We’re in Austria test driving the new 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, Gaydon’s answer to the Bentley Continental GT and the Ferrari 812 Superfast – can it live up to that ambitious ‘Super Light’ tag?
Austria in summer is pure driving heaven. It’s home to some of the most scenic views imaginable, found by a series of switchback mountain roads dotted with frequent villages perfectly spaced for coffee breaks. If you time it right, you’re never very far from a nice stretch of derestricted German autobahn to really stretch a car’s legs.
Except of course if you’re driving the new Aston Martin DBS Superleggera.
During the press launch and with a bit of coaxing by some of the engineers at one of our coffee stops, it was suggested that I open the taps once over the border and see what this twin-turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 could do when speed limits are out the window.
His point was that with 715bhp and an eye-watering 900Nm of torque from just 1,800rpm, I’d appreciate not only the pull from down low you’d expect but also the buzzing high-end revs. The DBS will go to 7,000rpm.
Even on the outstretched autobahns, I never found a piece of road long enough to take up his challenge. The DBS Superleggera pulls like a train and that 900Nm holds constant right through to 5,000rpm but even then it doesn’t run out all the way to the redline. Yet at speeds three times the legal limit in most parts of the world, it was still hauling, the revs still rising – and I was running out of road.
Our exit approached and it was back to urban reality for a brief spell where it slinked almost silently through the village like a cat sneaking up on its prey, before crossing back into Austria to hunt down those glorious mountain roads.
To put that in some kind of perspective, aside from having a zero to 100km/h time of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 340km/h, the DBS will out-accelerate both the Ferrari 812 Superfast and the Porsche 911 GT2 RS for the all-important 50-160km/h haul in fourth gear. Holding the same gear, the Porsche does it in 5.1 seconds, the Ferrari in 4.9, and the DBS in just 4.5 seconds.
The usual country drive scenario of cars stuck behind a tractor or truck on a single lane was no issue. Indicate, set your sights and nail it. Job done and your time spent on the wrong side of the road is halved compared to most other sports cars.
With a near 50:50 weight balance thanks to a new eight-speed automatic transmission hanging off the back, the DBS’ giant radiator grille swallowed these bends up for breakfast. This new version of the ZF ‘box is exclusive to the DBS as it’s the only transmission that can cope with so much torque.
There is zero turbo lag, no spooling up of power, no whistle from under the hood and just no indication of any kind that it’s a turbocharged engine. It pulls cleanly like a big, naturally aspirated car, so it’s easy to short shift and let that torque work for you, but also endless fun to let it wind out to the limit as well.
Choosing drive modes is a simple process of selecting two rotary dials on the steering wheel, so no endless point and click menus to wade through on a centre console screen.
The one on the left controls the dampers for comfort, sport or track and the one on the right does the same for the engine with a beautiful exhaust resonance when in the track-focused Sport+ mode. And that’s all you need to find a perfect setting for any stretch of road.
Despite looking similar to the DB11, especially inside with a near identical interior, the DBS has been tweaked to give more power and torque from the same V12, plus they have shaved up to 75kg through a mix of lightweight body panels, of which more than 80 per cent are made from carbon fibre.
The carbon panels also allowed the team to play with the car’s dimensions, so that the rear arches are 20mm wider than the DB11 while the front end sits 10mm wider, covering 21in wheels with standard carbon-ceramic brakes. Overall though the body is actually 35mm shorter.
So while it feels and drives markedly lighter than the DB11 it’s based on, the DBS still fails to live up to its DBS Superleggera (meaning Super Light in Italian) tag, seeing as it tips the scales at nearly 1,700kg.
No doubt taking some advice from its association with the Red Bull Formula One team, the new range of Aston road cars from the DB11 on has also developed some very cool aero tweaks not used by their competitors and the DBS takes this a step further.
Aside from bonnet vents which reduce lift by acting as outlets to extract hot air, it also uses an F1-style double diffuser underneath the car at the back, but the best part is an invisible rear wing that’s created by an air curtain at the very rear edge of the bootlid. Air is sucked through vents near the rear side windows, sent through the boot, and expelled under pressure directly north, effectively creating a rear wing of air.
So not only does that “wing” weigh nothing, it also helps the car achieve an overall downforce of 180kg at its top speed. It’s a very real interpretation of the most modern Formula 1 technology now making its way into production cars.
Compared to the new Bentley Continental GT that just been launched in the UAE, and that Ferrari 812 Superfast, the Aston is competitively priced and certainly deserves your consideration if you’re in the market of dropping a mil.
2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 | eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive | 715bhp @ 6,500rpm and 900Nm from 1,800rpm | 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 340km/h | AED1,073,000