2023 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
We drive Aston Martin’s super-GT flagship – the 725bhp DBS Superleggera – and ask whether it’s sufficiently special to justify its £225,000 UK-market price tag.
WORDS: TIM PITT
PHOTOGRAPHY: MOTORING RESEARCH
ALMOST WITHOUT COMPARE — DBS SUPERLEGGERA TESTED
Is Aston’s most expensive super-GT worth the £225,000 price tag?
We’ve already seen Aston Martin’s mid-engined future, led by the Valkyrie and Valhalla hypercars.
Among the company’s ‘mere’ supercars of today, however, the current flagship is somewhat more traditional: a £225,000 super-GT to rival the Ferrari 812 Superfast. The DBS Superleggera (soon to be known simply as the DBS) may draw upon past glories, but there’s nothing old-school about its vital statistics: 725 horses and a titanic 900Nm (663lb.ft.) of torque, which translates to 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 211mph. Not so long ago, such numbers really were strictly hypercar territory.
“All that oomph comes from a 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12, driving the rear wheels via an eight speed paddle-shift transmission”
All that oomph comes from a 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12, driving the rear wheels via an eight-speed paddle-shift transmission. Carbon-ceramic brakes and a mechanical limited-slip differential help keep everything pointing in the right direction. In theory, at least.
Every body panel on the DBS differs from the donor DB11, with an aerodynamic package that generates 180kg of downforce at V-Max. Weight-saving carbon-fibre is used for the huge clamshell bonnet, roof and rear deck, yet there’s nothing especially ‘super light’ about the 1693kg Superleggera’s kerb weight. No matter. As chief stylist Marek Reichman remarks: “If Ferrari can use an English word [Superfast], we can use an Italian one.”
“Every body panel on the DBS differs from the donor DB11, with an aerodynamic package that generates 180kg of downforce at V-Max”
The Superleggera (meaning ‘superlight’) name was first used by Touring – the Italian styling house behind the classic DB4, DB5 and DB6 – and the curvaceous chrome script beside those bonnet ‘nostrils’ exactly replicates the originals of the ’60s. It’s a nod to the past on a design that doesn’t dwell on former glories.
At the DBS launch, Aston Martin helpfully lined up the car alongside a DB11 and Vantage, and it was immediately apparent which of the trio was most powerful. Reichman calls the car a “brute in a suit”; but if that’s the case, this is a tightly-fitted tracksuit rather than the pressed pleats of a DB11. Like an athlete in peak condition, it bulges in all the right places.
A huge honeycomb grille feeds air to that hungry V12, while slash-cut ‘curlicue’ strakes and jutting ‘open-stirrups’ in the front wings (echoing the Vulcan and Vantage GTE racer) help airflow along the fulsome flanks. At the rear, a gorgeous sliver of naked carbon-fibre – dubbed ‘Aeroblade II’ – serves as a fixed spoiler. Wheels are 21-inch forged alloys wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero tyres: 265/35 front and 305/30 rear.
Other aero tech includes a carbon-fibre splitter that channels air beneath the car, which is then accelerated and exhaled via a racing-style double diffuser. The result is downforce without drag, and a design that – to borrow Marek’s words – “exudes an immense potency”. Nobody will mistake the DBS Superleggera for anything less than a very fast car.
Amazingly though, the DBS is still a four-seater. It’s horrifically cramped back there, of course, but just bearable for short journeys (or for those still in short trousers). If nothing else, the rear chairs provide extra luggage space – fitting for a grand tourer, and a useful advantage over the 812 Superfast.
Compared to the exterior, the inside has received a relatively mild makeover. The most obvious upgrades are hip-hugging ‘Sports Plus’ seats (trimmed in leather and Alcantara) and the Vantage’s squared-off steering wheel. Also spot the shapelier instrument binnacle, longer shift paddles and double chevron motif stitched into the seats and roof lining. (Nobody tell Citroen.)
Elsewhere, most of what you see and touch is stock DB11, and that’s both a good and bad thing. On the plus side, the cabin has a focused, cockpit-like feel, with a fully-adjustable driving position and decent visibility (for a supercar). Perceived quality is impressive too, if not in the Audi or Porsche league.
Less positively, the DBS retains the DB11’s mix-and-match switchgear and out-of-date Mercedes-Benz media system, with blocky graphics that are more Amstrad than Apple. Not great when you’ve just spent nigh-on a quarter-mill. As you’d expect, there’s a huge range of ‘personalisation’ options available. Highlights include a carbon-fibre steering wheel, embossed DBS logos on the headrests and a choice of five colours for the seatbelts. Speak to Aston Martin’s brilliantly-named Q division though, and the only limits are your imagination and bank balance. Now, about those front machine guns...
“The key number here is 900Nm,” explains chassis supremo, Matt Becker. “That’s 182Nm more than the 812 Superfast and 150Nm than a One-77.” Yep, the DBS out-grunts Aston Martin’s 2009 hypercar, which boasted the world’s most powerful naturally-aspirated engine when new. That’s the pace of progress.
What that number feels like on the road is harder to define. It means effortless progress, aural refinement and the ability to drive almost everywhere – even in the Austrian mountains where the car was launched – in fourth gear. Oh, and acceleration that feels like a spade to your solar plexus. The DBS is utterly relentless. Its torque curve is more of a plateau, peaking at 1800rpm and remaining flat until 5000rpm: a huge wodge of midrange wallop that’s both hilarious and hugely addictive. I can’t imagine ever tiring of it.
