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Driven: Aston Martin DBS Superleggera. Image by Aston Martin.

Driven: Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
This Aston Martin DBS Superleggera hyper-GT is thoroughly exceptional in every single regard… save one.


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Aston Martin DBS Superleggera

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: sublime looks, astonishing chassis, mental drivetrain, incredible refinement, oodles of charisma

Not so good: considering its vast expense and high-end nature, the interior is simply not up to snuff

Key Facts

Model tested: Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
Price: DB11 range from £147,900; DBS Superleggera from £234,100, car as tested £259,325
Engine: 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive with mechanical limited-slip differential and torque vectoring
Body style: two-door high-performance super-GT
CO2 emissions: 285g/km (VED Band Over 255: £2,245 in year one, then £490 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £155 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 22.9mpg
Top speed: 211mph
0-62mph: 3.4 seconds
Power: 725hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 900Nm at 1,800-5,000rpm
Boot space: 270 litres

Our view:

With the age of the electric car upon us, time is surely running out for that most exotic of engine specifications, the V12. And what better way to sample this sort of gigantic powerplant than to spend a few days with an Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, propelled - as it is - by a staggering 5.2-litre twin-turbo unit developing a whopping 725hp and 900Nm? Well, precisely. It would almost be rude not to.

The DBS is an evolution of the excellent DB11, which is a fabulous grand tourer as it is. Nevertheless, with the 'Superleggera' bit of the Aston's name meaning 'superlight', this DBS is considered a level above the DB11 it is based upon, and that places it pretty much in a class of two alongside the Ferrari 812 Superfast. Although Bentley and its new Continental GT Speed would beg to differ.

Anyway, with lightweighting techniques including a set of exquisite forged 21-inch alloys and enough downforce summoned up from the Aston's shapely form to generate 180kg of negative lift at the car's 211mph top speed, the DBS promises to be something extra-special from a marque which is pretty exclusive and desirable in the first place. That would go some way to explaining the Superleggera's enormous £234,100 basic price; our test car, fitted with some carbon trimmings outside and in, as well as a Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system (£5,495), totalled an incredible £259,325. So it needs to feel outstanding to justify that expense.

Luckily, it does, but with one major caveat to which we will return shortly. However, first impressions are always of the exterior and this Aston is simply sensational. Naturally, Astons in the past have often got away with being dazzlingly beautiful on the outside and then not that brilliant underneath, but we'd almost be prepared to forgive the DBS Superleggera any dynamic transgression purely for the way it looks. Its form is sophisticated and sensuous, and proportionally it's absolutely spot on. Everything about it, from its aggressive yet tasteful radiator grille to its rear end punctuated by four exhausts, a discreet spoiler and a big diffuser, is pleasing on the eye.

What's most enriching about the DBS Superleggera is that is then backs up the show-stopping kerb appeal with dynamics that are easily the best we've tried in any model of Aston yet. There's real light and shade between the softest GT mode, where the Superleggera purrs along with supple damping and minimal road or tyre noise (mainly because its bespoke Pirelli P Zeros are fitted with sound-insulating foam), and its Sport Plus setting, where it feels incredibly agile and almost flighty, even if it does weigh 1,693kg (it's only a Superleggera in relative terms). Honestly, some manufacturers talk about big, heavy, comfort-oriented machines being sporty and then it transpires they're not really that sharp in the corners, but the DBS is truly dichotomous. It can waft along sumptuously one moment, and then transform into a genuine and enthralling sports car the next.

It has, for instance, utterly wonderful steering, fluid in its responses, perfectly weighted and possessed of some genuine feel. The Adaptive Damping System with Skyhook technology switches up through intensity and by Sport Plus, it has absolute control over the Aston's shell, without making the car too bouncy or skittish over imperfect tarmac. The brakes are monsters; a full carbon-ceramic system with six-piston front and four-pot rear callipers gripping mighty 410-/360mm discs respectively, and underfoot they feel confidence-inspiring, positive and almost limitless in their stopping power. We can't comment about how they'd perform on a track, but certainly on road you'd have to be driving like a total lunatic to experience any fade from the retardation system on the DBS.

So the chassis is magic, and you can feel the influence of ex-Lotus man and now Aston's chief engineer, Matt Becker, in the glorious, effortless way the DBS Superleggera covers a wide variety of roads with little drama and plenty of reward. In fact, if you want to play with the Aston Martin's limited-slip-diff-equipped and torque-vectoring rear axle, the DBS will let you do that without ever once feeling spiky or ill-mannered. If anything, it's actively mischievous and encourages adjustment of the car's cornering line with a hefty dose of throttle here and there. How many GTs, especially ones with massive-output biturbo V12s, can you say that about, eh? Not many, we'd wager.

That said, the engine in this car really does take some beating, because it's tremendous. Hooked up to a super-rapid ZF eight-speed transmission, it makes some fantastic noises no matter where you are on the rev counter, and it is superbly aided and abetted by some properly fruity, raucous exhausts. Put any worries about forced induction muffling the intake noise of this 5.2-litre motor, because we can't think of many 12-cylinder engines going that sound better than the furious Aston.

