As­ton Mar­tin DBS Su­per­leg­gera

As­ton Mar­tin DBS Su­per­leg­gera £225,000 WE SAY: WEL­COME TO A WORLD BEYOND DB11. IT’S SUR­PRIS­INGLY FA­MIL­IAR

Top Gear (Malaysia) - - Contents -

“It’s all about torque. Power num­bers are in­ter­est­ing, but you drive torque.” So says

Paul Bar­ritt, As­ton Mar­tin’s ve­hi­cle line di­rec­tor for the DB11 and DBS, as he talks about the new DBS Su­per­leg­gera, be­fore go­ing on to men­tion that it not only has 199Nm more than the reg­u­lar DB11, but 150Nm more than the One-77. Oh, and half the fuel con­sump­tion of the lat­ter.

The DBS Su­per­leg­gera, then, is the ul­ti­mate As­ton Mar­tin. At least un­til the Valkyrie rocks up. And even when it does, this is the car that epit­o­mises As­ton’s brand val­ues bet­ter than any other. Mas­sively po­tent twin-turbo V12 up front, RWD, 2+2 lay­out in­side. How po­tent? 715bhp. As­ton calls it as a “brute in a suit”. Yes, re­ally.

It sits above the £120k Van­tage (‘Hunter’) and £140k–£175k DB11 (‘Gen­tle­man’) at the sum­mit of the three-strong model range, and fea­tures car­bon body pan­els to help lower weight by 72kg and jus­tify the £225,000 ask­ing price. And it does re­quire some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, be­cause when you scratch the sur­face you find an aw­ful lot of DB11. Sure, it’s been sporti­fied and in the flesh it looks prop­erly mus­cu­lar and haunchy (that is a word – well, it is now), the anti-roll bars are stiffer, the shorter fi­nal-drive ra­tio is from the Van­tage for sprint­ier (again, a word) ac­cel­er­a­tion, it rides 5mm lower, fea­tures be­spoke ge­om­e­try set­tings with in­creased cam­ber front and rear to sharpen cor­ner­ing and firmer bushes.

But the big­gest sin­gle change is the gear­box it­self. It turns out that what lim­ited the DB11 wasn’t the en­gine, but the ZF gear­box – it couldn’t cope with much more than the DB11’s 516lb ft. But it also turns out that ZF makes a high-torque ver­sion of the eight-speeder, able to tol­er­ate more like 949Nm.

It’s not just an electrics tweak, but a com­pletely dif­fer­ent cas­ing to con­tain the beefed-up in­ter­nals. So now there’s 899Nm avail­able from 1,800rpm to 5,000rpm. As­ton is keen to point out that a Fer­rari 812 Su­per­fast falls 181Nm short and makes you wait un­til 7,000rpm to get it. How­ever, the DBS is a very dif­fer­ent type of car. Only in terms of lay­out and ethos is the DBS Su­per­leg­gera a ri­val to a Fer­rari 812 Su­per­fast (English car with an Ital­ian name, Ital­ian car with an English name – weird, huh?). The 812 is sav­age in com­par­i­son, the en­gine a mas­ter­piece, the car ul­tra-ac­tive and hec­tic, the drive a con­stant bom­bard­ment.

Con­sum­ing a con­ti­nent? You’d have the As­ton ev­ery time. De­spite the shorter fi­nal drive this is still a long-legged ma­chine, pulling just 2,000rpm at 112kph in top. At that speed, the en­gine is a so­phis­ti­cated purr of noise, wind no more than a ruf­fle, the ride so im­pres­sively damped you don’t no­tice the work it’s do­ing. It stays level and calm, but not soft – it has none of the ver­ti­cal float and slack that used to blight the early DB11s.

It’s this com­po­sure in pretty much ev­ery con­di­tion that char­ac­terises the DBS. It man­ages to rise above the hurly-burly. Around town its man­ners are pol­ished, it re­sponds well to throt­tle and brake, oils it­self through the gears, all the while ac­com­pa­nied by this purring en­gine and au­thor­i­ta­tive sus­pen­sion. Even here it moves more ath­let­i­cally than the DB11.

On the sort of roads you’d en­joy driv­ing the DBS on, its best to start in­ves­ti­gat­ing the en­gine and chas­sis modes. As with the DB11 and Van­tage, these can be se­lected by but­tons on the steer­ing wheel, cy­cling through GT,

Sport and Sport Plus modes. On the smoother roads of Ger­many and Aus­tria, the tighter con­trol of Sport sus­pen­sion works nicely. I sus­pect in the UK you might want to back the sus­pen­sion off to Com­fort, but if you’re in the mood, the im­pres­sive body con­trol takes the drama out of the stiffer modes.

