YOU DON'T REALISE how ugly modern cars have become in the presence of one you can’t take your eyes Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, with its enormous mouth, still isn’t quite what you’d call beautiful, but it’s attractive. And it is dripping in gorgeous details, slim tail-lights to the protruding exhaust tips, the sculpted bonnet with its meshed openings through which perve on engine bits. There are the muscular, creased haunches and even the scripted Superleggera badges are a delight. You don’t turn to look at the DBS Superleggera as you lock it – you walk backwards, take a photo phone, walk to a different angle, take another, clasp smile a little. It really is a very nice looking car.
The big doors open outwards and slightly upwards, “swan invite you into a veritable cocoon of leather. You ogle the oddly squarish steering wheel with its scimitar-like gear paddles behind the spokes. And as you crystal starter button on the dash, the starter motor a high-pitched, fast-paced whirr, then there’s a growl as 5.2 litres of twin-turbocharged V12 exhale to burbling idle.
Very sharp ears will be able to tell it’s a V12 of Aston Martin’s and not just any V12 but the one nestled below the clamshell bonnet of the DBS Superleggera, what is a model for the brand, one boasting rear-drive, lots of and more than 500kW.
As basically the ultimate iteration of the DB11, the DBS Superleggera fills the gap the Vanquish S once occupied and so, resurrects two revered monikers from Aston history. The DBS badge was first seen in 1967 and has on and off since, most recently in 2007-2012, while Superleggera – reserved for only the ultimate Astons – pays the Italian coachbuilder Touring, which gave the treatment to legendary cars like the DB4.
If you’re not up to speed with how the DB11 evolved into the striking DBS Superleggera coupe, basically more boost bumps outputs from 447kW/700Nm to 533kW/900Nm; new carbon-fibre bodywork drops weight 72kg to 1693kg (dry); the whole car has been restyled, now wider and more muscular, aggressive yet elegant, more compact in the metal than in pictures. There are bigger brakes; wider wheels and tyres; a 10dB louder exhaust; functional aero, up to 180kg of downforce at 340km/h, the DBS’s top speed. Zero to 100km/h takes 3.4 seconds, claims Aston, with 160km/h taking only another three. Aston does not make a 0-200km/h claim.
There’s an eight-speed ZF automatic and a mechanical limited slip differential, the transmission mounted between the rear wheels for better weight distribution, which is 51:49 front-rear despite the big V12 up front.
As you might imagine, the DBS Superleggera is properly potent in a straight line. The torque, which is limited to DB11 values in first and second gear, is eye-opening, the traction control heavily trimming back the grunt in order for the rear 305s to stand any chance. But while wheelspin feels to be only ever a flex of the right foot away in the lower gears – provided the electronic nannies aren’t around – once it’s hooked up, the Superleggera charges forward in a way that will have the knuckles of passengers turning very white on the grab-handles.
That said, while it’s staggeringly quick and nobody in their right mind would ever want for more, it doesn’t leave you power drunk like other 500kW-plus cars we’ve recently sampled, like Porsche’s 911 GT2 RS, that last dizzying sting in the tail perhaps softened, in the DBS Superleggera’s case, by the weight.
It’s the weight that never quite goes away during hard cornering, either. The DBS Superleggera is a very competent handler, with a sharper front-end than we were expecting. There is masses of lateral grip available, making this car one seriously rapid gadget up a twisting mountain road.
However, while other breakneck grand tourers like the Ferrari 812 Superfast reveal more and more handling talent the harder you drive them – making them a bit addictive in the corners – it’s possible to “fully know” the DBS Superleggera in perhaps 30 minutes of enthusiastic driving. And prior to the end of our drive, we had no strong desire to get out the Gregory’s and look up the nearest racetrack.
Perhaps Aston Martin should be hitting up its AMG partners for some of their brilliant new chassis electronics as the DBS Superleggera is quite heavily tethered by those of its own. In fully ‘on’ mode, using the Sport Plus powertrain setting, while you’ll get the occasional flare of wheelspin in lower gears – sometimes fourth gear if you hit the right bump – barely a degree of corner-exit yaw is given on the throttle and ESC interventions can be brusque.
