Performance car manufacturers dabble with lightweight versions of existing products all the time. Aston Martin’s idea of one is a 1,845kg British warship spearheaded by a 5.2-litre V12 strapped with a couple of turbochargers for good measure. And it’s called the DBS Superleggera – no prizes for guessing what the Italian portion of the name means.
The ‘super light’ label could have been vindicated had Aston Martin given its flagship GT the specific output to match. But the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini are drawing more than the DBS’s 715bhp from their naturally-aspirated V12s, and unloading them onto substantially lighter frames. Closer to home, McLaren is building faster cars with four cylinders less. But comparing a Tag Heuer chronograph to a bunch of smart watches isn’t exactly doing justice to the finer things that make the former tick.
In the case of the Aston, finer things begin with the same bones that underpin one of the finest grand tourers you can purchase brand new today – the DB11. We thoroughly enjoyed driving the V8 variant on local roads. And a lot of the qualities that made it likeable in the real world, such as the comfortable yet focused driving position, clever switchgear layout, build refinement and generous visibility, are repeated in the DBS Superleggera. That said, you won’t mistake one for the other if you know your supercars.
The biggest giveaway in the most literal sense is the DBS’s blacked out grille which looks intent on replacing the great white shark on the Blu-ray cover of Jaws.
Despite the heightened aggression channelled up front, the rest of the exterior upholds the DB11’s fluid silhouette, with a dash of something extra. Some revised aero work – Aston dubs this Aeroblade 2 – gives the DBS a slightly racier profile than the DB11 without compromising the stateliness in the rear third quarter. So there isn’t a massive spoiler cutting through the rear-view mirror, but you still get 180kg of downforce at vmax.
Top speed in the DBS Superleggera is a lofty 340kph, which really isn’t as dramatic as the journey to the halfway mark. As a pairing, 900Nm of twist and a hint of lag – that’s the V12’s only blemish – is as potent as a Mentos and Coca-Cola. Stepping on the gas induces a split-second whoosh that sounds like a Dyson vacuum in ‘Max’, followed quickly by the V12’s full-bodied chorus as it tries to compensate for the initial delay by launching the rpm needle 2,000rpm clockwise like a catapult. Since the engine is turbocharged, you’ll hit red at 6,500rpm. But it’s already an illegal rave party at 4,000rpm, by when you’ll likely be way past the speed limit already.
Explosive performance is typically packaged with back-breaking suspension. But the DBS’s Skyhook adaptive dampers try their best to keep the ride civil in GT mode – the default driving configuration in which the DB11 V8 truly excelled – even if the results weren’t always great. There’s an evident effort from the shocks to keep things nice and soft, but there’s only so much you can do to smoothen the edges of an inherently taut setup. What you get instead is an odd mix of stiff and sway. Combine this with the bipolar throttle and the car just feels like a track athlete trapped in a fat suit in this mode.
The hint was in the name all along; the DBS feels most at home in S or S+. We still love how easily you can change modes by thumbing a steering-mounted button. Ferrari’s Manettino rotary dial quickly comes to mind, but even that often requires two fingers to operate. With the V12’s heartrate elevated in these settings, the DBS’s Jekyll-or-Hyde throttle and beefed-up ZF eight-speeder become ultra-sharp in their response as the exhaust plays a visceral, hounding tune to match. This is Gaydon’s Super GT without the pretty makeup – un-softened and unhinged. We just wished we had some track time to see it flourish in its natural habitat.
Instead, we drove it on public roads as if we were going for a jog with a greyhound on a leash. It’s not hard to guess who’s holding who back in both situations. What’s mind-blowing is how Aston Martin has managed to build two completely different machines from the same blueprint. It’s almost like comparing Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal of James Bond to that of Daniel Craig; the sophisticated DB11 mimicking the flair and charisma of Brosnan while the DBS Superleggera channels Craig’s inner cage fighter with its sheer brute force.
That said, we still stand by what we said about the DB11 being one of the most accomplished grand tourers to have ever graced our roads. The bar it set is hard to beat, but the DBS is competing in an entirely different sport altogether. The brave few willing to pay its price will be rewarded with a genuinely super car, which, in spite of all its behavioural anomalies and deception on the weighing scales, lives up to every expectation it has ever stirred up.
Check out more images of the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera in the gallery we've prepared below.
This is Gaydon’s Super GT without the pretty makeup – un-softened and unhinged.
|The looks, the speed and the sound, it ticks all the boxes a supercar should||Explosive throttle hard to modulate at first, borderline dangerous in fact|
PRICE: From RM2.8 million