DBS Superleggera: Better than a Ferrari 812 Superfast or Bentley Continental GT?
Kurt is a freelance automotive and motorsports photographer, and reasonably quick test driver.
Fast, big GT cars are becoming more commonly spotted on city streets, and they're picking up younger, wealthier buyers. Expectations run high with this crowd, and Aston Martin can't rest on its laurels as being a fine luxury and GT car manufacturer anymore. It has to make a car that can stun on the valet line as much as it can perform on a track or in the canyons. The mantra of "Power, Beauty, Soul" has to step up its game.
This new generation DBS Superleggera takes the already good DB11, and goes a bit hardcore. As soon as you get into the $300,000 and 700-horsepower club, you're playing on Ferrari and Bentley's turf. To find out if the DBS could be as attractive and exhilarating as the Ferrari 812 or as refined while immensely fast like the Bentley Continental, I had to give this mega Aston Martin a solid test in Southern California on all sorts of driving roads... and in a bit of Los Angeles traffic.
(A note of transparency: I've wanted to check out the DBS Superleggera for quite some time, but availability for fast press cars is a bit limited in Texas. When I knew I was going to be in California for an extra week after a road trip, I hit up the good people at Aston Martin to see if I could test out one they had on the West Coast. They obliged, and had one dropped off at the house for a few days.)
A Quick Overview
I was hooked on the Aston Martin DBS in 2006, when I first saw it in action in Daniel Craig's first appearance as James Bond in Casino Royale. The funny thing is that the DBS wasn't a real model at the time. Consumer demand skyrocketed for the Bond car after the film premiered, and Aston Martin had no choice but to bring it to life. And I'm glad the folks in Gaydon did. Back then, the DBS was unfairly judged as a dressed up DB9 with a bit more power, some wider fender flares, shinier wheels, and a slick shifting six-speed manual gearbox. Now it's a heavyweight contender, ready to throw down in the ring for twelve rounds.
In this 2019 iteration, Aston Martin introduces the DBS Superleggera more fittingly as a replacement for the outgoing Vanquish. A great deal of time was spent on not just making the the car faster and its appearance more impactful, but also on dropping weight while increasing overall strength. At first glance, it's impossible to miss that massive hexagonal grille and those larger, finely swept fenders. You quickly know this car means business.
The Important Figures
The DBS Superleggera's 5.2-liter twin-turbo V12 produces 715-BHP at 6,500 RPM and 900 Nm (or 663 lb-ft) of torque from 1,800-5,000 RPM. Getting this power to the ground involves a rear-mid mounted ZF 8-speed gearbox mated to an alloy torque tube and carbon fiber propeller shafts.
Aston Martin claims this package sends the DBS Superleggera from 0-62 MPH in 3.4 seconds on its way to a top track speed of 211 MPH. That 0-60 time is .5 seconds slower than the Ferrari 812 Superfast, and is .2 seconds quicker than the Bentley Continental GT W12. Not bad.
Measuring 186 inches long, 76 inches wide, and 50 inches tall, the DBS isn't exactly compact, but these figures are nearly identical to the Ferrari 812 Superfast and Bentley Continental GT. The Aston's 110-inch wheelbase is only slightly shorter than the Bentley 112 inches, and just longer than the Ferrari's 107. Once fighters weigh in, that's when things get complicated. The Ferrari is the lightest of the trio, tipping the scales as a light heavyweight at a scant 3,593 pounds. Bentley's contender is a super heavyweight at 4,947 pounds. The DBS weighs in at a more reasonable 4,096.
EPA fuel economy estimates are 14/22/17 city/highway/combined, and I achieved 14.1 over my five days in the DBS, with healthy doses of spirited driving throughout my test. You'll probably get more MPGs than I did.
Cruising Around Town
When you're running to the shops or commuting to work, the cockpit of the big Aston is comfortable and cleanly designed. Visibility out of the cabin isn't bad considering how high the belt line sits and how swept the C-pillar is. The massive standard carbon discs are slightly grabby when you're stopping in slower traffic, but I adjusted my pedal input behaviors quickly enough. I did find it enjoyable to have a little fun on less populated city streets in the DBS, giving it a little gas and a flick of the wheel when the moment presented itself. It is truly a joy to go from comfortably sitting in traffic to dancing around corners with ease, as the Aston will quickly remind you that it is nearly equal parts grand tourer and supercar.
A heavy right foot is not a good habit in the DBS Superleggera from stoplight to stoplight, as you'll not only deplete your fuel supply in a hurry, but also because any gap is quickly closed by the massive twin-turbo V12's 715 horses on tap, eager to answer any request. The Aston's steering is light at normal speeds in the basic "GT" mode, and makes parking a cinch. I recommend sticking to the GT mode for daily driving, as the Sport and Sport+ modes firm up the already sharp dampers more than you'd really want if you're hitting bumps and grooves in normal city pavement.
As A Canyon Carver
Once work ends and it's time to play, you'll be delighted by the DBS Superleggera on the fun roads. Being a former resident and frequent visitor of Southern California, the Angeles National Forest is my benchmark for testing any performance car. The Aston comes to life along these curves, gobbling up every single mile of the fast sweepers, huge elevation changes, and stunning views. If you're paying a visit to the Angeles Crest Highway for your first time, take your time getting up to speed while getting familiar with the challenge ahead, otherwise you'll be taking a big bite of humble pie after smashing into a rock wall or sliding down a mountainside.
