2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Review

Lighter, meaner, faster and more powerful, that’s the 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera in a nutshell.

But crack through that hard, outer husk and there’s much more meat to the story.

Debuting in 1967, DBS served as the British automaker’s flagship model, offering customers ample style and performance. Building on this foundation, two years later it laid claim to the title of world’s fastest four-seat production car when it was fitted with an all-new V8 engine. Reining in all that power were upgraded alloy wheels in lieu of spoked rims as well as ventilated disc brakes.

Between its introduction and today, the nameplate has come and gone, though it’s back with a vengeance once more after bowing out in 2012.

A Super Grand Tourer

That high-performance heritage continues today with the DBS Superleggera, a lightened exotic, Aston Martin’s replacement for their Vanquish S. A so-called super grand tourer, this aggressively styled two-door is the pinnacle of the DB11 range, offering the most direct driving experience with assertive design, though it still slots in below the Vantage in terms of outright sportiness.

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Immediately noticeable is this car’s more aggressive styling, its face dominated by a bold mesh grille. The hood is also punctuated by larger power bulges and the vents have more pronounced flares.

Along the sides your eyes are certain to be drawn to the car’s more pronounced fender vents, which help exhaust high-pressure air from the wheel-wells, reducing undesirable lift. Forged 21-inch wheels are standard, though you can also opt for an even lighter set of rims measuring the same amount.

SEE ALSO: 2019 Aston Martin DB11 AMR Review

Bespoke – and gummy-bear-soft – Pirelli P-Zero tires are standard, boasting of a unique compound best suited to the DBS Superleggera’s performance. They’re also equipped with special noise-abating foam to reduce undesirable racket, particularly on coarse surfaces.

Moving rearward, Aston Martin’s innovative Aeroblade II spoiler creates additional downforce compared to its predecessor, all without any drag penalty, ducting air through the body and out a slot running nearly the length of the boot lid. They’ve also added an external trunk-release button, a welcome change.

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Further burnishing its mystique, many of this English exotic’s body panels including the hood and decklid are rendered in carbon fiber, a high-tech, weight-saving material, though one that doesn’t cut as much fat as you might expect in this application. The DBS Superleggera is only about 160 pounds (72 kilograms) lighter than the standard DB11, meaning it still clocks in at around 3,700 pounds (1,693 kilograms).

Meat and Potatoes

While significant engineering achievements to be certain, aerodynamic tweaks, some new tires and a small weight loss are merely sideshows compared to what lurks beneath the DBS Superleggera’s front-hinged hood.

Drivers are treated to a buttery-smooth 5.2-liter V12, one that’s basically a mechanical clone the engine powering Aston Martin’s already properly fast DB11 AMR, however, in Superleggera duty it offers so much more.

Engineers electronically cranked up the wick, pushing this powerplant to deliver 715 brake horses (725 PS) and 664 pound-feet of twist (900 nm).

As expected, an exemplary eight-speed ZF automatic transmission is standard, though they’ve gone with a heavier-duty unit that’s designed to handle the engine’s extra torque without, you know, shooting sprockets and shrapnel everywhere after the first hard launch.

A limited-slip differential is standard, as is dynamic torque vectoring by braking, for both enhanced traction and handling.

But Does it Deliver?

Predictably, we all know what happens when you drop a big, powerful engine into a small, relatively lightweight car. You get MEGA performance.

The DBS Superleggera can reach 62 miles an hour (100 km/h) in just 3.4 seconds. One-hundred miles an hour (161 km/h) is attainable in merely 6.4. Maximum velocity measures 211 mph (340 km/h).

But perhaps even more impressive than these rarified figures is the car’s passing power. It can rocket from 50 to 100 miles an hour in just 4.2 seconds, shoving you back into your leather-trimmed Sport Plus bucket seat, which is both supportive and surprisingly comfortable, even after hours of hard motoring.

The Drive

Further refining the DB11’s already delightful dynamics, DBS Superleggera is best described as boisterous yet honed. It’s louder and more assertive, yet noticeably sharper.

As in other members of this vehicle range, three driving modes are offered, though the emphasis here was to provide greater separation between each one. Indeed, the GT setting offers a hushed and relaxed experience, while Sport Plus, the most aggressive of the drive modes, significantly increasing the car’s alertness by changing various powertrain parameters and altering the chassis.

The Superleggera’s standard adaptive dampers provide a taut ride that’s oddly never punishing even in its most aggressive setting, though this could be due to the mostly immaculate roads of southern Bavaria where we tested this car. Keep Sport Plus engaged and the transmission shifts faster and harder, remaining in lower gears when left to its own devices.

And that’s where another major difference between the DBS and the slightly more placid DB11 AMR manifests. The Superleggera has no issues barking and wailing with variations of throttle input, trumpeting internal-combustion music from its generously proportioned quad exhaust tips. The car can be seriously loud when you want it to be, which, for me, was almost all the time I wasn’t driving through a small village.

SEE ALSO: 2018 Mercedes-AMG S 63 4Matic Review

As for acceleration, the DBS Superleggera is insanely fast, a rather obvious thing to note. In real-world use, I was able to reach an indicated 234 km/h (145 mph) on an all-too-brief section of unrestricted German Autobahn before traffic and road work tossed a sopping-wet comforter on my afternoon of fun. The car accelerates like a Tomahawk missile, though the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Roughly a month ago I tested the Mercedes-AMG S 63 at home in Detroit, a magnum-caliber luxury sedan with serious performance capabilities. Despite clocking in at a claimed 4,806 pounds (2,180 kg), about 1,100 (499 kg) more than the DBS, and having a 112-horsepower deficit (curiously, torque output is identical at 664 pound-feet) it can accelerate to 60 miles an hour in nearly an identical time.

The reason Aston Martin’s latest offering is slower than perhaps it should be is simple: traction. Even its custom Pirelli tires can’t handle all the firepower whipped up by its engine, the rear skins quickly overwhelmed by a deluge of torque. Bury the accelerator at, say, 80 miles an hour (129 km/h) and you can feel the car’s rear end squirm from side to side and it fights to maintain composure. How much faster would this car be with extra grip?

Ensuring it can stop as ably as it goes are standard carbon-ceramic brakes, a mega-pricey technology that often costs thousands of dollars on high-end sports cars. Up front, the DBS features gigantic 410-millimeter rotors – that’s more than 16 inches – clamped by six-piston calipers. Even though I didn’t get a chance to properly exercise this car’s brakes, I’m sure they can withstand enormous amounts of heat generated while driving in anger, though on the street they’re easily modulated and surprisingly quiet, producing not a wisp of squeak or squeal.

The Verdict

The 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is truly a Super Grand Tourer, providing more of what you love without any real compromises aside, perhaps, from cost, though even the “base,” V8-powered DB11 wants for nothing when it comes to performance, delivering all the speed and finesse you could ever need. But rarified cars like these are never about necessity, and for those that want one of the hottest production Aston Martins ever built, the DBS Superleggera fits the bill perfectly.

Expect this machine to start in the neighborhood of $310,000 when it goes on sale in the fourth quarter.

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