There’s no taming Aston Martin’s GT
Mark Smyth tests the thoroughbred abilities of the DBS Superleggera
It’s winter in England. The roads are a bit slippery with the usual mixture of rain-soaked leaves and mud. It’s a good time to test a Land Rover. But I’ve joined the traffic leaving Jaguar Land Rover from the company next door, Aston Martin, and I’m joining the greasy roads in a car that pushes 900Nm through its rear wheels.
I have a soft spot for the last-generation Aston Martin DBS. But as much as I am fond of the last one, the new one — the one bearing the Superleggera badge on the bonnet, is something entirely different.
Based on the DB11, it remains a GT car but one that has more of the soul of a sports car, much like the new Vantage. At its soul is still a hand-built V12 — in this instance, a 5.2l twin-turbo V12 pushing out 533kW and 900Nm through an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.
Aston claims it will hit 100km/h in 3.4 seconds and go on to a top speed of 339km/h, at least until such time as the European Commission legislates for speed limiters.
Testing its dual nature as a proper GT involved two different destinations. The first was a cross-country drive to Milton Keynes. The drive took us through the beautiful Cotswolds on some of the UK’s best A-roads and while the engine noise was a little intrusive at times and the chassis vibration noticeable, it scored well as a GT cruiser.
A big reason for this is the interior comfort. The layout is much better than the old DBS. The seats with their Bridge of Weir leather have a reptilian look about them but are comfortable and supportive.
The driving position is excellent once you have got the seat in just the right position to make sure you can actually see over that intricately crafted instrument cowel. Even the paddle shifters are in just the right position and just the right length, something many sports car manufacturers get so very wrong.
The cruise to the town was fairly effortless and the DBS didn’t fare too bad at economy either, mainly because there was no pushing it on this run. I had already sensed the potential issue of all that torque in the wet during a simple lane change on the motorway on the way back from Gaydon. No drama, just the DBS pointing out that it needs to be kept on a leash.
With that in mind, the following day I headed for the hills in the Welsh countryside.
On the subject of navigation, I have no problem with the use of Daimler components in the modern-day Aston Martin. Granted, it is not group sharing like Lamborghini with Audi bits or Ferrari with Fiat bits, but Daimler is a shareholder and, to be honest, Mercedes bits are usually quite good and a big improvement over some of the bits that you used to find in Astons.
The exception is the navigation. The Mercedes navigation system is terrible. But it did get me to my destination in the middle of nowhere and then provided maps to help me find more roads where the only traffic I was likely to find would be a farmer in a tractor.
Here, too, the roads were a little slippery in places but the sun was out, the roads were mostly dry and the 900Nm was a bit more usable in one of the various modes available. Sport generally seemed like the best idea, although here is one of my annoyances because you have to switch to Sport+ full attack mode in order to get back to the regular sedate GT setting.
Pull down on the left paddle and the DBS will drop to the optimum gear and rather than flooring it, you ease down on the accelerator allowing the V12 to find its true voice and the tyres to achieve their best grip. There’s a very slight amount of lag but get it all right coming out of the corner and the DBS growls as the tyres slip ever so slightly before biting down, and away you go.
The gearbox is easy to play with, but in greasy conditions let the computer manage the gears and you can focus on having fun; on enjoying the sports car side of this GT.
The balance of the DBS is superb, in part because the engine has been placed as far behind the front axle as possible and through the extensive use of lightweight materials. As much thought has gone into the engineering as into the interior craftsmanship and luxury.
Aston Martin does not make the best sports cars. There are other British, German or Italian marques which do that, but what the Gaydon company does well, extremely well in fact, is make the best GT cars and the DBS Superleggera is the most thoroughbred of them all.
It’s available in SA, and yours for R5.5m.