by Karl Furlong
It's well-known that Aston Martin is capable of building a truly focused track car - the extreme Vulcan was proof of that a few years ago. But really, the British brand's sweet spot still seems to be in producing beautiful, brutally powerful grand tourers. The DBS Superleggera is one such machine, being based on the DB11 V12 but pushing the performance envelope by using a 5.2-liter twin-turbo V8 producing an astonishing 715 horsepower, and enabling a 0-62 mph run of only 3.4 seconds. Although the Superleggera name - translated to 'superlight' - promises an especially lithe coupe, the DBS is still quite heavy, so it lacks the ultimate agility and handling precision one may expect. It's still a blast to drive, though, with a sonorous V12 scream. And because of Aston Martin's obsession with proportioning, the DBS Superleggera is yet another breathtakingly styled machine. The Mercedes S-Class Coupe may pamper its occupants even more, but it doesn't provide the emotional qualities of the DBS.
The DBS Superleggera took over from the second generation of the Aston Martin Vanquish and represents a revival of the DBS nameplate that was first seen as far back as 1967, while 'Superleggera' is a nod to the Italian coachbuilder with technologies that assisted Aston Martin in producing grand tourers in the '60s and '70s that were lighter than their peers. As a replacement for the powerful Vanquish S, the DBS Superleggera uses a 5.2-liter twin-turbo V12 with 715 hp and 663 lb-ft of torque, helping it reach a maximum speed of 211 mph. The DBS Superleggera builds upon some of the DB11's aerodynamic advancements, adding features like an F1-inspired double diffuser to increase downforce. At over 150 pounds lighter than the V12-engined DB11, the DBS Superleggera benefits from increased weight-saving measures such as carbon fiber body panels.
Similar in profile to the DB11, the DBS Superleggera turns up the aggression with a much larger black grille and a front splitter. Details like the hood's flared power bulges, the side louvres, and the quad exhaust outlets with matte black finishers distinguish the DBS as the brand's flagship grand tourer. It also gets 21-inch forged alloy wheels, dark anodized brake calipers, and LED headlamps with daytime running lights. It's a DB11 that's just completed a bruising body-building program.
The DBS Superleggera's key dimensions are a length of 185.5 inches, a width (including the mirrors) of 84.5 inches, a height of 50.4 inches, and a wheelbase that stretches to 110.4 inches. Ground clearance including the airdam is a mere 3.5 inches. So, while it is a sizable coupe, it's not quite as large as the Bentley Continental GT, which is over five inches lengthier. The Aston's curb weight of 3,966 pounds (with lightweight options) make it nearly 1,000 lbs lighter than the W12-engined Bentley Continental GT.
Two color palettes - the AM palette and the Q palette - provide access to over 50 different shades, so few customers should have a problem finding something that suits their taste. There are some truly eye-catching shades on offer, such as Cosmos Orange, Dubonnet Rosso, Kermit Green, Frosted Glass Yellow, and Flugplatz Blue. A few of the more conservative hues are Magnetic Silver, White Stone, Onyx Black, and Ultramarine Black. The roof can also be ordered in gloss painted black or your chosen primary body color. Selecting a color for this car is especially challenging since the Superleggera's lines lend themselves well to just about any shade.
Blessed with one of the most powerful V12 engines in production, the DBS Superleggera's 5.2-liter twin-turbo unit generates a massive 715 horsepower and an equally shattering 663 lb-ft of torque. That's a lot of power being sent to the rear wheels, diverging from the likes of the Bentley Continental GT, which utilizes all-wheel drive. Still, it doesn't stop the DBS from scooting to 62 mph from rest in a mere 3.4 seconds. Overtaking acceleration is similarly devastating, with 50-100 mph dispatched in only 4.2 seconds in fourth gear. If you can find enough road to do it legally, the Aston will top out at 211 mph. This is a shockingly quick machine, outpacing not only the Bentley, but another all-wheel-drive rival: the Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe.
