Ablast in Bavaria on hundreds of kilometres of unrestricted German Autobahns and Austrian Alpine passes. Perfect conditions to understand what this Super GT is made of. A wheels ‘first drive’ with deliveries beginning in Q3 2018. Following on from Virage, V12 Zagato, Vanquish and DB11, Aston Martin has launched its flagship Dh1,073,000 DBS Superleggera. It is the Italian word for super-light. Back in the day, Carrozzeria Touring of Milan made Superleggera aluminium bodies for Aston Martin, Maserati, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and others. Touring of Milan would rebody a car with an aluminium skin over a skeleton of small steel tubes. However, the Superleggera script on this new DBS is purely a homage, as this Superleggera is all Aston.
Weighing in at 1,693kg and powered by a front/mid mounted 5.2-litre twin turbo V12 pushing out 715bhp and a monstrous 900Nm of torque, the performance figures are dramatic. However, there is much more to this ‘Brute in a Suit’ than its top speed and acceleration. Even slimmed down, the Superleggera is still a substantial machine. Adding even more lightness would be expensive and would alter the design brief for a civilised Super GT. If you spend a whopping Dh3,576,000 on a 1,198kg McLaren Senna, or Dh1,502,000 for a 740bhp Lamborghini Aventador SV, you have entered the impractical world of the Supercar. This Aston Martin is classed as a Super GT and comparisons should only be made against similar. The Ferrari 812 Superfast is the obvious rival.
The body and aero designer Julian Nunn talked me through the new Superleggera. Compared with previous models, the car has a deliberately more aggressive and sporty look. The large front air intake needs to cool 715 turbocharged horses, human occupants and front brakes. Any smaller and it wouldn’t work. The beautiful rear arches are 20mm wider than DB11. The front is 10mm wider and 35mm shorter. If lightweight options are chosen, it weighs in 73kg lighter than the DB11.
The chassis is a rigid aluminium bonded structure, with carbon fibre used where practical, including the huge clamshell bonnet, roof, bootlid and sundry components. Carbon gearshift paddles and super-lightweight wheels are an option, as are many colours and trim styling choices.
With the Superleggera capable of speeds well in excess of the take-off speed of a 575-tonne Emirates Airbus A380, good aerodynamics are an essential. Achieving a balanced downforce without compromising drag is the aerodynamicist’s battlefield. At V-max the Superleggera produced 180kg of downforce with a 60:120 kg front:rear split.
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The bonnet side-strakes are there to reduce lift by channelling exit air efficiently, as is the trick exit scoop on the lower front wings onto the sills. A front splitter feeds the right amount of air to the undertray, and onto the rear F1-derived double diffuser. Most impressive are the invisible air intakes in the high pressure zone of the rear side windows. These feed air cleverly to the under-side of the Airblade fixed rear spoiler.
Under the bonnet things look elegant and purposeful. The 4-cam, 48-valve, twin turbo 5.2-litre V12 sits well back, aiding balance in proper GT style. Making 715bhp at 6,500rpm and with a 7,000rpm rev-limiter, equates to a power-to-weight ratio of 422bhp per tonne. Even more amazing is its 900Nm of torque that exists everywhere from 1,800 to 5,000rpm. This delivers a real-world powerband that I don’t believe has been bettered by any production GT. Power is delivered to the eight-speed rear/mid-mounted gearbox via a carbon fibre propshaft. Weight distribution is near 50:50.
Aston Martin’s talented Chief Vehicle Engineer Matt Becker explained how the tyres were developed specifically for this car by Pirelli with relentless testing at the Nurburgring. The multi-link rear suspension delivers some rear toe-in to the loaded wheel to offer stability in fast turns. The adaptive dampers have three modes: GT, Sport, Sport Plus.
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A sophisticated traction control system does much, including applying individual brakes as well as control power. It can be switched off, but only if you are a driving deity. There is electric power steering and massive ceramic brake discs.
A noticeable improvement on previous models, the interior oozes quality. Officially a 2+2, the rear seats will mostly be used for baggage space but can accommodate humans on short journeys. That said, a full-size photographer rode in the rear for some driving shots.
Having space behind the seats is always useful. There is no dashboard glovebox. Front cabin storage is via door pockets and an electrically operated centre armrest, under which is a useful cubby box. Driver information via the instruments could not be clearer.
After a hard day’s driving, the electrically adjustable sporty seats remained perfectly comfortable.
Time for action. The first thing to do is open a door. Its light weight is noticed immediately as its opening inertia is tiny. Entry is GT-comfortable, not a supercar freefall.
The interior quality is superb. All switches are clearly labelled, all control perfectly located; ergonomic ecstasy. Rather than blast away from standstill, I choose to creep away, testing its low speed manners for real world manoeuvring. It is perfect and can be accurately tiptoed millimetre perfect unlike so many supercars. The engine noise is powerful and smooth without being brash. Heads turn because they know something important is there rather than some arrogant machine.