It's a glowing report card so far, isn't it? And what's more, we're here to tell you that when it comes to looks, performance, handling and refinement, the DBS Superleggera emphatically feels worth every single one of the 260,000 pounds you'd need to have one of your own. But you might have noticed we missed a whole section that we'd normally include in a car review, and it revolves around the interior.

There's no way of sugar-coating this, so we'll just come right out and say it: for a vehicle costing in excess of quarter-of-a-million quid, the Aston's interior is plainly not good enough. It's barely any different in terms of the fixtures and fittings to the cabins found in the smaller Vantage and DBX models. In those cars, the architecture is only just about borderline acceptable but when you're paying another £100,000 again on top of what are already six-figure machines, this passenger compartment does not pass muster. And when most of your interactions with the Aston as an owner are going to involve you sitting in it, we reckon this is a fairly big black mark on the Superleggera's overall character.

Sure, there are good points to the interior. The digital instrument cluster is clear enough, Aston's trademark round glass buttons for the gearbox and also for firing up the V12 sit high on the dash, the paddle shifts behind the wheel are terrific, and the quality of the leather used throughout the cabin feels of the highest standard. But these facets are all overshadowed by so many clunky details, like: the odd swathes of forged carbon-fibre on the door cards look ugly; while there's nothing wrong with Mercedes switchgear and infotainment per se, we again draw attention to the fact the DBS is £260,000 as tested and it doesn't have a touchscreen, it has old-fashioned mapping graphics and its HMI system looks thoroughly outclassed by the kind of software you'd find in most hatchbacks in the £20,000-£30,000 bracket these days; the square steering wheel is just plain wrong, something Aston clearly knows because the DBX SUV, a newer product than the DB11/DBS, has a round item that's so much nicer to hold; some of the materials used in places feel sub-par and some of the geometric shapes of the dashboard jar with each other, making for an uneasy aesthetic; the rear two seats are unusable for adults but, for a brief journey, one person did sit back there and said they were deeply uncomfortable and lacked entirely for back-rest padding; and, finally, the air vents - these are some of the cheapest, flimsiest items we've ever experienced in the automotive world. It is absolutely no exaggeration or hyperbole on our part when we say that, a few weeks after driving the DBS, we drove the most inexpensive new car available in Britain today and its vents felt much more pleasant to operate. That can't be right, can it?

Admittedly, you could say we seem overly hung-up on the air vents, which are hardly going to be dealbreakers in the face of the Aston's chassis magnificence or its stonking powertrain or its supermodel appearance or even its good old badge cachet. But those vents demonstrate a lack of fastidious attention to detail, and that's something which reminds you the marque hasn't always had the soundest of financial footings and it is still on somewhat shaky ground in many ways. We're hoping the next generation of Valkyrie and Valhalla hypercars will address what looks like cost-cutting in the cabin of a super-expensive motor like this, because in the DBS Superleggera's case, you don't sit in its cabin going 'wow'. You don't even sit there going 'hmm'. You instead look around and say to yourself quietly 'oh'.

And it really is only the cabin finishing which keeps this Aston Martin from true greatness. As it is, you will rarely drive anything so obscenely powerful that is nevertheless fantastically approachable and so comprehensively thrilling to steer. Like any good GT, and indeed like its DB11 relations, the DBS is the epitome of charm when it is just throttled back and cruising, and there aren't many cars in history that look and sound as good as the Superleggera. We think what we're saying is that if you can afford to buy the DBS, then go ahead and do so because you're sure to be delighted with it. As long as you don't closely scrutinise its interior, that is.


Bentley Continental GT Speed: the Aston is way faster and much lighter on its feet than the Conti, holding a 500kg-plus advantage. But the Bentley's cabin blows the Superleggera's clean out of the water, frankly.

Ferrari 812 Superfast: even more expensive and even more mega-rare, the 812 GTS is a normally aspirated V12 so it's a proper screamer. Stunning thing to drive but not as pretty as the DBS.

Porsche 911 Turbo S: if the Aston is a GT which can convince as a sports car, the 992 Turbo S is a sports car which can masquerade as a GT. There's a touch too much tyre noise in the Porsche but otherwise, it's phenomenal. Oh, and the German's interior is much nicer, as well.

Matt Robinson - 22 Mar 2021    - Aston Martin road tests
- Aston Martin news
- DBS images

2021 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera UK test. Image by Aston Martin.2021 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera UK test. Image by Aston Martin.2021 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera UK test. Image by Aston Martin.2021 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera UK test. Image by Aston Martin.2021 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera UK test. Image by Aston Martin.

2021 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera UK test. Image by Aston Martin.2021 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera UK test. Image by Aston Martin.2021 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera UK test. Image by Aston Martin.2021 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera UK test. Image by Aston Martin.2021 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera UK test. Image by Aston Martin.


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