The Aston Martin DBS and the Ferrari California are a pair of cars designed for the great art of touring – two vehicles that tease with the promise of wind in your hair, long straight roads and endless sunshine, but which is better? Both cars hark back to the golden age of tourers – the Ferrari brings memories of the 365 California of 1966, while the DBS’ ancestor proudly roamed the roads of the same era with its bullish, muscular frame. Their descendants were both released in the late 00’s, 2007 for the Aston and 2008 for the California, making you think that someone, somewhere wanted the automotive contest of their fathers to once again rage free on the highways of the world.
The DBS sits in a similar frame to the DB9, packing a 5.9L V12 under the hood, whilst the comparatively svelte California is powered by a 4.3L V8. When it comes to the all-important facts and figures of performance, the Ferrari hits 60 in 3.8 seconds, fast enough to turn all but the neatest coiffure from high style to high times, half a second faster than its British cousin, which it also edges out at top speed – 193 to 191 MPH respectively. The California has a true sense of composure however, the speeds you hit never feel as all-consuming as they do on some other cars. Depending on your personality, speed demon or weekend cruiser, this could fall either into the pro or con category for you.
To drive, they both fit neatly into the GT category, but at different ends of the spectrum. The California feels comfortable on long journeys while maintaining a balance and ease of driving. The DBS on the other hand is more wild, with its traction control earning its pay handily on any high-speed drive, with the Aston having a tendency to go from an easy drive to a thrill-ride pretty quickly. It’s fun, and never feels anything less than fast but the California is a more balanced ride.
So the California wins round one, but when you think Aston Martin, the idea of sophistication, of design, of hand-stitched leather (how could we forget?) is never far from our minds, so let’s take a look at the car’s design and aesthetics. As mentioned above, the DBS’ body is broadly similar to that of the DB9, with a few additions to give a more aggressive, racing look, such as the deep cut vents you’ll find in the hood. Inside, you’ll find the same plush luxury you’ve come to expect – immaculate leather coats the surfaces, with magnesium alloy paddle ratio-selectors sitting comfortably behind the wheel. It’s inestimably Aston, while in some other cars it could come across as pretentious, in the DBS it just feels right.
The California’s design has the classic Ferrari look, with swollen and muscular haunches sitting above the wheel-arches, and retro-style vents on the wings. From a cursory look at the interior, you’d feel like you were playing a game of ‘spot the difference’ with the Aston. Once again, beautifully-stitched leather abounds, but on closer inspection, the California lacks some of the class that can be found in the DBS, making up for it with increased driver comfort.
On the price front, a DBS with little mileage will set you back around $140K, with a California rolling up at around the same price, occasionally falling to around $120K.
The final verdict – the DBS puts on a very strong show, with a large, powerful engine pushing what feels like a mobile clubhouse to great speeds and providing a fun ride, but the California is able to just edge ahead on comfort and speed. It provides a more balanced package, delivering the traditional Ferrari blend of aesthetics and performance that is what led many of us to love cars in the first place.