2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera First Review
The hills are alive with the sound of a perfectly perforated British quad exhaust. Aston Martin’s 2019 DBS Superleggera makes a bold auditory statement as it drives through the Bavarian Alps, and oh, it’s gorgeous, too.
The DBS takes the place in Aston’s lineup of the Vanquish S, their outgoing touring grand dame. The DBS name, first introduced by Aston Martin in the late ‘60s, then saw a short cameo for Daniel Craig’s Bond debut, makes a reappearance here as Aston’s new flagship GT. So much more than a luxury cruiser, this is Aston’s super GT, and as such, this thing is appropriately beautiful and brutal.
Twin-turbo V12 power
Under the hood snarls a 5.2-liter twin turbo V12 engine that for emissions regulation reasons replaces Aston’s superb naturally aspirated V12 and churns out 715 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. Those are insane numbers for a GT car. The DBS steals a mere 3.4 seconds of a driver’s life to hit 60 from standstill, but the more impressive number is from 50-100 mph, which takes a blistering 4.2 seconds. That’s a testament to how torqued up this babe is in the ZF eight-speed transmission’s mid-range.
Dodging cyclists and Westfalia camper vans through what looks like an Austrian postcard during the height of summer might have tested patience on our drive, but it also perfectly showcased the DBS when quick acceleration and mega-torque were needed for passing. It unsurprisingly overtook everything, spandex shorts or not, even when there technically wasn’t enough room to pass. Shifts on the 8-speed transmission in the sportier modes, even using paddle shifters, feel sports car harsh, which is awesome when you’re in the mood for a flogging. In both GT and Sport modes they’re still quick, if smoother, more sympathetic for day to day driving.
Dynamically the DBS might be Goldilocks’s preferred Aston Martin as it sits somewhere perfectly in between the DB11 and the Vantage. It’s lower, firmer, and produces less roll than the DB11 and less rigid and more compliant than the sports car Vantage. Does that make this the best of all Astons? Maybe. The featured mechanical limited-slip differential and torque vectoring that produces dead-on handling and that insane torqued-out acceleration while on the move, certainly do their best to make the argument that it is.
Chassis and suspension tuning on the DBS evolved from the learnings made on the DB11, which has seen colossal improvements from initial V12 launch through its current closer-to-flawless V12 AMR iteration. Even the more subdued GT mode gave me goosebumps when driving. But crank it into Sport plus or track mode and while car’s nannies aren’t completely shut off driver beware; the DBS turns into something that might require an NC-17 rating. Throttle response ratchets up to obscene, while steering sharpens and chassis and suspension settings get maximum starch, just as Aston hierarchy demands, grand touring moniker notwithstanding.
Reigning in the DBS’s harness of horses rests squarely on 16-inch carbon discs in front and 14-inchers in the rear both squeezed prodigiously by carbon fiber calipers without much travel in the pedal or being supercar grabby. Four 21-inch Pirelli P-Zero tires specially made for the DBS, yes, that fancy word bespoke can be used here, were constructed of specific compounds to compliment the DBS’s extraordinary torque. They are heavy lifters in the DBS equation and are up to task especially with a driver who might be overmatched by the DBS’s raw power.
Sleek, clean exterior
As with the new Vantage, all aero is integrated into the car, meaning there’s nothing bolted on or nothing that deploys. Both front splitter and air dam work in concert hastening airflow underneath the car. Deep side strakes suck in air like a jet engine to assist with cooling and gluing the DBS to the ground, while behind the front wheels the open stirrups and curlicues inspired by the special project Vulcan and Vantage GTE race car allow air to blast out and blow around what little hair you have left. Add the rear double diffuser and fixed aero blade to the mix and the DBS is the most advanced of any Aston Martin production car to date producing 400 pounds of downforce at its max speed of 211 miles per hour. No, you’re never going to hit that, but you’ll still feel copious amounts of grip accelerating out of the apex.
The front end of the DBS delightfully vacuums up the Obersaltzbergstrasse, which snakes its way through landscape the Von Trapp family might summit momentarily. If only some of my relationships felt this solid. Steering might be the most un-GT part of this grand tourer, precise, balanced, and with synergistic response to driver input that feels as though it aced the better communication part of marriage counselling. The car’s rear, however, feels quirky in that squirt-away-from-the-driver way of a car not fully sorted. Thanks in part can be handed to the transaxle shifting around as the torque converter locks and unlocks. To wit, there’s a lot to manage in the derriere of this rear-wheel drive car, but this is minutia in the grand scheme of all things DBS, and calibrations are still being made to refine rear stability before customer cars roll off the line in December 2018.
Inside, the cockpit is as gorgeous as the new Duchess of Sussex. Scottish leather covers just about everything, and its hand-stitched compliments of the same person so patterns on driver and passenger seats match. Everything the eye can behold from the sport steering wheel, to carbon fiber and piano black trim pieces look expensive, because, well, they are. Seriously, save your money because pricing starts at around $308,000 including destination charges. Speaking of money, fuel economy estimates weren’t available as of this drive, but let’s just say the word economy won’t be part of the equation.
On my rear-end’s ergonomic scale, Aston’s Sport Plus seats hit twelve out of ten. These should be in ever car ever made, ever. Other standard amenities include an 8-inch infotainment screen, and a 360-degree camera with both front and rear parking sensors. The option sheet reads like my favorite epic summer romance novel and includes stuff like carbon fiber roof, side and hood louvers and seat backs, quilted leather interior door coverings, ventilated seats and a Bang & Olufsen audio system.
About an hour and a half northwest of London there are two guys at Aston’s headquarters in Gaydon, whose job it is to tune the engine note. All one has to do is depress the engine start button and give it some throttle to know that whatever they’re being paid, those guys deserve a raise.
Housing all this politely stunning British aggression is a super rigid, super magnificent exterior that’s super light, incidentally, that’s what Superleggera means in Italian (this GT weights about 160 pounds less than the DB11). From the sculpted clam-shell hood, through the broad shoulders, to the muscular rear-haunches, it’s got a more sinewy and defined carbon-fiber paneled physique than the DB11. Goldilocks definitely likes. Certainly, it made rubberneckers out of a lot of Bavarian bystanders. And it better since according to Aston designers its main competition is the Ferrari 812 Superfast.
Aston Martin’s future plans are as aggressive as their V12 engines. With the DBS they’re on car number three of a seven new cars in seven years then redesign and repeat strategy that doesn’t show signs of slowing down with the introduction of this newest crown jewel. Aston Martin is on a roll, and the DBS Superleggera is the latest weapon in what’s quickly becoming a beautiful arsenal.