First Drive: 2018 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera

First Drive: 2018 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
 

Arresting, is it not? The new Aston Martin Superleggera is one of the most elegantly styled vehicles to come from the British marque in years.

Fundamentally based on the DB11, which by all accounts is an attractive car already, the DBS Superleggera (superlight in Italian) dials the aesthetic-designo-meter to 11. From that gaping front grille that looks mega and purposeful in the metal, the long carbon fibre clamshell bonnet and low roofline to the flared rear wheel arches that dissolve towards the rear where things get rather interesting.

Anyone for downforce?

As you can ascertain from the images, there is no physical boot spoiler, but rather a slim boot lip finished in carbon fibre and ahead of it is an incision that draws the air rushing over the car into it and with the diffuser, helps the model create as much as 180kg of downforce at full tilt — the highest of any series-produced Aston Martin — without creating any lift.

At each corner are 21-inch wheels and tyres with the front boasting a 265/35 footprint, while the rear stamps 305/30 sections in its wake. Brakes come in the form of carbon ceramics measuring a dinner plate size 410mm up front and 360mm at the rear, to offer excellent braking performance as we found out at the launch in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

At 4.7m in length and spanning 1.9m in width while crouching 1.2m from the ground the model’s proportions hint at a sporty GT with relative space for two adults and two children at the back or, indeed, a case or two of champagne. The boot is accommodative enough for two medium-sized travel bags.

The interior is a fine blend of leather and Alcantara with most of the switchgear having been lifted from Mercedes-Benz, including the infotainment system replete with similar graphics to what you will find in the German models.

If there was an area where there could be improvement it is in the quality of the air vents which, I’m afraid, are out of kilter with the rest of the mostly impressive cabin architecture.

Under that clamshell bonnet nestles the company’s 5.2l twin-turbo V12 in a front mid-mounted layout (meaning it is pushed far back over the front axle and into the chassis, so as to give the vehicle its 51:49 front-biased weight distribution).

A top speed of 340km/h:

The engine itself churns out some significant numbers of 544kW and 900Nm through a ZF eight-speed gearbox to the carbon fibre propshaft culminating at the rear wheels.

According to the company, the 0-100km/h dash takes only 3.4 seconds and the model will keep accelerating all the way up to 340km/h.

At the launch of the vehicle in one of the most picturesque parts of Bavaria and Austria, the DBS was just as at home tootling through the narrow village roads as it was charging up a sinewy mountain pass dotted with snow-capped mountain passes in the Austrian and German Alps.

There are three driving modes: GT (comfort), Sport and Sport+ that vary the stiffness of the dampers, sharpness of the throttle and immediacy of the gearbox. In the most docile GT mode, the DBS ebbs and flows with the contours of the road, delivering a supple enough ride to travel great distances in relative comfort. Both Sport and Sport+ are quite yielding when you need to make haste, but you cannot make individual inputs for the gearbox, engine and throttle, which means the scope of tailoring the vehicle’s setup is somewhat limited here.

That aside, though, the DBS delivers handsomely on the performance front, displaying one of the sharpest throttle responses I have yet experienced in a turbocharged car. Want to overtake slower moving traffic? No qualms. Pick your gap, flick the indicator and stomp the throttle. There is nary any drama from the rear tyres in haggling for traction. The thing just hooks up and punches forward like a right-hook from Mike Tyson. It is strong, clean in its execution and devastatingly effective.

According to Matt Becker, chief engineer at Aston Martin, he and his team wanted considerably more power from the engine without sacrificing on driveability and accessibility of the performance in the hands of varying driver skills.

Chassis:

From that aspect, they’ve hit the nail on the head. The chassis is also one of the areas that Becker is most au fait with, having spent more than two decades at Lotus, which is renowned for its chassis dynamics expertise.

In fact, it is said that Becker was brought in to Aston to iron out the chassis bugbears of the DB11, the fruits of which are said to be felt on the DB11 V8, which is said to have a far superior front end grip and suspension setup than its V12 sibling.

He says that the DB11 V12 had slightly more body roll than he would have liked in a car of its ilk and that he has managed to address that anomaly.

There are no such follies with the DBS, which enjoys being hurled into corners at a lick and sticks to the intended trajectory from the driver’s inputs. The V12 engine has a purposeful, chesty timbre that never quite reaches the staccato crescendo of, say, the Ferrari 812 Superfast, but is audibly pleasing nonetheless.

In fact, relative to its Italian rival, the DBS is less savage in its power delivery, but decidedly quick enough to relocate your eyeballs further back into their sockets when you summon all those horses at once.

Aston Martin is definitely on a roll with a gust of new and exciting products in its arsenal, thanks to the predatory new Vantage baying for Porsche 911 blood and the DB11 that fits the classic GT realm.

At the top of the totem pole, the DBS Superleggera is nothing short of a design masterpiece that not only tugs at your heartstrings, but also has the muscle to satiate your performance needs. What’s not to like? From where I stand, little indeed. – Lerato Matebese