One hundred and sixty thousand pounds can buy you many things. In London, it'll get you a tiny flat in zone five. Up North, we hear it can purchase four or five medium-sized hotels and a team of staff to run them. Or it could land you one of the finest pieces of automotive engineering ever conceived -- the ultimate gadget -- the Aston Martin DBS.
We'd seen this car countless times in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, so when taking delivery, we thought we knew what to expect. We thought we'd slide coolly into the driver's seat, do eight burnouts and cruise noisily into the distance, picking up women dressed in ballgowns as we went. But nothing prepares you for the moment a DBS rolls off its transport vehicle on to your street and a be-suited Aston Martin representative puts the keys in your hand. You'll have a little crisis.
The car is indescribably beautiful and not even these shots, nor our forthcoming video, do it justice. Everywhere it travels, the DBS causes passers-by to engage you in conversation, children to take photos on their mobile phones, and grownups of every gender and sexual preference to lust after you. Unless you're previously accustomed to such celebrity, it's all a little overwhelming. As we pulled away in the DBS for the first time, palms sweating, hearts racing and a dozen eyes trained in our direction, only one thing occupied our thoughts: this is James Bond's car. Don't stall it.
Stalling is a serious issue, given how difficult it is to fire up the DBS. Its labyrinthine start-up process involves inserting the 'Emotion Control Unit' -- a sculpted piece of stainless steel, capped by scratch-resistant sapphire -- into a motorised docking station on the dashboard. As if this weren't elaborate enough, you then have to wait a few seconds while the car's computers perform a 'system check', and for the readout between the speedometer and rev counter to display Aston Martin's 'Power, Beauty, Soul' doctrine.
The entire process takes around ten seconds, which is ten seconds too long if you've accidentally stalled at a set of traffic lights and you're being being watched by a crowd. What exactly was wrong with using a key?
More frustration can be found when using the DBS' entertainment and information systems. The satellite navigation in particular is infuriating beyond words and will leave you hopelessly lost. Its main problem -- and it has several -- is the fact it will only accept the first four digits of any UK postcode, so the car will only take you to the approximate area you're trying to visit.
You can fine-tune the navigation by entering a street name, but some streets (such as our own office address) aren't even in the system's database. This means you'll need to choose randomly from a list of others within an approximate one-mile radius then ask for directions from a passer-by, who'll look at your fancy dashboard like you're stupid. If you're the type of person that relies heavily on sat-navs, we suggest you buy a TomTom.
One of our favourite aspects of the DBS' in-car entertainment is the high-end Bang & Olufsen Beosound DBS audio system. Comprising 13 separate speakers, its most impressive components are a punchy 20cm (8-inch) subwoofer underneath the rear bench, and the near-legendary Beosound acoustic lenses on the dashboard. Hit the audio system's power button and these motorised tweeters rise elegantly from the dashboard in a manner Q himself would be proud of. It's a blatant gimmick -- Bang & Olufsen could save us all a few thousand pounds by eliminating the twin-motor mechanism and leaving the speakers permanently exposed -- but nothing beats this for coolness.
Very few audio setups beat it for sound quality, either. It's loud, offers fabulous sound reproduction, and though the acoustic lenses offer good 180-degree dispersal of high frequencies, it's possible to 'aim' the music at different parts of the cabin using a clever 'sound focus' feature. Want 50 Cent aimed straight at your face, or some Bach evenly distributed between driver and passenger? Simply twist the audio-adjustment knob and the Beosound DBS system sprays sound in your chosen direction so vividly you'll need to duck.
It's not all good news, though. The Aston Martin DBS lacks some of the high-end features offered in rival systems. Americans get the option of satellite radio, but where's DAB radio for the UK? Where's the built-in TV tuner? Why is the screen that shows what's playing on the iPod or USB thumb drive the size of an 80s wrist watch? These may be decisions that were beyond Bang & Olufsen's control, but it makes you wonder where your money is going.
It's safe to assume most of your £160,000 is being spent on the Aston Martin DBS' terrifying performance. Its 5.9-litre, V12 engine churns out 510hp and 5,750lb-ft of torque, so it'll out-muscle and out-accelerate the vast majority of vehicles on the road. You'll go for days -- even weeks -- at a time before you see another car that can keep up with DBS' 0-60mph time of 4.3 seconds and 191mph top speed.
Rarer still is the prospect of encountering another vehicle that can match the car's stunning deceleration. The DBS' vented carbon-ceramic brakes (398mm at the front and 360mm at the rear) and custom-designed Pirelli tyres help bring the car from 60mph to a standstill in around 35m -- half the typical distance quoted by the Highway Code. Applying full brake pressure can be very painful, but that's to be expected when your internal organs make contact with your ribs.
The car's handling hasn't been neglected. Its adaptive damping system provides a soft, smooth ride on straight roads, but firms up the suspension for better handling should the driver make any sudden manoeuvres. Damper settings are determined by an electronic control unit, which takes sensor readings from the car's throttle position, brake position, steering wheel rotation and vehicle speed to decide how firm the ride should be.
Being a race-inspired road car, it's no surprise to find the adaptive damping system also has a dedicated track mode, which sets the suspension permanently to its firmest settings for superior handling. In our track tests, the DBS felt sure-footed through corners, with good feedback through the steering and only mild understeer when pushed hard.
Economy is impressive for all the wrong reasons. Driven sensibly, the DBS will return an urban mpg of 11.6, 24.1 extra-urban, and a combined cycle of 17.3mpg. You may also be alarmed to find the car spits out 388g/km of CO2 -- nearly four times as much carbon dioxide as a Toyota Prius. At a time when modern cars are focused so heavily on reducing emissions and stretching economy, the DBS is dirty and wasteful. But aside from hippies and our children's children, who gives a damn? Given the choice of extending the life of our precious planet by a few millennia or going out in a blaze of tyre-squealing glory, we're siding with the DBS's howling V12 every time.
To say the Aston Martin DBS is a stunning car would be doing it an injustice, because it's far more than that. Yes, it's fast. Yes, it's beautiful. But we can think of countless other marques that meet these criteria. We can think of other cars that provide better, more up-to-date technology for half the price. But what makes the DBS special is that it's more than just the sum of its parts. It's an automotive masterpiece that boasts a level of cool the majority of its rivals could never hope to achieve. If you've won the lottery, recently raided a jewellery store or you're a stupendously successful rapper, we suggest you buy one without a second thought.