Drive

Gulf Busi­ness trav­els to the Bavar­ian Alps to put the all- new DBS Su­per­leg­gera – the most pow­er­ful and ex­pen­sive As­ton Martin in pro­duc­tion – through its paces

Gulf Business - - FEATURES LIFESTYLE - VARUN GODINHO

Gulf Busi­ness puts the all-new As­ton Martin DBS Su­per­leg­gera to the test

SOME­WHERE UP IN the post­card-framed moun­tains of Ber­cht­es­gaden, I’m im­pa­tiently trail­ing a Kia on a tor­tu­ous sin­gle car­riage­way.

It’s the hol­i­day sea­son and the driver of the hatch­back is in no real hurry to get any­where. I, on the other hand, am at the wheel of the As­ton Martin DBS Su­per­leg­gera. It’s the most pow­er­ful road-le­gal As­ton Martin in pro­duc­tion. It seems al­most disrespectful to be driv­ing a $300,000-plus su­per­car in any­thing less than a spir­ited man­ner.

Time then to over­take the trundling Kia. The only con­cern is that the on­com­ing traf­fic is a con­stant stream of 30-tonne MAN trucks fer­ry­ing felled wood from the sur­round­ing re­gion.

If I were driv­ing any other car, I’d be con­flicted on whether or not to risk over­tak­ing. But in the Su­per­leg­gera, it’s a no-brainer. The one thought on my mind: floor it. I do, clear­ing the Kia and duck­ing back into my lane well be­fore the on­com­ing MAN truck has even the faintest clue that I’ve swapped po­si­tions with the car in front of me. The DBS Su­per­leg­gera is alive.

To un­der­stand where this new model is po­si­tioned in As­ton Martin’s line-up, you must first un­der­stand where it’s come from. The Su­per­leg­gera badge has been li­censed from the Ital­ian coach-build­ing house Tour­ing Su­per­leg­gera.

“The Su­per­leg­gera ref­er­ences the light­weight con­struc­tion method and ma­te­rial choice that goes back to the 50s where you had the DB 4 GT Su­per­leg­gera, and then the DB 5 which was the first Bond car in Goldfin­ger, fol­lowed by the DB 6,” ex­plains Ruari Coles, se­nior vehicle en­gi­neer­ing man­ager GT Cars at As­ton Martin, when me meet at our ho­tel, the Kempin­ski Ho­tel Ber­cht­es­gaden.

Tour­ing Su­per­leg­gera back in the 50s stum­bled upon a process to cre­ate the world’s light­est build in a metal-body car. To do so, it used a welded steel frame with hand-rolled alu­minium pan­els. It was a tech­nique they mas­tered. By en­ter­ing into an agree­ment with Su­per­leg­gera in the 50s, As­ton Martin be­gan to use that tech­nol­ogy and knowhow to build ul­tra light­weight body pan­els for its cars. Time­warp to 2018, and As­ton Martin have again re­newed their li­cens­ing agree­ment to use the Su­per­leg­gera nomen­cla­ture on this car. With a Su­per­leg­gera, the light­est pos­si­ble body­weight is the ul­ti­mate goal. “What we’ve done now is part of that his­toric tie-back to the Su­per­leg­gera from the 1950s and 1960s. This car uses that op­ti­mised body con­struc­tion meth­ods to do a light­weight car for the 21st cen­tury,” says Coles.

When he refers to a 21st cen­tury car, he’s re­fer­ring to the plen­ti­ful use of car­bon fi­bre in the con­struc­tion of the DBS Su­per­leg­gera. The clamshell bon­net is made up en­tirely of car­bon fi­bre, the only car in pro­duc­tion that we know of to have achieved this feat.

The lib­eral use of car­bon fi­bre con­tin­ues from the front bumper split­ters to the dif­fuser, tail­gate and rear bumper. Re­port­edly, more than 80 per cent of the body pan­els on the car are made from car­bon fi­bre com­pos­ites. Through this process, As­ton Martin has man­aged to re­duce the weight of the car to 1,693kgs. The DBS Su­per­leg­gera is 72kgs lighter than the DB11, which was the start­ing point for the car. That is par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive when you con­sider that the Su­per­leg­gera has big­ger wheels and more ad­di­tions to aid its per­for­mance com­pared to the DB11. The DBS Su­per­leg­gera re­places the Van­quish, al­though the en­gine on the new car has more in com­mon with the DB11. Here, there’s a fullthroated 5.2-litre V12 en­gine un­der that car­bon fi­bre bon­net.