An in-house all-alloy design, Aston Martin's 5.2-liter twin-turbocharged V12 has been tuned to generate peak outputs of 715 hp and 663 lb-ft of torque. That maximum torque figure is available from 1,800 rpm all the way to 5,000 rpm, ensuring intense pulling power over a wide rev band. Mounted at the back of the coupe is a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission; boosting in-gear responsiveness is the use of a shorter final drive.
In the more docile GT driving mode, the DBS is a surprisingly calm tool for tootling around town, with smooth gearshifts and throttle response that is quite relaxed. This is good news, though, because it improves the DBS' abilities as a daily driver. Switch over to one of the sportier driving modes, and the coupe's character transforms. A more guttural exhaust note accompanies each stab of the throttle, and the DBS makes mincemeat of overtaking maneuvers, even at higher speeds. It's a viciously quick car off the mark, and the V12's bellow is a constant acoustic reminder of that.
The Superleggera moniker may lead you to believe that the DBS is a stripped-down racer, but it still weighs around 4,000 lbs so, although it is lighter than the DB11, the difference isn't massive. The advantage to this is that on the highway in GT mode, the DBS Superleggera is comfortable and refined, able to cover vast distances at high speeds while keeping the driver feeling fresh. It's not as isolated from bumps and noises as the Bentley Continental GT or Mercedes S-Class Coupe, but the adaptive damping suspension does more than enough to justify the coupe's position as a GT.
In Sport Plus mode, the DBS takes on a harder edge. For the most part, the steering feels well-weighted and precise in guiding the DBS through a few acute turns, although the coupe never fully shrinks around the driver. Around town, the heavy-ish steering, lengthy hood, and mediocre visibility can make positioning the DBS a bit of a chore, but with more space to exploit its power, the Aston thrills. Powering out of corners can cause some squirm from the rear-end, which can sometimes be alarming, yet also makes for a car that keeps the driver on his toes. The engine dominates the experience, and with so much power underfoot, you can alter the car's dynamic behavior depending on how aggressively you're willing to mash the throttle. Finding the balance between power and control is a game that the DBS Superleggera requires you to play, and although the outcome isn't always exactly what you wished for, it's never anything less than an utterly immersive experience.
With EPA estimates of 14/22/17 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, the DBS Superleggera returns the kind of heavy consumption expected of a high-powered V12. When its 20.5-gallon gas tank is filled to the brim, the DBS should manage a combined cruising range of just under 350 miles. The W12-engined Bentley Continental GT is less efficient, with figures of 12/20/15 mpg, although the Bentley can be had with a more efficient V8 that returns 16/26/19 mpg.
Officially a 2+2, the DBS Superleggera ships with a pair of back seats, but these should only be used for emergencies. Things are much better in front, with the smartly attired cabin finished in a mix of Caithness leather and Alcantara. It feels and looks suitably expensive, as it should considering the DBS' lofty asking price. The front seats have memory and heating functions, and other standard gear includes front/rear parking sensors, parking assistance, automatic climate control, and keyless entry. Ergonomically, there are some foibles, though, such as the touch-sensitive climate controls that require a deliberate look down to operate on the move. The infotainment system isn't the most modern, either, being based on an older Mercedes COMAND system, but it's relatively simple to understand.
Although it has four seats, the rear pews are only useful for small children or as extra packing space, as there simply isn't enough leg- or headroom for adults. Even worse, access to these back seats will be just about impossible for tall adults, as the front seats don't move forward far enough. Things are much better in front, with standard leather upholstery that is beautifully stitched. The front chairs provide enough room for adults, along with decent power-adjustability to get comfortable. They're also heated for added comfort in colder climates and, although the Superleggera is quite low to the ground, ingress and egress are easy enough for the driver and front-seat passenger.
