Test Drive: Aston Martin DBS Superleggera

The British carmaker's new vehicle is powerful, comfortable, eye-catching and a joy to drive

by Andrew Maness

It takes all of a few seconds for the newest member of the Aston Martin family to take you on a journey. But long story made short: it begins with “Good God, that’s ridiculously quick” and “I love you, let’s run away together” is where it ends. The best Astons have always been evocative machines, but the DBS Superleggera (available this fall) rises to new levels of performance and refinement. This makes it one of those addictive vehicles that’s particularly hard to relinquish control of—especially among the fairytale valleys of Southeastern Bavaria, where we drove it.

Beyond the tightly sculpted carbon fiber hood, eye-popping fields of green give way to mountains reaching into a bright blue sky. The scenery is almost too picturesque, too vibrant, altogether too perfect. And the same can be said of the new DBS. Slotting between the rowdy Vantage and the stately DB-11, the DBS is a brilliant execution of a super GT car.

Of course, the DBS Superleggera being an Aston Martin, it’s not all brute force and hooliganism; there’s real artistry on display inside and out. You only need watch people’s faces as you pass by (or approach if the exhaust baffles are open) to get a reminder of how strikingly beautiful a car it is. It’s possibly the most natural progression of Aston’s iconic design language to date and (as is the case with the majority of beautiful cars) it was largely born out of necessity. Feeding the twin-turbo 5.2-liter V12 plenty of frosty air was obviously paramount to the objective of bringing the most powerful Aston currently available to market, so a large honeycomb front grille and creative ducting were necessities rather than purely aesthetic choices.

Making sure that power is put down with maximum efficiency and remains controllable further contributed to the head-turning appearance. The Curliecue gills just above and to the rear of the front wheels that debuted on the DB-11 are neatly incorporated into the body of the Superleggera. Derived from AMR racecars, the they reduce unwanted front end lift by venting high-pressure air from the top of the front wheel arches and funneling it out to the rear of the car. Also out back the Aeroblade II and a double diffuser work together to increase rear-end stability by harnessing airflow—so much so in fact that the Superleggera achieves a downforce figure of 180kg at VMAX, which is the highest of any production car in Aston Martin’s history.

It’s worth mentioning too: Aston’s engineers subjected the 3,732lb Superleggera to the most comprehensive wind tunnel testing in the history of the company. When you’re doing spirited driving, this is evident.

That’s the result of combining such a great interest in aerodynamics with such a dumbfounding level of power: a car that’s remarkably entertaining to drive. All this combined with a sculpted athletic exterior physique and elegant interior, and it’s no surprise the Superleggera is really special.

Even with the adjustable suspension set to Comfort, the Superleggera maintains a rapid pace. There’s an enjoyable amount of play in the chassis in this mode and coupled with the surprisingly good amount of feedback from the electric power steering it makes for a rewarding drive. If this is the future of Aston Martin, then the future has soul.

All the things you’d expect to find in a modern Aston Martin are present: a thunderous stereo system by Bang & Olufsen, large column-mounted paddle-shifters, an unconventionally shaped steering wheel and a carefully considered interior that buyers can customize extensively (base price will be $308,081). Our test vehicle sported a posh two-tone leather set-up, featuring a mix of blues grays that gave the cockpit quite an airy feel. (Also, the fact that we chose one of the cars with ventilated seats and special White Stone AML paint on a sweltering summer day was no coincidence.) The Superleggera looks the business no matter what color its bodywork is, but white really makes the 21-inch forged wheels and all the optional exterior carbon fiber pop just the right amount. Same goes for the gigantic carbon ceramic brakes stashed under said wheels and the custom Pirelli P-Zeros wrapped around them.

With such unbelievable power always available, drivers need the ability to reign it in at a moment’s notice, and that’s most definitely the case with the DBS Superleggera. That said, it takes no time at all to pull back the speed because there’s a mountain of torque at your disposal right from the bottom of the tach.

When roaming the Bavarian countryside (whether on less than perfect roads, or stuck behind trucks and tourist buses), we found the DBS Superleggera possesses so many comforting qualities that no inconvenience seemed too much. Besides, the gearbox shifts with such refinement and the amount of pedal travel is so perceptible that there’s no reason to not have Sport+ selected as the power program at all times. With Sport+ (and Sport) comes the full character of the quad exhaust specially developed for the Superleggera. It’s symphonic at all times, but the pops, bangs, and crackles on overrun in the lower-middle part of the rev range are particularly enjoyable, especially when echoing off buildings. However it’s the clearly audible “whoosh” of the turbos spooling up that’s the defining characteristic of the car. The V12 sounds every bit an Aston V12, but turning up the boost on the turbos adds something new to the aural profile and it’s fantastic. As is the case with most cars in this class, the appearance of a tunnel is a very, very welcome sight.

Images by Andrew Maness