

We thought so, at first. The combination of a six-speed manual and a 510bhp, 6.0-litre V12 makes the DBS a Proper Bloke’s Car™ even if the engine/clutch/gearbox interaction is so sweet as to make it a doddle to drive in traffic or on a track. 

But launching the DBS with the manual only at first helped to distance it from the predominantly auto-boxed DB9 on which it’s closely based. Now, nearly a year into production, Aston is offering an auto and expects up to 75% of DBS buyers to choose it.

So does the DBS have a self-shifting manual, or a real automatic?

The latter. Aston says it looked at using the Sportshift box from the V8 Vantage, but found that – though good – it still couldn’t match the smoothness of the magnificent ZF six-speed torque-convertor auto used in the DB9 and a bunch of other high-end cars from Jaguars to the Rolls-Royce Phantom. 

Aston then asked ZF how fast and hard it could make the 'box shift in manual mode. The answer turned out to be even more racecar-like than Aston thought its customers would tolerate, so it went for a shift speed around 20% faster than a standard DB9 and reckons it has the best of both worlds.

How does this gearbox work?

Fortunately, Aston hasn’t tried to do anything ‘novel’ with the controls, unlike Porsche. There’s one leather-trimmed, magnesium-alloy paddle each for up- and downshifts. They’re fixed in place behind the wheel. Park, neutral, reverse and drive are selected by buttons on the dash, and a ‘Sport’ option speeds the changes by a further 5%.

The 'box itself is identical to the DB9’s but the final drive ratio is around 15% lower to match the manual’s 4.3sec 0-60mph time. In manual mode the 'box won’t change up for you; instead the engine is allowed to run into its smooth rev-limiter giving you full manual control.

And how does the DBS Touchtronic drive?

As well as you’d expect – we haven’t driven a bad version of this gearbox yet. Town and traffic behaviour is as seamless as you’d expect, and full-bore up-changes deliver an appreciable but never uncomfortable kick in the backside, unlike the borderline-savage shifts of some automated manuals. It’s hard to find fault with; even Aston’s engineers admit they drive the auto harder because they don’t have to think about shifting manually.

Granting the driver full control shows Aston owners some respect; it’s good to be able to hold the DBS at the redline in third, say, when you know there’s a second-gear corner approaching, rather than having the 'box shift up automatically, then back down twice manually. But having spent some time with that slick, satisfying manual recently, we missed it...

And the other changes?

Both versions of the DBS now get the upgraded Bang and Olufsen Beosound ten-speaker, 1000-watt audio system as standard, with the weird-looking but mightily effective Acoustic Lens Tweeters that pop up from the dashboard and look like upturned Coke cans. 

The optional (£1995, or £2495 in graphite) new ten-spoke wheels save 2kg per corner, look gorgeous and expose more of the carbon brake discs. And for another £2495 you can now have almost-pointless seats in the rear, rather than a luggage shelf.

Verdict

If you’re committing £162,500 to a DBS, the extra three grand for the Touchtronic is unlikely to be a major factor in your deliberations. But you should think carefully – the automatic is terrific, but the manual is less terrifying than you might think. 

If you’d automatically have an auto, make sure you try them both. Or wait another two years, and ask James Bond.

Statistics

How much? £165,500
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 5935cc 48v V12, 510bhp @ 6500rpm, 420lb ft @ 5750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.3sec 0-62mph, 191mph, 18.2mpg, 367g/km
How heavy / made of? 1765kg/aluminium and carbonfibre
length/width/height in mm 4721/1905/1280

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