Caithness leather and Alcantara are the default cabin materials, with the steering wheel also finished in a mix of leather and Alcantara. From there, customers will have a field day choosing the color of virtually every part of the stylish cabin. The comprehensive palette includes shades like Obsidian Black, Oxford Tan, Dark Knight, Californian Poppy, Spicy Red, and Arden Green. The standard leather can also be had with an exquisite triaxial quilt, an effect that is also applied to the door panels and center console armrest. An embossed DBS logo or the Aston Martin wings can be embroidered into the seats, and even the color of the seatbelts, roofliner, and carpets can be individually specced. Twill carbon fiber, Piano Black, and dyed Tamo open pore wood are among the available trim inlays.
Although usefully wide, the DBS Superleggera's trunk compartment is shallow, so space is restricted to around nine cubic feet. Fortunately, the rear seats do provide additional storage when required.
The center console caters for small-item storage in the cabin, although it isn't especially deep. There are two cupholders in the center console, too, but the door bins aren't large and there is no traditional glovebox ahead of the front-seat passenger.
Considering its price, the DBS Superleggera is adequately rather than generously equipped. It ships standard with automatic climate control, keyless entry, front/rear parking sensors, power-adjustable front seats with heating and memory functions, and parking assistance. Adding to the driver's convenience is a side mirror tilt-down feature when reverse gear is selected, which together with a 360-degree camera system, makes parking a less stressful affair. A power-adjustable steering column, push-button ignition, and cruise control are fitted as well. A number of extras can be equipped, such as a heated steering wheel, a garage door opener, and ventilated front and rear seats. It's disappointing, however, that driver aids like a head-up display and blind-spot monitoring aren't available on a grand tourer at this price.
The disappointing absence of driver-assist technologies leads to the rather lackluster infotainment system, proof that Aston Martin spent much more of its time on the DBS Superleggera's mechanicals. The system makes use of an eight-inch LCD screen and Mercedes' older COMAND setup. Although it is fairly straightforward to use, the rather small screen and the touchpad feel, well, out of touch with the latest infotainment systems on offer. It doesn't help that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are missing as well, but you do get iPod/iPhone integration and USB playback, an AM/FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and satellite navigation. While a nine-speaker audio system is fitted as standard, a more powerful Bang & Olufsen unit (complete with pop-up dash-mounted tweeters) can be equipped, but this requires the Studio Collection upgrade with exclusive trim and features like ventilated seats, too.
The 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera hasn't yet been subject to any recalls by the NHTSA, but the 2019 model did see one recall, whereby the passenger airbag may not deploy correctly, increasing the chances of injury in the event of a crash. A three-year/unlimited-mile limited warranty (which includes the powertrain) comes as standard on the new DBS Superleggera, although complimentary maintenance isn't part of the offering. A ten-year/unlimited-mile anti-perforation warranty is inclusive.
High-end sports cars like the DBS Superleggera are often precluded from crash-testing by local authorities and the same applies here, so no official crash-rating exists for Aston's latest grand tourer.
Along with eight airbags - including curtain airbags for both rows - the DBS Superleggera has other safety essentials such as tire pressure monitoring, ABS/EBD braking, and electronic stability control.
The list of driver aids isn't a long one, with commonplace features like blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning not available at all. However, the Aston does have a 360-degree camera system, front/rear parking sensors, and parking assistance.
Even our favorite superheroes have flaws, but we've seen how those imperfections can add depth of character. Perfection, it seems, can get wearisome after a while. And where German luxury cars are often described as clinical and businesslike because they're just so hard to fault, they can sometimes leave their drivers cold for the same reason. The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera isn't a flawless car, but that's part of what makes it so intoxicating. With 715 hp from its screaming V12, the DBS can overwhelm its rear tires when not kept in check, and its sheer weight and size requires one's full attention at the limit. But it never stops rewarding with its blinding acceleration, acoustic thrills, and stunning design. This is Aston's flagship coupe, and it reminds you of that each time you get behind the wheel and wind up that V12. Yes, the Bentley Continental GT is more of a polished performer more of the time, but it lacks the visceral edge of the DBS. Aston Martin has created another GT that's more than worthy of that famous winged emblem.
