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20th of July 2018


New Aston Martin DBS Superleggera prototype review

Aston Martin’s Second Century business plan continues apace. The recent DB11 AMR improved the DB11 launched in 2016, and the latest Vantage has earned plenty of praise.

Next up is this DBS Superleggera, which will join the line-up later this year. And Aston invited Auto Express to try it in final prototype form, getting the full briefing from its chief engineer, Matt Becker.

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“It’s the brute of the range,” Becker tells us. The DBS gets the 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 carried over from the DB11. The engine uses the same hardware, but with more boost pressure from those turbos and a remap, the motor is making 715bhp and 900Nm of torque. There’s a new eight-speed auto gearbox, too. These ferocious figures mean the latest Aston covers the 0-62mph dash in 3.4 seconds, is good for 0-100mph in an astonishing 6.4 seconds and has a top speed of 211mph.

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The figure that Becker is particularly proud of, though, is the time it takes the Superleggera to go from 50 to 100mph in fourth gear: just 4.2 seconds.

On the road, even in patchy, damp conditions, it feels explosively fast. Peak torque hits from just 1,800rpm and is sustained to 5,000rpm. Pull the right paddle and the engine drops right back into the heart of that torque and the onslaught of acceleration continues.

The V12’s character is fully present; it’s 10 decibels louder than the DB11, with some fairly overt rumbles and crackles on the overrun. Becker says: “I wanted usable performance from the engine and chassis. The car needs to be quick, obviously, but it needs to be accessible as well.”

It certainly feels it. The steering set-up has a nice weight and speed for a big GT car like this. In the softest GT chassis mode there’s plenty of compliance on 21-inch wheels and the front and rear axles’ damping feels well matched. There is a balance of control and compliance that lets the DBS flow and breathe with the road. You can make extremely rapid progress without compromising comfort.

In Sport and Sport + damper modes you feel an extra tautness; increased focus with a proportional decrease in roll. And this fits with where the DBS sits in the range, according to Becker. It’s 15 per cent stiffer and 15mm lower than a DB11, and only slightly less agile than the Vantage.

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The ‘Superleggera’ tag pertains to the carbon-fibre front clamshell, bumpers and an optional carbon roof, but at 1,693kg dry, it’s still no featherweight. Aero improvements include new venturies and a new diffuser contributing to a total of 180kg of downforce. That’s a big gain over the DB11, which produces 50kg of lift at the front and just 20kg of downforce at the rear.

There are a few drawbacks, such as the gearbox. It’s unobtrusive and smooth in auto, but manual shifts in Sport + occasionally send a shudder through the structure. Remember, though, this is still a prototype and final calibration tweaks are still being applied.

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