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I start off with the eight-speed ‘box in auto mode. As the speed ramps up, so does the number on the gearshift indicator dead ahead. The software chooses the best gear for the speed. I am at 55kph on a feather light throttle in fourth gear behind a long line of cars. There is too much traffic for overtaking so I play with the paddle shifts. The Aston accepts eighth gear at this very low speed without hiccup. The rev counter drops to idle speed. Ok so you would not normally drive like this but you need to know that this V12 can be as tractable and user-friendly as a shopping car. Park Assist employs the top-quality rear camera combined with good door mirrors and parking sensors. It is the low speed stuff that sometimes lets down a fast car; not the case here.
The traffic clears and I use a mixture of auto-mode and paddle shift. I eye the two 3-position switches conveniently placed on the steering wheel. The one on the left controls the dampers. GT for comfort or rough, or wet roads. Sport for a halfway house and Sport Plus for smooth surfaces and if you are in a hurry. The same goes for the engine characteristics. Switch on the right with Sport Plus launching an artillery barrage of pops and bangs on over-run. Two dash tell-tales remind the driver what modes he/she has chosen. You don’t actually need the light with the engine switched to Sport Plus, unless you
The controls are weighted perfectly and mask the car’s real weight. It feels noticeably superior to previous models, with throttle response and urge feeling like a naturally aspirated engine. Turbo-lag is absent, as is any boy-racer waste-gate noise. Driving really fast, you notice that power is everywhere, so much so that from 1,800rpm upwards, a driver may mistakenly short-shift and not use the revs which extend to a 7,000rpm limit. A top speed of 340kph and a 0-100kph dash in 3.4 sec is more than fast enough. Add that 80 to 160kph fourth gear blast in only 4.2 seconds and you will understand that this is serious supercar performance in a highly civilised Super GT. I can’t think of any car with a wider powerband. Max torque arrives at only 1,800rpm and stays there. I know that if I put pedal to the metal at this low rpm. The car will become an instant rocket ship all the way to its max rpm. Cabin noise varies from between 75 decibels for low speed cruising, to 90 Db if you feel racy.
The DBS Superleggera delivers Supercar performance with the comfort, space and everyday practicality that comes with a GT car.
It is torque that spins wheels and steps out the rear end. If I enter a corner too quickly or apply too much power, the stability control system comes to the rescue aided by Pirelli glue. Traction control allows a nanosecond of slip before taking over; just enough to let a driver know that he is being silly.
Up in the Alps now on some deserted roads and time to test the dynamics. Corner exit traction is good storming the straights between the hairpin turns, a tsunami of power rockets the Superleggera to speeds that these roads have never seen. When you couple this monstrous power band with an eight-speed paddle-shift automatic gearbox, the acceleration is as relentless as it is eye-opening. Overtaking where sensible is so easy and safe as you are in the head-on death zone so briefly. Now as one with the Aston, I feel like I am wearing it; always a good sign.
Downforce begins at 100kph and is evident as the speed rises. This stability at Autobahn speeds and on Alpine sweepers builds confidence. Another downhill 180 degree turn looms. The ceramic brakes and Pirelli rubber clamp the machine down to a sensible speed. Dashing down an Alpine pass at these speeds would be impossible without this kind of braking system. Feel through the electrically powered steering system conveys to the driver exactly what is happening at the tyre contact patches. I have two feet and the car has two pedals. To get the ultimate performance from any two-pedal car requires left-foot braking. I use this technique to my, and the car’s, advantage. The Superleggera is not phased even when attacking corners at race speeds.
The multi-link rear suspension delivers some rear toe-in to the loaded wheel to offer stability in fast turns.
The DBS Superleggera delivers Supercar performance with the comfort, space and everyday practicality that comes with a GT car. Although not a twin-test, comparisons with its Super GT rival are appropriate. The Ferrari 812 Superfast has taken things further. It has only two seats, is more edgy, and comes with a dash of hysteria. The Superfast is crossing over into the world of the supercar. At Dh1,254,000, the Ferrari is also more expensive than the Dh1,073,000 Superleggera. However, both are inexpensive when compared with a 1961 Aston Martin DB4 Zagato which recently sold for Dh48,145,000 at Bonhams Goodwood sale.
Decision time. Superleggera or Superfast; which would I take home? I would choose the Aston Martin Superleggera, although there is a slight chance that I might change my mind after the Targa Florio, this time in a Superfast. I certainly bonded with the Aston Martin, however, more importantly, will James Bond be driving the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera? I would have said yes, but on the same day that I drove the Superleggera, Aston Martin revealed its 3-seater flying car, the Volante Vision Concept.
Wow! Just wow!