As I drive along the route from the Kempin­ski ho­tel to a choco­late-box vil­lage in Austria where we stop for lunch, it’s clear that this en­gine is a per­former. It re­turns 715hp of power, which is plenty enough when mak­ing a stealthy over­tak­ing ma­noeu­vre on a city road like I did with the Kia, and def­i­nitely shines through when you have an open stretch of high­way to flex the car’s mus­cles.

This grand tour­ing car de­liv­ers a mon­u­men­tal 900Nm of torque – that’s 25 per cent more than you’d get on the more ex­pen­sive

Fer­rari 812 Su­per­fast, which As­ton con­sid­ers the only real com­pe­ti­tion. The torque here is so great that As­ton had to de­sign an all-new trans­mis­sion as noth­ing from its ex­ist­ing fleet could han­dle these lev­els.

How­ever, it doesn't de­liver rude shocks as you make your way through the eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. In­stead the ride feels smooth, re­spon­sive and not one bit in­tim­i­dat­ing.

Be­ing a GT car, power and speed are as im­por­tant as com­fort. You can set your trans­mis­sion to ei­ther GT (per­fect for a re­laxed drive) or sport (ideal for the au­to­bahn) and even sport plus (best em­ployed on track days).

You have the same three set­tings for the chas­sis – GT, sports and sports plus. The GT mode, which I drive in most of my time in the hills of Bavaria, is the most com­fort­able, with soft, though not squishy sus­pen­sion.

Inside, there's mi­cro­suede, Bridge of Weir leather and car­bon fi­bre in dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions and trims through­out the cabin. Al­though there is space for two pas­sen­gers in the rear, it's a tight fit. The flat-bot­tom steer­ing wheel and bucket seats in front re­mind you it's a su­per­car pedi­gree, while crea­ture com­forts like the 10-inch touch­screen, Bang & Olufsen Beosound au­dio sys­tem, sat-nav and a 360-de­gree cam­era make for the sort of su­per­car that's com­fort­able to use in your ev­ery­day in­ner-city com­mute rather than just week­ends.

It has a top speed of nearly 340kph and a 0-100kph speed of 3.4 sec­onds. In a feat of aero­dy­namic trick­ery, there is no spoiler and yet it gen­er­ates a down force of 180kg – the high­est achieved by a series pro­duc­tion As­ton. As you tease the throt­tle, lis­ten to those ‘pops and bangs' cre­ated by the en­gi­neers. You can sound­track your drive home with­out hav­ing to turn on the ra­dio.

With the aim of strip­ping away ev­ery last kilo of weight it could, As­ton devel­oped an all-new set of car­bon ce­ramic brakes. The new ones devel­oped with Brembo are 18kg lighter than those in any of its other cars.

“Car­bon ce­ramic brakes have to go through a sig­nif­i­cant heat cy­cle phase be­fore you get con­sis­tent on-road per­for­mance. Ev­ery sin­gle one of the brake pads on these cars goes through a half-an-hour dyno brake bed­ding pro­ce­dure where the tem­per­a­ture on it is raised to 700-800 de­grees cel­sius. Only af­ter that is it fit­ted into the car,” says Coles.

If that bed­ding process didn't take place, you would need to ap­ply around four times as much pres­sure on the brakes to stop.

This is the third new car that As­ton Martin has re­leased in the last three years. In Fe­bru­ary, the Andy Palmer-led out­fit an­nounced that it had turned a profit for the first time in eight years, and there's more com­ing up from As­ton – we'll soon see the 1,130hp Valkyrie devel­oped in co­op­er­a­tion with F1-team Red Bull Racing, fol­lowed by the As­ton Martin SUV by 2020, which could do for As­ton what the Cayenne did for Porsche.

For now though, it's the DBS Su­per­leg­gera that is As­ton Martin's crown jewel.

The Su­per­leg­gera ref­er­ences the light­weight con­struc­tion method and ma­te­rial choice that goes back to the 50s

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