Editorial: Is It Worth It?

Written by Boz

Lately many manufacturers have been releasing more and more elaborate versions of popular car models. Look at Porsche: from the 911 to the turbo to the GT2 to the GT3 to the GT3 RS. Mercedes from the CLK 500 to the CLK 55 to the CLK 63 to the CLK 63 Black Series. At first glance (and frankly second and third glance) all of these cars appear to be modified versions of the former, and many dismiss them as overpriced, conspicuous and irrelevant exercises. But close encounters with a couple of these “exclusive” models has led me to think otherwise.

Recently Chris and I got an up-close look at the Aston Martin DBS. Many reviewers have billed this car as a “thoroughbred” DB9… at a $100,000 price jump, and often the conclusion is that this car is not $100K better than the DB9. But I don’t see this car as a special DB9 – I see it as a completely different car.

The outside may look similar in pictures, but park a DB9 next to the DBS in real life and the difference is obvious. The DBS is lower, more aggressively lined, heavier on the underbody aerodynamics, liberal with carbon fiber (the whole body being composed of it), the tailpipes are higher while the car itself is significantly lower. Add more LEDs, 20” rims and enormous carbon ceramic brakes, and the car just aesthetically becomes phenomenally different from its stablemate. Inside you are treated to ebonized wood trim (think grand pianos), alcantara seat insets, and a 1000-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system. Turn on the sound system, and the tweeters rise out of the top of the dashboard to add to the sound. Push the start button and listen to a more incredible sound out of the back as the DBS roars to life – the improved V12 powerhouse a match for the overpowered sound system.

Even more recently I was treated to a spotting of a Mercedes CLK63 Black rolling through Queens. I’ve seen the car at auto shows and, as the introduction says, treated it like a special CLK, not worth the 6-figure price. But in reality, with the engine running, with the car moving, the Black ceased to be “just” a CLK. I’ve driven a CLK55 of former generations and loved it. But the 55 did not have the massive air splitters at the rear. It did not have the wild flares of the rear wheel wells. It did not have two massive pipes that shook whenever the car moved. And it did not sound like a Ferrari 360. This was no “improved” CLK. I would advise Mercedes to simply remove the CLK badge from the back as it serves only to confuse people that see what it really is.

So are these cars worth the tremendous price jumps over their roots? Where once I would say “absolutely not,” I will now say “quite possibly.” After observing both of the above vehicles to a much greater detail than I had before, I have learned not to judge a book by its cover (or title). There comes a point in which a car leaves its namesake and becomes something else. The DBS is not a DB9 with a $100,000 market adjustment, nor is a CLK Black simply a stronger CLK. In the future I’ll be looking with greater interest at these cars as makes within their own right – and I suggest you do too.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Boz is not kidding with this editorial. In fact, when comparing the DB9 and DBS (no comparison really) there are other details that he left out. First the paint. Both cars were painted in standard issue AM gray. But on closer inspection, the DBS showed flecks of blue mixed in the paint as well, once again differentiating itself from the 'lesser' model.

Side note - the color on this DBS was actually called Casino Royale.

Even more impressive is when you realize many of the body panels on the DBS are carbon fiber - yet the paint shows none of the typical carbon fiber weave that you normally expect to see. How expensive is it to produce a paint job like that? I couldn't even begin to guess, but now the $100k premium starts to make more sense.

It's true though - check out these special models in person and see for yourself.

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