Very sadly for us, it wasn’t until the end of our short drive on the international launch that we discovered a Track mode ESC setting buried in the menu of the instrument binnacle. So it’s very possible that in this mode – or, dare we say, the electronics fully off – that the DBS Superleggera is a screaming riot on the road. Certainly, there’s no wanting for the ability to turn the rear tyres with the throttle.
We also felt sad to be exiting the short section of autobahn that was included in our test route in Germany. That’s because this is one car that feels made for autobahn top-speed blasts, its combination of stunning grunt, aerodynamic stability and ultra-supple damping priming the confidence reserves for a crack at that 340km/h figure. However, it was not to be.
NOBODY IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD EVER WANT MORE
Styled by Ian Callum and developed and built by Tom Walkinshaw’s TWR, the DB7 saved Aston Martin. Marked a return of the DB (David Brown) nameplate after more than 20 years. Brown famously owned Aston from 1947 to 1972
The first car built at the new Gaydon HQ, Aston skipped DB8 and went straight to the V12 DB9. They said it was because of the leap in tech, quality and performance, but actually they worried people would think it only had eight cylinders
Aston’s then halo model, based on the DB9 but with a more luxurious interior, more exclusivity and a stonking 6.0- litre, 380kW atmo V12. Did 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds and starred in Bond films Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale.
Not for production, the DB10 was created exclusively for the 2014 Bond film Spectre. Previewed then-upcoming Vantage, just 10 were built with a 4.7-litre atmo V8 and sixspeed manual. One sold to a private buyer for AUD$4.8m.
A huge leap from DB9, DB11 debuted all-new, Astonbuilt twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12 and is the first model from Gaydon’s “Second Century Plan”. Later version got a 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 as part of Mercedes-AMG tie-up.
True to its DB11 origins, the DBS Superleggera is a top-notch grand tourer. The ride, despite the 35/30-profile front/rear tyres, on 21-inch rims, remains blissfully intact.
Some, attracted to the grand tourer vibe, may find the DBS Superleggera transmits a few more minor imperfections of the road surface than desirable, but during our drive, on admittedly very good German roads, not once did we wince from a bump. The Superleggera’s supple, long-stroke suspension ticks the box very well for ride comfort.
The interior is quite a nice place to be, too. Sumptuous leather abounds and you’ll find your hand automatically exploring various surfaces in the cabin. Mercedes switchgear is peppered about, but works well.
One snippet of highly subjective feedback we’d give to Aston is to ditch the digital tachometer and work up something beautiful and analogue incorporating a small digital display if need be. If one car company should be the last bastion of gorgeous analogue dials, it should be Aston.
A tessellating stitching pattern used around the interior adds a special and ultra-sporting ambience and, interestingly, reminds one of Lamborghini. In fact, perhaps this is the Italian 12-cylinder brand Aston Martin should have been mentioning at the international launch; more than once it dropped the 812 Superfast into the same sentence as the DBS Superleggera.
The DBS Superleggera’s styling is pure joy to drink in and as such, it turns heads like it’s feathered. It also makes a mean noise and is a bit of an event to drive – all things you could say about an Aventador.
But for the price of that car, with a few options, you could just about have two DBS Superleggeras – and while you’d need a double garage for that, and perhaps your head checked, unlike the Aventador there’d be no driving around pot-holes, or swearing at the transmission.
The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is a high-water mark for the Gaydon manufacturer. It had to be, as the latest model supporting Aston’s “Second Century Plan” – a strategy from CEO Andy Palmer that promises a new model every year with the goal of reaching 7000 annual sales, to get Aston back into proper business health. Is the DBS Superleggera an 812 Superfast rival, as Aston might have you believe? While some may shop the cars against one another, it’s a very different beast, with a completely different engine and personality. It’s its own thing, not a knife-edge super sports car as such, but a very powerful grand tourer capable of covering enormous distances in comfort. And one that will have you doing laps around it after every time it’s parked, because it looks like it’s doing 300km/h standing still.