Aston Martin launched the original DBS way back in 1967, tucking away the DB6, and starting with a relatively fresh piece of paper. By the time production came to an end in 1972 Aston had produced 787 of the straight-six powered brutes. The DBS name would lie dormant for the next 35 years when, free from the clutches of Ford and keen to pump some more excitement into the brand, Aston relaunched the name as a beefed-up DB9. The DBS was one Aston’s fastest and most powerful series production cars, the car that new Vantage and DB9 owners would aspire to; only the ultra-exclusive, ultra-rare and ultra-expensive One-77 could usurp the DBS for power and price in Aston’s model line-up at the time. The DBS was built for five years until, again, the DBS name was consigned to the history books… That is until today, with the all-new DBS Superleggera.
One of the dominating features is, of course, the engine, but there’s so much more to this car than just a big engine; Aston hails it as ‘the ultimate production Aston Martin’ and, climbing inside its gloriously trimmed cabin for the very first time, it’s clear to see why. The seats are firm but immensely supportive, the instruments clear, and at a cruise it’s a surprisingly peaceful place to be, given the lump up front. The sat nav system is clear enough and easy to use, and, compared to the new Vantage, the interior as a whole feels a little more Aston Martin, a little less Mercedes. As a traditional GT there are allegedly four seats, but don’t expect to take anyone of average height in the back.
Where the original DBS had the straight-six engine from the DB6 and the DBS V12 had a 6.0-litre V12, the DBS Superleggera’s V12 is a 5.2-litre, twin-turbo unit. While it might be the same size as the engine in the DB11, it produces a massive 775PS (715bhp) and a truly preposterous 900Nm (663lb ft) of torque. The DBS Superleggera might be a relatively heavy car, tipping the scales at just over 1,700kg, but all that power and torque mean a 0-62mph time of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 211mph. That performance is truly addictive, the whole car bucking underneath you; it feels like you’re trying to hold back an alligator with a piece of string, and yet it never feels out of control. The suspension soaks up bumps well, though the ride is firmer than that of the DB11 and, thankfully given all that power, braking performance is mightily impressive. The eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox is excellent, changing seamlessly from gear to gear in fully-automatic mode without any real fuss; when you get the hammer down, though, and start using the paddles behind the steering wheel, it leaps to attention, responding to every flick imperceptibly quickly.
The 2007 DBS managed to be both pretty and aggressive, and it’s the same story with the Superleggera. It’s incredibly beautiful and yet wonderfully brutish, a car that demands your attention the moment you encounter it. What’s more, the noise is spine tingling, perhaps not the same chilling scream of the old, naturally-aspirated V12 but no less intoxicating. Sure, £225,000 is a fair chunk of money, but few cars manage to balance power and performance with usability and beauty quite so well.