An Aston Martin can't be vulgar. It needs to exude sophistication and tasteful restraint even when it has a 715-hp twin-turbo 5.2-liter V-12 under its hood. An Aston needs to be finely tailored in appearance and seductively composed in its manners, to attract attention without shouting. These aren't cars that tell the world their owners have arrived. They're a reward for doing the hard work of running the world.
Aston is a small company that isn't backstopped by some corporate behemoth. It makes do with the assets and heritage it has on hand—plus a few bits that it buys from Mercedes-AMG. The bonded-aluminum structure of the DBS is shared with the DB11, which lends the two models the same basic shape. It's the details—and the thundering punch of the DBS's tweaked V-12—that separate the two.
Carbon-fiber bodywork, including the front splitter and the rear spoiler, knocks some pounds off the DBS's curb weight compared to the DB11's V-12 AMR model. The lightweight weave also coexists alongside a cow's worth—maybe a cow and a half—of leather in the interior. A carbon-fiber roof panel is a $4545 option, but one that's required, along with the titanium exhaust, to achieve the company's claimed 159-pound weight reduction figure.
Press a button on the DBS's dash, and its starter motor spins the V-12 with a turbine-like whirr. The engine bursts to life and settles into a purr. Resonators in the exhaust change the pitch of its voice depending on the drive mode (GT, Sport, and Sport+). Tap the prominent selector buttons across the car's dash to engage the standard eight-speed automatic transmission. The DBS is all very theatrical with an undertone of menace.
Get past those theatrics, though, and the driving rewards pile up quickly. The DBS's V-12 is largely shared with the 630-hp DB11 AMR, but software tweaks let it make more peak boost. The result is 715 horsepower and a constant 663 pound-feet of torque between 1800 and 5000 rpm. With such a huge amount of torque spread over such a wide range of engine speed, an owner could go years without approaching the 7000-rpm redline.
The ZF-sourced 8HP95 automatic transmission features a conventional torque converter. But it shifts so precisely, both on its own or via the metal paddles behind the DBS's steering wheel, that a dual-clutch transmission would be a needless complication. We noticed an occasionally harsh one-two upshift under part throttle conditions in the car we drove, but this transmission is otherwise brilliant. We wish a manual gearbox were an option, although Aston's recent rough-edged integration of a stick shift in its smaller Vantage model left us unimpressed.
The rear-wheel-drive DBS doesn't launch with the awesome initial wallop of an all-wheel-drive Lamborghini Aventador. It takes some practice to calibrate exactly the right throttle application for maximum thrust without excessive wheelspin. While it may not be a member of the two-second zero-to-60-mph club, this Aston should hit that mark in 3.2 seconds, which is still impressive.
As we learned when we first drove the DBS in Europe last year, its sheer power is most apparent when accelerating from a cruise up into hyperspace. As the engine's torque builds, the entire car seems to tense up before surging forward in a boiling burst of speed. The turbos give Aston's V-12 more low-end grunt than in, say, the naturally aspirated Aventador. But they also muffle the 12-cylinder's natural high-end scream.
Left in GT mode, the DBS rides like the luxury machine that it is. Even with our test car's 21-inch wheels and thin-sidewall Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires, sized 265/35R-21 in front and 305/30R-21 at the rear, the suspension easily soaks up most road divots. Those big Pirellis are Aston-ishingly quiet, too. Inside, the front seats are close to perfectly shaped. The two rear "seats" are really only useful for stowing small bags or smaller dogs. With its low roof and radically raked windshield and back window, the feeling inside the DBS is intimate. But the accommodations are generous for a performance car of this caliber.
The DBS's acceleration feels relentless as you push it toward its claimed 211-mph top speed. Its composure never waivers, and the wind whipping around it is well managed to minimize noise. This is a grand-touring car with serious legs. Not only can it chase the horizon, it's likely to catch and consume it. The steering and chassis reflexes both lack the immediacy of a smaller, lighter car such as the Porsche 911, but the DBS compensates for that with its imperturbability. If Aston Martin weren't making the DBS, Gulfstream Aerospace could.
The bite of the brake pads against the carbon-ceramic discs may be a tad grabby, and the sound of the starter motor, which is rather endearing at first, gets downright irritating when the engine's stop-start feature is engaged. But when covered in British Racing Green paint, with its gaping mouth and a provocative rump, the DBS Superleggera has true presence. Its direct rival is the Ferrari 812 Superfast, but that car is edgier, more ragged in its character, and not quite as pretty. The DBS isn't necessarily better than the 812, but it is different. And at a starting price of $314,186, the Aston is a bit cheaper than the Ferrari, which is good to know if you're a value shopper of V-12-powered supercars.
As an Aston Martin, the DBS Superleggera is a wholly satisfying and sophisticated spectacle that demands few compromises for its effortless performance.
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