Aston Martin DBS Superleggera takes the fight to Ferrari
ASTON Martin is a master of its old-school craft, that of building supercars effectively by hand.
That endows particular traits. The cars can have marginal variations in panel fit inside and out - yet they are also some of the most impressively built vehicles on sale today.
Try finding a roofliner with the absence of flex and attention to detail to match that of Aston's latest V12 flagship, the DBS Superleggera. You'll be looking at Bentleys or Rolls-Royces with seven-digit pricetags.
In contrast, the DBS will start at $517,000 before on-road costs when the "super grand tourer" goes on sale in Australia later this year, making it a rival for the Ferrari 812 Superfast, Porsche 911 Turbo S and Lamborghini Aventador.
Lead exterior designer Julian Nunn describes the DBS as "the son of Vulcan", the lightweight 2015 track-only machine of which Aston built only 24 examples.
"The tub is based on the DB11 but we've added 10mm to the front track and widened the rear by 20mm and the aero is all adapted from the Vulcan," Nunn says.
He says the DBS deserves comparison with that car. "It isn't quite as quick (3.4 seconds for 0-100km/h compared to 2.9) but the approach to keeping this car glued to the road is exactly the same as we applied to the Vulcan."
Nunn uses the "we" to include F1 designer Adrian Newey, who was involved in the aero development.
"Easiest way to think of it is if it is (carbon-fibre) black, it is Adrian's. The rest is mine," Nunn says.
Technically the DBS Superleggera is a two-door four-seater - and realistically the rear bench is a very sumptuous shelf for the handbags, coats and sundry accessories of those sitting up front. It makes the rear of a Porsche 911 look limousine-like.
Compared to the effort invested in propulsion and the aero-inspired styling, the interior amenity feels like an afterthought, if a high-end one. The thick, pliable leather encasing just about every visible surface would be the envy of London smartest bondage clubs.
The centre stack is tastefully laid out, with the stop-start button centred among the gear selection buttons for the eight-speed automatic. Storage space is minimal and the air vents operate with a non-premium feel.
ON THE ROAD
Nine examples of the DBS Superleggera assembled at Berchtesgaden to banshee up and down a toll-road atop the picturesque mountain in southeast Bavaria. There's plenty of scope to play: the V12 twin-turbo's peak torque is on tap from just 1800rpm to 5000rpm yet power doesn't max out until 6200rpm.
Engine angst develops as those revs increase, winding from a supercharger-like whine off idle to a ferocious snarl near the limiter, if not quite as sonically satisfying as the naturally aspirated V12s some rivals still run.
Given it pumps 900Nm to the rear wheels, the driver needs to be judicious with the right foot. Any appreciable steering lock will have the DBS Superleggera looking to rotate faster and more forcefully than you might expect.
The eight-speed auto can also send a decent kick back into the cabin on upshifts, accompanied by momentary wheelspin if the surface is slick.
It seems the electronics mirror Aston's overall old-school approach. The driver is expected to be in control, with the stability software there to avoid an accident rather than rein in exuberance.
Those who follow the road less travelled tend to gravitate to Astons. They won't be disappointed with the DBS Superleggera, as long as they know what they're signing up for.
AT A GLANCE
Aston Martin DBS Superleggera vitals
PRICE $517,000 plus on-road costs
WARRANTY Three years/100,000km
SERVICING 12 months/15,000km, $4200 for three years (estimated)
ENGINE 5.2-litre V12 twin-turbo, 533kW/900Nm
TRANSMISSION Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
SAFETY Not tested, six airbags, torque vectoring
THIRST 12.4L/100km (estimated)
SPARE None: repair kit