That omnipotent V12 defines the driving experience, but doesn’t overwhelm it; Becker’s efforts with the chassis come a close second. Lift the bonnet and you’ll see the engine is pushed back as far as possible, providing near-perfect 51:49 weight distribution. Adaptive damping is standard, with three settings – GT, Sport and Sport Plus – for suspension and throttle/gearbox response. A mechanical limited-slip differential with torque vectoring manages the rear axle, rather than the electronic ‘E-Diff’ of the Vantage.
The comparison with the Vantage is a valid one, though. Both cars were tuned from scratch by Becker (unlike the older DB11, developed before he joined the company) and the Superleggera feels like a bigger, brawnier version of its critically-acclaimed cousin. There’s the same instantaneous turn-in, the same meaty response from the steering, the same benign balance. Make no mistake, the DBS can go very sideways indeed, but it communicates so clearly that it never feels intimidating. Its carbon-ceramic brakes are easy to modulate and brutally effective, too. To quote Becker again: “You don’t need to be a hero to get the best from it”.
Ultimately, the DBS lacks the fingertip finesse and sheer chuckability of the Vantage, but that’s missing the point. It sticks faithfully to its super-GT remit. Even in Sport Plus mode, the ride is commendably comfortable and the quad exhausts sound evocative, not flagrantly anti-social. Provided you could stomach its 22.9mpg thirst, there can be few finer means to tackle a crosscontinental road trip.
Apart from the Volante version, perhaps. For closer to £250,000, the drop-top DBS offers a fabric roof that takes 14 seconds to retract beneath the rear deck. The Volante is 170kg heavier than the coupe and 0.2 seconds slower to 62mph. However, when driven al fresco, it adds an extra layer to the DBS experience, amplifying the thunderous V12 in glorious surround-sound. There aren’t many cars we prefer as convertibles, but this is one.
According to Aston Martin, the Ferrari 812 Superfast is the Superleggera’s only real rival. Yet even that comparison may be a stretch. The Italian car is sharper, spikier and far more highly-strung – even in ‘standard’ rather than Competizione form. Its rewards need to be worked for, and while that’s hardly a chore, they’re less accessible as a result.
The DBS, with its monstrous and magnificent V12, is easier to exploit. A forgiving chassis and that tidal wave of torque mean you can enjoy more of its performance, more of the time. Italian stallion or British bulldog? The choice depends more on personal preferences than one car being inherently ‘better’ than the other.
Perhaps the Superleggera’s greatest rival actually comes from within: the 639hp V12 DB11. This half-way house between the DB11 V8 and DBS is a sizable £50,000 cheaper than the latter and not hugely slower (3.7sec, 208mph). However, for all its style and speed, it doesn’t look or feel as supercarspecial as the Superleggera. Very few cars do.
“The DBS out-grunts Aston Martin’s 2009 hypercar, which boasted the world’s most powerful naturally-aspirated engine when new”
The DBS’s wheels are 21-inch forged alloys wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero tyres – 265/35 front and 305/30 rear. At the rear, a gorgeous sliver of naked carbon-fibre – dubbed ‘Aeroblade II’ – serves as a fixed spoiler.
Aston Martin suggests the only true rival to its £225,000 super-GT DBS is the latest Ferrari 812 Superfast.
TECH SPEC2023 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
- Price: £225,000
- Engine: 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12
- Max Power: 725bhp @ 6500rpm
- Max Torque: 663lb.ft. @ 1800-5000rpm
- Gearbox: 8-speed paddle-shift auto
- 0-62mph: 3.4 seconds
- Top speed: 211mph
- Fuel economy: 22.9mpg
- CO2: 285g/km
- Front suspension: Double wishbones, coil springs
- Rear suspension: Multi-link, coil springs
- Brakes: Carbon-ceramic discs
- Wheels: 21-inch forged alloy
- Dry weight: 1693kg
- Length: 4712mm
- Width: 2146mm
- Height: 1280mm
SUPERLEGGERA: NO LONGERSEEING THE LIGHT
‘Two illustrious names, one magnificent super-GT’ was how Aston Martin hailed the DBS Superleggera at its launch. Since then, however, two have become one: the Superleggera (‘super-light’) tag is to be dropped for the 2022 model-year.
The move has apparently been made to ‘simplify nomenclature across the range and focus the offering to customers’. For the same reason, Aston Martin has also dropped the AMR branding from the V12-engined DB11 (but has retained the AMR’s higher power output and dynamic suspension upgrades).
The Superleggera name was originally added to ‘pay homage to the innovative lightweight construction methods pioneered by Italian coachbuilder, Touring’.
Using it marked “the return of a great Aston Martin name,” said former CEO, Dr Andy Palmer. But it seems customers didn’t quite understand the connection, nor why a proudly British car was wearing an Italian badge.
These days, Aston Martin is keen to simplify, add focus, and draw customers in with a straight forward offering and clear model hierarchies. The DBS is back to being ‘just’ DBS: a range-topping super-GT that’s “immaculately styled, obsessively engineered and outrageously potent… every inch the Aston Martin flagship”. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves, Dr Palmer – and we’re sure new CEO Tobias Moers will agree.