The steer­ing is weighty (there are two maps, one for Com­fort, one for Sport/Sport Plus), but it’s ac­cu­rate with a rack that’s quick enough to en­sure you rarely need to move your grip, but never darty or snatchy. The whole car is well judged. It moves as a piece, be­haves cleanly. In short, the way it moves is deeply sat­is­fy­ing.

It’s only on the exit of slow cor­ners that you need to watch the torque. A few of those and you’ll be div­ing into the menus to slacken the trac­tion con­trol. There is still, un­der duress, a tiny pro­por­tion of the squirm early DB11s suf­fered.

“80–160kph in 4.2 is deeply fast. Su­per­car fast, with gentler man­ners”

But that’s fair enough when you have 663lb ft try­ing to find its way to the tar­mac. And that thrust is eas­ily man­aged. Partly be­cause the t/c ac­ti­vates more smoothly now, partly be­cause the torque isn’t quite as hard-hit­ting as the fig­ures sug­gest. It’s not un­til the rev nee­dle swings past 2,500rpm that you feel the full ef­fects, but at that point you need to start con­cen­trat­ing, be­cause the rate the DBS hurls it­self for­ward is star­tling. The fig­ure to fo­cus on is the 4.2secs it takes to make the 80–160kph leap in fourth gear. That’s deeply fast. Su­per­car fast, but with gentler man­ners.

And it sounds lovely. As­ton claims it’s 10dB louder than the DB11, but still not ob­nox­ious, and with just the right amount of pop­ple and bur­ble on the over­run. The en­gine is never stressed, even up to­wards 7,000rpm. It just does what it does with calm­ness and ded­i­ca­tion. And force. The fig­ures may say the DBS is only 0.3sec faster to 100kph and 5kph faster at the top end, but the re­al­ity is that the DBS punches for­ward with far, far more vigour. Fourth- and fifth-gear sweep­ers are where it’s at. The deep and un­re­lent­ing push feels marvel­lous, so ef­fort­less and ac­ces­si­ble and se­cure and sonorous that it’s a lux­ury all by it­self.

The changes to the body­work have en­abled As­ton to gen­er­ate 180kg of down­force (split 60:120 front and rear) at max­i­mum speed – and with no drag penalty. That’s for sta­bil­ity, more than any track-fo­cused shenani­gans.

In­side, think DB11, just with a bit more glam­our. Still four seats (the most stri­dent thing about the whole car will be the com­plaints em­a­nat­ing from those forced into the rears), the boot is an iden­ti­cal size and shape (wide, not deep), but the over­all vibe is very… fa­mil­iar.

The ma­te­rial qual­ity is sub­lime, the build qual­ity more than ac­cept­able, the trim has been up­graded, the op­tions are doubt­less more ex­ten­sive and the pad­dles have been given a crisper pull, but this re­mains a tighter, less well or­gan­ised and user-friendly cock­pit than that of, say, a Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT. The cen­tre con­sole is still cramped, there’s still nowhere to slot the large, heavy key and the seats don’t feel any more en­velop­ing than those in the DB11. And like its gentler sib­ling, it’s not an easy car to po­si­tion around town: the bon­net is long and vis­i­bil­ity is harmed by the con­flu­ence of A-pil­lar and mir­ror.

I sus­pect the DBS is an easy sell for As­ton deal­ers. It’s a more as­sertive, pow­er­ful car than the DB11, and for the wealthy, the £50,000 price dif­fer­en­tial is likely nei­ther here nor there. So who’s go­ing to be buy­ing the DB11 AMR now? There’s too much over­lap be­tween the two. For all As­ton’s claims about the DBS’s sport­ing abil­ity, this is not a rad­i­cal change but in­stead an­other pea from As­ton’s GT pod, a car to tide us over un­til the real new As­tons ar­rive: the DBX cross­over, Valkyrie hy­per­car and yet to be con­firmed mid-en­gined su­per­car.

Nev­er­the­less, this is a crack­ing sport­ing GT and will thor­oughly suit the peo­ple it’s aimed at. It’s a tenser, more alert and ath­letic DB11, sig­nif­i­cantly faster and bet­ter to drive. It has the abil­ity to take your breath away – cur­rently the only As­ton you can say that about. OL­LIE MAR­RIAGE

034

Vene­tian blind aero just one of the many tweaks to make the Su­per­leg­gera su­perer

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