First Drive: 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
Beauty, torque, elegance—this Aston has it all.
If the sort of person who is thinking about buying a $300,000 two-seater wanted a Tesla, they'd already have. But Teslas, as great as they are, are like a six-foot burrito; sure, it's more—more torque, more range, more smug-factor—but at the end of the day, it's still a semi-premium mainstream car—a burrito. On the other hand, the new Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is like six feet of caviar. It's more, but it's also a couple hundred thousand dollars more.
I make this weird analogy because my first utterance, after about 15 minutes behind the wheel, was not a conclusion, but a question: "Who needs an electric car?!" What prompted the question? Torque. On-demand, nearly instantaneous, never-ending, insane amounts of torque. Want to go from 40 mph to 140 mph right now? Done. The DBS Superleggera accelerates from a roll like almost nothing else in the business, electric or not.
Of course, with a 5.2-liter twin-turbocharged V-12 engine rated at 715 hp and 663 lb-ft of torque, you'd expect some oomph. Those numbers, you'll note, aren't exactly beyond the pale for a modern performance car; hell, there's a Dodge with more on tap. But unlike that Dodge, the Aston is only hauling around 3,732 pounds of dry weight (we figure something around 4,000 pounds on the road)—about 400 fewer pounds less than the Hellcat. That only translates to 3.4-second 0-62 mph times, per Aston, but the real treat is in-gear acceleration. Stacking on 100 mph from just about any starting point is not just impressively fast—it's unrelenting, pulling hard as the tach sweeps toward redline. It's a feeling you typically only get in an electric car, and a very fast one at that. But those fast EVs don't bring with them the soundtrack of a genuine turbo V-12 engine and all of the suck-squish-bang-blow-whoosh that goes with it.
Part of the credit for the rapid in-gear acceleration goes to the new ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transaxle, mounted at the mid-rear just like the DB11. Also like the DB11—and unlike the Vantage—the DBS Superleggera's rear subframe, which houses the transaxle as well as the pickup points for the rear suspension, is isolated from the chassis with bushings, though of firmer durometer than in the DB11. The result is a sort of middle ground between hardcore sporty behavior and comfortable refinement—a good match to the character of a sporty Grand Touring car.
Wait, what? You've just lost the last five minutes because your brain was in full overload just looking at the Superleggera? Oh, sorry. Forgot to mention that. It happens.
A lot of automakers talk up their designs. Aston does, too, but it really doesn't have to. One look and you know 1) this is definitely an Aston, 2) this thing looks faaaaast, and 3) hnnnnngggggg.
Based on the DB11's architecture, and wearing a subtly but thoroughly different exterior design, the DBS Superleggera's stunning figure, following on the DB11 and Vantage, is like watching a high jumper set a world record—then go four inches higher on each of the next two jumps. You thought they'd hit the limits, but then they found more.
And then you step inside the car. Let's face it, there hasn't been much new in vehicular interior design since the in-dash screen was introduced. Even the supposedly "groundbreaking" Model 3 is simply a reductionist interpretation of the formula: Wheel, dash, center stack, screen. This Aston has all these same features, none of them a unique interpretation in their function. But their form—wow.
Even amongst Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, and Maybachs, the DBS Superleggera's interior stands out. From material selection to palette to design to detail execution, the interior alone is nearly justification for the $308,081 (including delivery) base price. Better yet, it's not just gorgeous, it's comfortable—even for a pair of six-foot, 200-pound guys, all day long. That rear seat? Don't bother, it's just cargo overflow. But up front, leg, shoulder, and hip room are excellent, the seat shape yields an excellent combination of supportive bolstering and long-range comfort, and wind and road noise are surprisingly low, making the DBS Superleggera a delight to hustle four hours on end.
Which brings us to another surprising aspect of the Superleggera package—steering feel. What's surprising? Well, it has some. It's not telepathic by any means, but it's there—enough to know just how well Aston engineered the front of this car to stick to the road, enough to sense the approaching limit of adhesion and sidle right up to it, rather than overshooting wildly. And that steering feel and stuck front end allow the rear to be a bit more playful than you might otherwise expect of a fairly buttoned-down bullet train of a GT. Dynamically, the Superleggera isn't perfect, but it's very, very fun—at least on the open road.
Take it to the true limits on a track and you're sure to expose some weaknesses, but this is a street car, so don't lose the plot. One place you're unlikely to find any weakness is the brakes: Standard on all DBS Superleggeras is a new carbon-ceramic setup that's not just lighter than iron, but capable of absorbing much more heat and dropping far more jaws. When braking hard, there's even a fair amount of feel on the slow pedal, though light braking at city speeds may take some getting used to if you're a driver who prides themselves on smoothness.
My least favorite braking behavior of the DBS Superleggera? Pedal release. If you're braking relatively hard, and want to begin trailing off as you enter a corner, that initial drop in pedal pressure yields a much larger drop in line pressure. That means it's difficult to smoothly manage the transition of the car's weight and grip, requiring you to leave a fair bit of headroom. I have to remind myself that as good as it is, the Superleggera is a super GT car, not a supercar. As a replacement to the Vanquish, however, it's a revelation.
It's not (yet) perfect. The transmission can be a bit balky, finding itself algorithmically challenged in every day driving, sometimes hunting between gears. The pre-production cars we drove also exhibited some bizarre kick-down behavior on hard acceleration that resulted in an early upshift, an ill-advised downshift that put the engine at redline, followed by another upshift. I was told by Aston's vehicle line director for the DB11 and DBS Superleggera Paul Barritt that this behavior is something yet to be ironed out in the transmission tune before the cars begin heading to owners.
Properly configured, the DBS Superleggera is likely to run you somewhere around $60,000 more than the base price. For the money, you'll get one of the best exterior designs in the history of the car, a truly gorgeous interior, some of the sweetest automotive sounds available at any price, and a fantastic continent crosser—in short, an Aston Martin. Crack open the Jeroboam of champagne, grab your tiny mother-of-pearl spoon, and start working on that six-foot mountain of beluga.
2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Specifications
|ENGINE||5.2L twin-turbo DOHC 48-valve V-12/715 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 663 lb-ft @ 1,800-5,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD Coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||21/27 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||185.5 x 84.5 x 50.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.4 sec|
|TOP SPEED||211 mph|