Aston Martin DBS Superleggera review: it's a heavy duty performance coupe
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Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is not a brand-new car. In fact, the last time I drove it I’d never heard of Covid-19 and I was roaring over the Rossfeld Panormastrasse, the highest scenic road in Germany.
If that sounds like I’m showing off, I probably am a bit. It’s a show-off car. But it’s also a reminder of how much the world has changed; it seems like a very long way from flicking across the German-Austrian border to pandemic alert red-traffic-light restricted Auckland.
Luckily, the DBS Superleggera feels pretty special in any environment. It’s Aston Martin’s “super GT”, not quite as agile as the smaller Vantage but more aggressive than the DB11 on which it is very loosely based. Much more expensive and more rapid than either, with a pricetag of $465,000 (our test car landed at just over $544k including options) and a 533kW/900Nm twin-turbo V12 that gives 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds.
Let’s get the obvious questions out of the way first. Yes, the DBS does look a lot like the DB11, despite being more than $100k more expensive. And no, it’s not particularly light despite the “Superleggera” name: it tips the scales just 73kg under the aforementioned DB11, at 1800kg.
Tell me there’s too much DB11 in evidence and I wouldn’t disagree, but for fee-insensitive customers that DBS money buys you an awesome piece of kit. And it does look undeniably sensational.
The DBS is wider than the DB11 and has different frontal styling, with cues from the Vulcan track car. It has carbon fibre body panels and its V12 makes the DB11’s 447kW/700Nm look puny. The adaptive suspension is 15 per cent stiffer and status anxiety is reduced by an incredible 50 per cent. Because there’s no argument that this is the king of Aston GTs. And that’s the idea, because it’s primarily a replacement for the old Vanquish, rather than just some super-DB kind of thing.
Like other modern Astons, the DBS has electronic architecture from Mercedes-Benz. But unlike Vantage and DB11, it comes exclusively with the “traditional” twin-turbo V12, which has nothing to with Mercedes-AMG (even though it’s made in Germany).
Canterbury | Sockburn
$604.97 p/w $2,419.88 p/m
It has so much more torque than the V12 in the DB11 (same basic engine though), the DBS gets a whole new eight-speed gearbox. That 900Nm is a staggering figure alone, but it’s delivered at just 1800rpm. And the DBS is rear-drive of course.
So it’s old-school scary when you’re charging along backroads, the thunder of the big V12 in your bones and the rear wheels squirming and squatting down under power. How truly threatening it all is might be another matter, with sophisticated traction, stability and torque vectoring controls at play, but there is a limited slip differential that adds to the skiddy feel when provoked. And from previous Euro-experience I can say that it still requires extreme care on a damp road in a straight line: it’ll spin the wheels in third or fourth gear without you really trying.
So that’s one side of the DBS: makes you feel like a true gentleperson racer in the curvy bits; where’s my open-face helmet again?
But it is supposed to be a true everyday and long-distance car as well, and it’s brilliant at that. On the right side of the steering wheel there’s a button that lets you cycle through comfort-oriented GT, Sport and hold-on-tight Sport+ modes; but even if you’re going all-out on the powertrain you can adjust the suspension separately with a matching control on the left side.
It’s exquisitely luxurious of course. There’s almost too much leather, with the finely stitched trim going right across the roof. The touch points are sublime and there’s a real aura of GT heritage and quality in the cabin.
But as is often the case with exotic/low volume vehicles, you’re paying for the hardware rather than the software. This $500k GT doesn’t even have adaptive cruise control and while the Mercedes-derived infotainment is solid and reliable, it’s also several generations old: fiddly menus, outdated graphics, clunky sat-nav and no sign of phone projection or a touch screen.
Surprising, isn’t it? But the reason a low-volume maker doesn’t offer the very latest in incidental (by which I mean stuff that doesn’t help you go faster) technology is simply that the cost of developing and integrating it can’t be amortised into the price of the cars. Even when they’re half a million dollars.
So if you want the very latest in driver assists and infotainment, go buy a Japanese hatchback. Cars like the DBS Superleggera exist for a different market with different priorities, that’s prepared to compromise on having Google Maps available but won’t budge an inch on the ultimate in performance and luxury.
ASTON MARTIN DBS SUPERLEGGERA
ENGINE: 5.2-litre biturbo-petrol V12
GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic, RWD
0-100KM/H: 3.4 seconds
PRICE: $465,000 ($548,044 as tested)