First Drive

2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera First Drive Review | Nowhere I'd rather be

Light, but not skinny

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  • Engine
    5.2L Twin-Turbo V12
  • Power
    715 HP / 664 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • 0-60 Time
    3.3 Seconds
  • Top Speed
    211 MPH
  • Drivetrain
    Rear-Wheel Drive
  • Engine Placement
  • Seating
  • Base Price
  • As Tested Price
BERCHTESGADEN, Germany — The mountains at the border of Austria and Germany are full of rolling green fields bookended by tree-capped mountains. The roads that run along the mountainsides and valleys, despite being packed with tractors and a seemingly endless line of vacation travelers, are ripe with corners just waiting to be strung together. I'm standing on a hillside staring at the new Aston Martin DBS Superleggera when I realize there are few things I've ever wanted more than a V12-powered GT and a ribbon of clean pavement.

The DBS Superleggera is the third new Aston Martin revealed this year, following the Vantage and DB11 AMR. It's based on the DB11 and serves as a replacement for the Vanquish S. In place of the old, naturally-aspirated 6.0-liter V12 is an upgraded version of the 5.2-liter engine found in the DB11 AMR. In the DBS, the engine makes 715 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque, up 85 horses and a gut-punching 148 pound-feet over the DB11. The extra power comes mostly from an increase in boost from the two turbos.

The other big changes to the DBS come in the way of the relatively lightweight carbon-fiber bodywork. Every panel save for the doors and roof has been re-sculpted. The new panels are carbon fiber, and — with options such as carbon-fiber trim and a lightweight exhaust — the DBS weighs about 160 pounds less than a DB11. The styling is different, too, thanks to a massive grill and lower intakes that make up most of the front fascia. Aston Martin says the extra area is needed to cool the V12. It reminds me a bit of the wide-mouth Aston grilles from the '50s and '60s.

2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera

The straked "curlicue" fender vents, F1-style double diffuser, and reworked Aeroblade increase downforce to nearly 400 pounds at the car's top speed of 211 mph without any major drag penalties. The Aeroblade pulls in air from behind the rear windows, moving it through the bodywork and over the rear wing. Rather than using an active wing like on the DB11, the DBS uses a fixed Gurney flap. The Aeroblade and Gurney flap give the DBS downforce while keeping the overall design relatively clean. The new DBS is handsome and purposeful, if not exactly beautiful.

Sitting behind the wheel, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in another DB11. The seats are the most notable and obvious change in the DBS, offering slightly more bolstering than what you get on the DB11 (though they lack fine-tuned adjustments). The rest of the interior simply looks like a reskinned DB11. There's a lot of variety when it comes to colors and trim. It's opulent, but in certain guises it's a little overcooked — perhaps a bit unbecoming of a car wearing the Aston Martin badge.

The switches look and feel premium, though the touch capacitive controls can be cumbersome. I also had an occasional issue getting the drive and suspension buttons on the steering wheel to register inputs. At least the Mercedes-Benz-derived infotainment system functions well.

Thanks to the extra power, the lightweight construction, and a shorter 2.39:1 final drive ratio, the DBS is quicker than the DB11 AMR, though not significantly so. The DBS hits 62 mph in 3.4 seconds and 100 mph in 6.4 seconds. You really feel the extra oomph in the engine's mid and upper range. Peak torque is available from 1,800 to 5,000 rpm.

2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera

Acceleration is fierce but not immediate. There's a surprising amount of turbo lag for a car with this much power, even in the Sport Plus mode. Still, when it comes on, it comes on strong and with purpose. Dip into the throttle and the V12 sings, roaring in that sweet and silky way only 12-cylinder engines can manage, though — like other cars with active exhaust — the note can be a bit on/off, with the exhaust going from quiet to loud instantly around 2,500 rpm. There's also a slight whine from the two turbochargers emanating from under the hood, though they don't do much to muffle the exhaust. As with most cars packing a variant of the ZF eight-speed automatic, shifts are quick and smooth, even in Sport Plus.

The steering is quicker and lighter than you would expect from a car this size, but at least it's tight and precise, which does help shrink the car and makes it relatively easy to place into a corner. And while we're talking about shrinking, despite the name and weight-loss program, you can't hide the DBS' formidable dimensions. It's roughly the same size as the Ferrari 812 Superfast, though it's about 400 pounds heavier. The long wheelbase — three inches longer than the 812 Superfast — might make it less nimble in a corner but helps immensely with high-speed stability.

Even so, on a big, winding mountain road like those found in the Bavarian and Austrian Alps, the DBS really comes alive. While the suspension is firmer than the DB11, it's on the softer side of sporty. The DBS uses a forged double wishbone design at the front and a multi-link system at the rear and sits a negligible 0.2 inches lower than the DB11. Front and rear camber have both been increased compared to the DB11 to help improve cornering stability. Adaptive damping is standard. Power is sent to the wheels through a mechanical limited-slip differential with torque vectoring. Despite the improvements, the car's rear can still twitch slightly in a corner under hard throttle.

2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera

Like any really great touring car, the DBS loves soaking up mile after mile. It feels right at home on the German Autobahn. You won't confuse it for a Vantage in a corner, but that's OK. The DBS isn't really meant for track duty. It's not that it's bad through turns, it's that you're always aware of the mass you're moving.

Toward the end of the day, the drive took us up Rossfeldpanoramastrasse, a scenic switchbacked road that crossed back and forth between Germany and Austria. I pulled off to take some photos and give myself a bit of a gap in traffic. When the road winds out and you have room to breathe, the DBS feels unstoppable. Keep the revs up, and the V12 delivers. The turbos, torque and gearing kept the DBS pumping while climbing the mountain. One particularly long straight sent the exhaust cracking and the digital speedometer jumping by double digits. Carbon-ceramic brakes and sticky tires help scrub speed with confidence. It might be big, but I could have spent days carving up and down the Alps in the DBS.

That's where the DBS Superleggera shines. If you want a track-oriented Aston, stick with the Vantage. It's smaller and nimbler. The DBS is meant for bigger things, like blasting across Europe in a single day. It feels free and effortless on the highway, eating away mile after mile after mile.

The biggest issue the DBS Superleggera has to deal with is the DB11 AMR. The former starts at $304,995, a hefty $64,000 more than the latter. Hell, our White Stone tester rang in at $344,612, more than $100,000 up on a DB11 AMR. Yes, the DBS more powerful and handles better, though both cars offer far more capability than can be used on any public road. But hey, the delineation between the old DB9 and Vanquish was always murky, and there was always a case for both.

Related Video:

Aston Martin DBS Information

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