Under that exquisite carbon-fiber hood beats a vicious heart; Aston’s Cologne-sourced 5.2-liter twin-turbo V-12 with the boost turned up by 5 psi. The results are 715 horsepower as well as 664 lb-ft of torque. DB11/DBS mini-CEO Paul Barritt assured us that unless Aston swaps in physically larger turbochargers, this is the most power that this motor can make. Expect to see larger snails on the DBS refresh in four years. All that power and fury is routed via a carbon-fiber torque tube to a high-torque-capable ZF eight-speed transaxle. The entire rear subframe is soft-mounted to the unibody via rubber bushings like on the DB11, unlike the hard-mounted rear of the Vantage.
Despite its prodigious power output, the Superleggera is still first and foremost a grand tourer, not a sports car. The previous iteration of this vehicle was named “Vanquish,” but because of lightweighting efforts this time around, Aston Martin went and licensed the Superleggera moniker from Italy’s Touring to more accurately describe the DBS (meanwhile, the upcoming mid-engine Aston will probably be called Vanquish, because why waste a great name).
Crack the throttle of the Superleggera, and all sorts of hijinks ensue. Forward momentum is one of them, but with so much power travelling through just two wheels, well, hijinks. Should you have the traction control fully on, then the little yellow light will flicker on the dash, letting you know that the 305/30 ZR21 Pirelli P Zeros are having momentary grip issues (the fronts are 265/35 ZR21). Now, it should be pointed out that torque is limited through first, second, and third gears in normal and Sport modes. If you are in Sport Plus, then torque is restricted in just first and second.
Remember those soft rubber bushings holding the rear end onto the rest of the car? As the engine cuts, but then allows power, you can feel the transaxle rocking around back there. Even under small applications of throttle, you can feel the housing move as the torque converter locks and unlocks. Although the amount of movement is both interesting and comical, it’s kind of a mess. I’m hoping that I drove early cars and that Job One vehicles will be a bit better sorted. Still, I can’t stop thinking about the fact that I’ve never driven an automatic transaxle vehicle that was 100 percent shipshape. Specifically, I’m thinking about the Corvette and how its slushbox is never actually good enough. I think the solution for the DBS is active transaxle mounts, like AMG employs on its GT S. That car puts down power like an all-wheel driver. All that said, Aston claims the Superleggera can crack 62 mph in 3.4 seconds. Quick enough, says me.
Although the DBS Superleggera may not be the finest drag racer the world has ever seen, blasting from, say, 40 to 80 mph, or 40 to 100 mph, or (let’s be honest) to 130 mph could very well be its own sport. Any issues I had with standing starts were instantly forgotten as I spent the better part of three hours passing as much Bavarian Alpine traffic as possible (pro driving tip: Avoid Berchtesgaden at the height of summer). Thanks to generous helpings of carbon bits including the brakes, this car should weigh 159 pounds less than the 4,194-pound DB11. What an intoxicating rocket sled. What a torque monster.
At the launch of the DB11 AMR, the 630-horsepower refresh of the V-12-engined DB11, Aston CEO Andy Palmer was quick to point out that the AMR produced more horsepower than the new Bentley Continental GT (630 versus 626) and had a 1 mph higher top speed (208 versus 207). What Mr. Palmer didn’t know was that I’d just driven the new Conti, and due to its AWD traction, the Bentley felt like it would get to its V-max well before the Aston. The AMR is a fast car, but no match for the Bentley. Now, with the DBS, which should weigh 1,000 pounds less than the Continental GT, the Aston feels like the quicker machine. Perhaps much quicker. I’m not sure if the Superleggera actually is, but the car feels that way. Just an awesome feeling of on-road invincibility. Also, the DBS can hit 211 mph. Neener, neener.
Dynamically, the DBS rocks. What a wonderfully sorted front end. The steering is beautifully weighted, neutral, and imbued with great-for-a-modern-car feedback. You can fall into the clutches of understeer should you fail to brake hard enough for a corner (sorry!), but that’s on the driver, not the car. For the most part the DBS offers a front end that refuses to quit. The sounds of the snarly V-12 have been enhanced for DBS duty, and the results are fab. What I love most is that you’re not hearing separate induction and exhaust noises, but rather a full-on mechanical symphony taking place inside the cabin. One with just the right amount of turbo whirl mixed in, too. It’s glorious. In fact, you can apply that descriptor to the driving experience itself. I’m still drunk on the memories.
At this point, I’m almost ready to conclude that with the DBS Superleggera, Aston Martin is just showing off. Quibbles about the transmission programming aside, the Superleggera’s big flaw is its unobtainable price. Just over $308,000 to start, and the metallic crimson example with the lovely navy blue leather and red contrast stitching raises the buy-in to up over $370,000. That’s some serious scratch, and hard to logically justify. Though as Marek Reichman so famously said, “You don’t need an Aston Martin. You want an Aston Martin.” Damn skippy. Had I the means, I’d buy one just to look at the damn thing. Consider the driving experience a nice little bonus.