Just like Q waiting with bated breath to unveil his latest round of gadgets to Mr Bond, we were equally as excited to try out the latest quintessential British spy car. Step forward, the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera.
Akin to 007, Aston Martin refers to the Superleggera as a “brute in a suit”, which doesn’t exactly conjure up images of a nimble, lightweight vehicle, which is exactly what the Italian “leggera” is referring to.
So what makes it quite so “brutish”? What the newest Aston Martin brings us is a 12-cylinder “Super GT flagship” with a twin turbo V12 engine and an eyewatering 715BHP.
The folks at Aston Martin have treated us time and again this year, with the release of the Aston Martin Vantage and the Aston Martin DB11 in April and May respectively. But they’re clearly saving the best until last – there’s a whole lot to get excited about with this particular Aston Martin supercar.
Perhaps most noticeable about Aston Martin’s latest release is its asking price – to buy it outright, you’d need to set aside a very tidy sum – its UK price is £225,000.
That makes it over £100,000 more expensive than the £120K Vantage, and up to £85K more than the very respectable DB11. So how do the boffins go about justifying this mammoth price?
Mammoth is the operative word here, of course – this is the biggest and most powerful coupe that Aston Martin has produced to date. When we look at the Superleggera vs. the Aston Martin Vanquish, for example, we note how far along the coupe design has come since its humble beginnings in 2001.
What we have for 2018 is a very big boy indeed – not so much in measurements: Aston Martin has remained fairly uniform with its chosen length of 4,712mm and height of 1,280 mm – but in horsepower and torque.
According to Aston Martin, the key specification upon which we should be focusing is the torque, and for good reason. It’s packing 663lb ft which is available at 1,800 to 5,000rpm.
The team are not shy about the fact they’ve made a beeline for the Ferrari 812 Superfast when it comes to flattening the competition. They’ve achieved it, naturally, with 134 more lb of torque, while the Superfast will only hit 529 lb at 7,000rpm.
Oh, and while the Superfast lives up to its name with a very respectable top speed of 211mph, the boffins must have been laughing when they created a supercar with a top speed of 211.3 mph. Every inch counts, evidently.
How do we achieve these break-neck speeds and acceleration? Leggera by name, Leggera by nature – thanks to its carbon fibre shell, it’s lost 72kg of excess weight in comparison to the DB11.
Granted, it still has a juggernaut kerb weight of 1.693 tonnes, but its exquisite design is doubtless its greatest asset. With a 60:120 front and rear split, it’s able to generate 180kg of downforce without a drag penalty, helping it to catapult to 62mph in just 3.4 seconds.
The team at Gaydon have apparently been a little indecisive over the years when it comes to models – we’ve flitted without explanation between the Vanquish, the DB6 and the DB11.
Moreover, there’s rumour on the horizon that a new Vanquish may be hitting our roads in 2021 as part of Aston Martin’s “second century” business plan – you heard it here first.
Design-wise, there are some elements of the Superleggera that are reminiscent of the DB11. We’ve already mentioned the size, and designer Marek Reichman is clearly a fan of the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” to some degree – the platform and basic engine components are barely distinguishable.
What is distinguishable is the gear box. The high-torque eight-speed gearbox has been given a software recalibration and new casing to help it cope with its new demands. That and the fancy new aerodynamic design, of course.
There are also a few little upgrades from the DB11 when it comes to exterior aesthetics. We now have a wider rear track and bespoke broad Pirelli P Zero tyres, which really come in handy when the 5.2 litre engine gets going.
Though it’s now rocking performance figures that would have given it hypercar status not long ago, the Superleggera stays true to its roots: the bonnet “nostrils” are a throwback to the 60s.
Unlike the more refined DB11, the Superleggera has all the right bulges to give it that mean appeal, underpinned by a honeycomb grille and “open stirrups” in the front wings.
There’s a huge choice of colours for the more discerning motorists among us, including Satin Nexon Grey, Sea Storm Blue, Apple Tree Green, Ocellus Teal, White Stone, Hammerhead Silver, Hyper Red and more. For bonus points, watch out for “Lime Essence”, the same colour you can find on Aston Martin’s latest collaboration with Tag Heuer watches. Just another weapon in your secret agent arsenal, then.
Again, the DBS gets one over on the DB11 in the interior department – it’s like the DB11, but better. For one, it’s considerably more comfortable, and from a purely cosmetic viewpoint, it’s got an air of glamour (which you would expect from a £225,000 car).
It’s not entirely without fault: said glamour is probably not quite representative of the asking price, and to simply update the trims of a DB11 seems a little lazy when we consider that the Vantage had a whole interior re-design to fit its purpose.
Still, we do have a smoother pull on the paddles in the DBS and, in what some would call an added bonus and others would call lunacy, we even have back seats. It’s not exactly the kind of people carrier you’d want to be seen doing the weekend shop with, but then, its boot space doesn’t lend itself to that anyway. Best to use those back seats for luggage if you really must.
With its cockpit-like design, drivers feel safe and contained, while the seats are fully adjustable, providing excellent visibility for a supercar.
Comfort feels like an improvement in the DBS – the seats have certainly been upgraded, and if you take a look at the Superleggera configurator, launched in July 2018, you’ll also see that you can take this even further. “Sports Plus” seats provide a hip-hugging effect in leather and Alcantara, or if you want to get away from the all too familiar DB11 design, then you can plump for the squared off steering wheel, straight out of the Vantage.
If you’re really going for the cosmetic effect, don’t forget to throw coloured seatbelts into that configurator, or embossed DBS logos on the headrests.
All of this extra vanity comes at the expense of the on-board computer though, unfortunately. While the rest of the cabin is glamorous and modern, the mix and match switchgear isn’t quite fit for a 2018 car. Here’s hoping you’ve got more interest in the accelerator than the media centre though.
With such lightning speed, feeling safe is a pretty crucial factor for the Superleggera, but it’s something Aston Martin has managed to achieve with contemptuous ease.
The combination of power braking, adaptive damping and stability control systems means there’s absolutely no danger of losing grip on the road, even at high track speeds.
It’s got a wonderfully responsive automatic gearbox which transitions smoothly right through to the eighth. What sets it apart from its Ferrari competitor, however, is the acceleration. It still pulls at 2,000rpm while travelling at 70mph in eighth gear, and its 21-inch wheels are aided by the steadfast suspension, making cornering even easier.
Added to all this, it’s quiet as a mouse, even when you are throttling off to 100mph in under 10 seconds.
As standard, there are still the classic driving modes we all love including Comfort, GT, Sport and Sport Plus, adjusting the suspension and steering weight accordingly. The throttle is absolutely effortless and the controls are polished – the only criticism we would have, and this is very minor indeed, is that the manually cued shift speed isn’t always 100 per cent smooth.
As if Aston Martin hasn’t spoiled us enough, the Superleggera is the boy racers’ fantasy of top speeds and instant acceleration, combined with enough forward-thinking safety technology to appease their mothers.
It’s got a gentle engine hum that’s almost a pleasure to experience as it makes its way through eight gears, taking us from innocent fanatics to hypercar record-breakers in a matter of seconds.
Certainly, its interior still has a bit of polishing up to do, but when you’ve got an engine as powerful as this one, it’s what’s on the outside that counts. If this is what Aston Martin has now, we can’t wait to see the Valkyrie up for sale.