The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera has a starting price of $304,995, before any options are added. This price also excludes taxes, licensing, registration, a gas-guzzler tax of $1,000, and a destination charge of $2,825. It's undoubtedly expensive, especially considering that the Bentley Continental GT W12 goes for nearly $100,000 less.
The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is the British marque's flagship coupe, available in a single trim. It's motivated by a 5.2-liter twin-turbocharged V12 with 715 hp and 663 lb-ft of torque, with power sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Carbon ceramic brakes, dynamic torque vectoring, and an adaptive damping suspension are standard.
Aggressively styled, the DBS Superleggera rides on 21-inch forged alloy wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tires. LED headlights with daytime running lights, LED taillights, quad exhaust outlets with matte black finishers, and black hood mesh inserts distinguish the DBS from the DB11. The luxurious cabin is swathed in a mix of Caithness leather and Alcantara, and features power-adjustable and heated front seats, a 360-degree camera system, an eight-inch LCD color screen, keyless entry, and front/rear parking sensors.
Although only one primary trim is offered, Aston has produced limited special editions such as the OHMSS (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) Edition to celebrate 50 years of the James Bond classic film, as well as the Tag Heuer Edition to celebrate the marque's partnership with the Swiss luxury watch company.
Few Astons are likely to be sold at their base price, considering that so much customization is possible. That being said, most of the available upgrades are cosmetic, with few additional features on offer. The most notable enhancements are front/rear ventilated seats, a Bang & Olufsen audio system (which also requires the Studio Collection with extras like carbon fiber trim, ventilated seats, and powered seat bolsters), a heated steering wheel, and powered seat bolsters. Other than that, most buyers will spend their time trying to decide between a range of 21-inch wheel options, a full titanium exhaust system, a carbon fiber exterior body pack, and a wide variety of colors for the leather upholstery.
As there is just one trim on offer, the final Aston Martin DBS Superleggera that each customer ends up with will come down to their choice of color and interior treatment. We'd specify ours with the Bang & Olufsen sound system upgrade, the ventilated seats, and in one of the more unusual shades such as Iridescent Emerald or Divine Red - after all, this isn't a car for shrinking violets. Beware, though, that ticking enough boxes can easily add tens of thousands to the base price.
Whereas the 720S is more of an all-out supercar with phenomenal handling characteristics, the DBS Superleggera also needs to play the role of a refined GT. But at nearly the same base price and with those illustrious badges, it's hard not to compare these two. The McLaren generates 710 horsepower and weighs in at a comparatively light 3,139 lbs, so the Aston can't match it off the mark, with the 720S reaching 60 mph in a miraculous 2.8 seconds. The vicious acceleration of the 720S is matched by astounding cornering abilities, with super quick steering offering loads of feedback, massive grip, and exemplary body control. The Aston feels, and is, the much heavier car here. But the DBS claws back some points with a more luxurious cabin and extra packing space because the 720S has no back seats. So, razor-sharp supercar or massively powerful grand tourer? Each will satisfy a different kind of buyer.
The Bentley Continental GT is a palace on wheels, with all of the glitz you'd expect of the British automaker, both inside and out. Interestingly, both cars produce nearly identical torque figures (in the case of the Continental W12), but the full-fat Bentley is down on power at 626 hp. Even so, the Continental GT W12 isn't much slower to 60 mph. Despite being much heavier, the Bentley is surprisingly accomplished through the corners, with its all-wheel-drive system helping it carry immense speeds when the road gets twisty. The DBS is the more playful car, though, but the Bentley comes into its own on the highway, munching up the miles in near silence and with an unmatched ride. The Bentley's cabin is also something to behold, with even finer materials than the Aston and the availability of more features. If you prefer your GT with a naughtier streak, get the Aston. If you want something that prioritizes comfort and luxury, the Bentley takes it.
Check out some informative Aston Martin DBS Superleggera video reviews below.