The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is light on its feet on a fun canyon road, and you'll love having over 700 horsepower at your disposal. Boost comes on smoothly, but there's no ignoring the gargantuan surge of that much torque across such a flat plateau. Especially when you spot a straight stretch of road between fun bends. You can go from reasonable speeds to having a date with the local judge if you leave your foot down for more than a couple seconds. Should you back off the throttle in Sport or Sport+ mode, you'll hear loads of gnarly pops from the exhaust.
Playing between the DBS Superleggera's Sport and Sport+ driving modes, I mostly stuck with the plus option, as it gave sharper responses to steering and throttle inputs, with a little firmer suspension feedback than I usually prefer. I wish Aston Martin provided an individually customized mode, like you get in plenty of other performance cars, to tweak things to my liking across steering feedback, engine mapping, transmission shifts, and suspension stiffness.
The DBS is equipped with a fully adaptive suspension, which comes in handy should you be cruising along like a respectable adult before suddenly turning into a complete hoon, and not want to click the steering wheel-mounted mode button.
The DBS Superleggera's potent 410mm front and 360mm rear carbon ceramic rotors never got angry when I'd give them hard braking applications during long stints through the Angeles National Forest. Even when I'd expect the heat and pressure to take their toll, the Aston's brakes felt consistent and easy to manage when I'd need to scrub off some speed. Massive 265/35/21 front and 305/30/21 rear Pirelli P Zero rubber is confident and sticky, and the already good mechanical grip gets added benefit from the electronic limited-slip differential out back when you thrash a corner and stab the gas. Light on its feet is the DBS, but at no point did I feel like the car wasn't effectively communicating with me.
On a couple occasions I did get the rear end to step out more easily than anticipated, but never was the slip uncontrollable. A flick of opposite lock into a smooth drift was simple to achieve, and I'm not exactly a professional drifter. I'd love a hint more weight from the steering wheel when I'm pushing the car a little harder, but the feedback is consistent from initial turn-in all the way through a corner.
Having given the Ferrari 812 and Bentley Continental some good testing on fun roads, the DBS feels just as nimble and fast as Maranello's big GT and only slightly less stable than the heavier Bentley. Bonus points are given to the Bentley, as it not only has all-wheel drive, but also a trick 48-volt adaptive suspension that makes it as flat through a fast curve as a 911 GT3.
Some High Marks
The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is a stunner. When I first saw the new DB11 a few years back, it took some time to grow on me, but the DBS nails the proportions. There's more flex in the fender flares, the bigger grille's function of sucking in more air also compliments the styling perfectly, the profile's proportions are spot on for a GT car, and the big 21-inch wheels fit this package just right.
I'm a sucker for details, and my DBS Superleggera tester had a couple good option boxes ticked. The gold underbonnet pack added gold insulation, a gold dipstick plaque, and one seriously cool oil filler cap with an anodized gold finish.
Every single time I stopped somewhere, and stood next to the car for more than 15 seconds, people would instantly strike up a positive conversation about the look of the DBS. One could attribute some of the DBS's ability to attract attention to the optional Q Palette Satin Cobalt Blue paint. I also loved knowing that this gentleman's GT car could be as fine pulling up to the valet line at any gala right after assaulting a fun road, and few people would know its capability upon first glance.
Not So Wonderful Parts
Putting adults in the back seat of the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is never going to happen, should your passengers have legs. Boot space is limited to barely holding two carry-on roller bags, so when my wife and I headed to the airport for our return flight, our backpacks had to go in the back seats. Speaking of the seats, the triaxal quilted stitching is a bit over the top for my liking. Aston Martin offers a more subtle Geode quilting option, but I'd probably skip the seat quilted stitching options altogether.
Bang & Olufsen's audio upgrade has great sound, but the interface is somewhat simple in appearance. I'd dig something more stylish and attractive, like you see in the Bentley Continental. Neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto are available in the DBS, which is absurd considering the sticker price, and the fact that you can get Apple CarPlay as a standard feature in a Honda Civic.
The center console's infotainment and climate control setup isn't up to snuff for a $300,000 car, with shiny plastic that is impossible to clearly see in daylight. Everyday I'd wonder why it was smelling funny outside, only to look down to see that the recirculation turned itself off – even in manual climate modes – and it would be impossible to notice the tiny orange dot on the button to toggle to inside air. This is a bit of nit-picking from me, as the car is still damn good, but I have to be honest when I'm reviewing a car that costs as much as a decent condo.
The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is a fantastic car. A few years ago getting 700 horsepower in any car meant buying a hypercar and dropping a million dollars. Now you can get that sort of performance in one ridiculously sexy exterior package with a proper grand tourer underneath it all. This car lives to sweep along canyon roads at a fair rate of knots, and will take on any 2,000 mile road trip comfortably.
My little gripes about interior bits and pieces can quickly be overcome by the sensation felt as soon as the go pedal is mashed and a fun string of corners lies ahead. If I'm dropping $300,000 on a GT car that wisps me along at autobahn friendly speeds, I want everything to be perfect inside and out, and the DBS Superleggera may not be as cool and sorted inside as a Bentley Continental GT, but its styling, performance, and cool factor is hard to beat.
Although after buying your Aston Martin DBS Superleggera you may want to see your favorite tailor for a bespoke tuxedo that can handle twelve rounds in the boxing ring. The DBS Superleggera may be as suave and powerful as any car James Bond has sported on the big screen, but it's just as capable of delivering a punch as Anthony Joshua.