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2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera review

By Alex Inwood, 04 Sep 2018 Reviews

2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera review

Two storied names unite; stunning opulence and excessive torque result.

WHAT IS IT?

The DBS Superleggera is the third model in Aston Martin’s recent renaissance, following on from the DB11 and the reborn Vantage. It’s the British brand’s flagship GT, powering into the position vacated by the now discontinued Vanquish S, and arriving in Australia boasting two key headline figures: 900Nm from a 5.2-litre V12, and a sizeable $515,000 price tag.

WHY ARE WE DRIVING IT?

Because until the Valkyrie hypercar and the much-anticipated mid-engined supercar arrive, this is the ultimate Aston Martin. And unlike the recent European launch program, which was run on public roads only, our drive in New Zealand added time at a circuit to fully explore the Superleggera’s dynamic depth.

MAIN RIVALS

Ferrari 812 Superfast, Bentley Continental GT

PLUS: Stunning to behold; effortless V12; prodigious outputs; sounds like an Aston should; interior craftsmanship
MINUS: 900Nm requires careful management; portly kerb weight; still more GT than genuine sports car

THE WHEELS VERDICT

Read next: Aston Martin DBS Superleggera: Wheels gets a first look

If creating a luxury GT flagship were a box ticking exercise, the DBS Superleggera nails it. Stunning looks? Tick. Sublime comfort? Tick. Evocative soundtrack, prodigious power and hand-built craftsmanship? Tick, tick, tick! And yet for keen drivers, it never reaches the dynamic highs of its rival from Maranello − the Ferrari 812 Superfast.

THE WHEELS REVIEW

OF ALL the cars I’d hate to be a set of rear tyres on, this one sits at the top of the list. Aston’s DBS Superleggera produces 533kW from its twin-turbocharged V12, but that isn’t the telling stat here. It’s the 900Nm of torque. And the inescapably portly kerb weight figure, which, despite the use of carbonfibre body panels that save 72kg, sits at 1693kg. And that’s sans fluids. Combine the two and there’s a lot of physics for two 305-section Pirellis to manage.

And more often than not, they fail. Drive it hard on a circuit and even careful use of the throttle sends the traction control system into overdrive, especially exiting slower corners. Turn the electronic gubbins off and you’ll barbeque the bespoke rear rubber faster than a juicy scallop on a hibachi grill. Exciting, sure, but how much twist does a 2+2 super GT really need? Ferrari’s savage 812 Superfast has 182Nm less, and no sane person could argue it requires more thrust. Before we get to that, however, some context.

Read next: 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera revealed

The $515,000 DBS Superleggera is the replacement for the now-retired Vanquish, meaning it flies the flag as the ultimate Aston – at least until the Valkyrie and the much-anticipated mid-engined supercar arrive.

It’s built on the same bonded aluminium architecture as the DB11 and utilises the same 2805mm wheelbase and forged suspensions (double wishbones up front, multi-links out back), but sits 5mm lower. There are wider tracks, stiffer springs, anti-roll bars and rear bushings, a more aggressive limited-slip differential and, thanks to clever underbody aero work and a discreet rear spoiler, the most downforce of any Aston Martin ever: 180kg at 340km/h.

The 5.2-litre V12’s mechanicals are unchanged from DB11, the 86kW/200Nm increases arriving through more boost, greater cooling and a new quad tailpipe exhaust that’s said to be 10dB louder. The eight-speed ZF gearbox is new too, its beefier internals and new casing required to cope with the extra torque.

Read next: Aston Martin set for public offering before end of 2018

As with DB11, there are three modes for the engine and chassis (GT, Sport and Sport Plus), which can be cycled through via plasticky steering wheel buttons. Drive it sedately and the DBS is remarkably civilised; the experience one of effortless propulsion, silky drivetrain calibration and supremely judged damping. Dial up the aggression, however, and the DBS rises to the challenge. Fast, flowing corners are its forte, the big V12’s bottomless pit of torque delivering a deeply satisfying surge as you squeeze on the throttle in fourth and fifth gear. Sounds good, too, the exhaust cracking and popping on the overrun in Sport and Sport Plus to provide just the right amount of cultured aural theatre.

It’s only when you try to hustle the DBS, as we did at the technical Highlands Motorsport Park in New Zealand, that things become a little uncouth and squirmy as you work to contain the weight and manage the torque.

Ultimately, however, the success of the DBS Superleggera rests in what you want from your $500K super GT. If the answer is breathtaking looks, creamy power delivery and continent-crushing comfort, then Aston’s newest model is world-class. It’s a brilliant sporting GT; one that feels properly special and a clear step beyond the DB11. It’s also more comfortable and civilised than an 812Superfast, though nowhere near as exciting or as dynamically talented.

Read next: 2018 Aston Martin DB11 AMR revealed

Cabin class

Few interiors deliver such a first impression as that of the DBS Superleggera. Sumptuous, diamond stitched leather covers virtually every surface (even the roof), the metal shift paddles have a nice tactility, as do the prominent crystal buttons mounted on the centre console (used to start the car and select drive, reverse and park).

It feels special. Expensive. And strangely familiar. Much of the cabin design is shared with the Vantage and DB11, which dulls the sheen of specialness slightly, and carries over the same ergo glitches. There’s nowhere to put the key and cabin storage is at a premium. Some of the plastics aren’t up to snuff for a $500K car either, especially those used in the air vents.

SPECS

Model: Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
Engine: 5204cc V12 (90°), dohc, 48v, twin-turbo
Max power: 533kW @ 6500rpm
Max torque: 900Nm @ 1800-5000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1693kg (dry)
0-100km/h: 3.4sec (claimed)
Economy: 12.3L/100km
Price: $517,000
On sale: Now