As any Monty Python ‘Life of Brian’ fan will tell you, the Romans have done quite a lot for us over the years. From Aqueducts to sanitation, education to medicine plus, who can forget, endless miles of long straight roads. However, fast-forward a few centuries to 1936 and there’s another Italian thing that we should be thankful for and that’s the ‘Superleggera’ or Super Light.
Superleggera is deemed to be the brainchild of Felice Bianchi Anderloni a coachbuilder from Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera. His was a system that consisted of a structural framework of small-diameter steel tubes that conformed to an automobile body’s shape and are then covered by thin alloy body panels that strengthen the framework. Initially, it was used in automotive brands such as Alfa and Citroen but it also found itself deep within some of David Brown’s iconic masterpieces, first the 1959 Aston Martin DB4, then the DB5 & 6, the 1967 DBS and now, albeit in a totally revamped and modernised way, in the all-new DBS Superleggera that I find myself in today.
Let’s get one thing straight from the start, as I said before Superleggera does mean Superlight but all things in this world are relative. Yes this magnificent new DBS Grand Tourer does weigh in at 1863kg which is not exactly what you’d call F1 weight, but, when you consider what lavish array of goodies it has packed into its 4.72m long frame, Aston Martin has done a remarkable job.
Underpinning it all is an extruded bonded aluminium body structure with composite panels, plus wherever and whenever possible, the DBS Superleggera boasts the finest, strongest lightweight materials available with Carbon Fibre weaved into areas such as its clamshell bonnet, its boot, wing mirrors, lower trim, I could go on.
Then there’s its design. It’s dynamic and beautiful yet muscular and brutally handsome. From its unmissable Aston Martin grille and LED headlamps with integrated direction indicators, to its Aeroblade serviced tail spoiler and quad exhausts, it casts a formidable but entrancing shadow. It’s both big and bold but sleek and athletic, damn it’s impressive.
The cabin hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Sure, the rear seats are more conceptual in space than practical but everywhere you look, there’s leather. From its ornately designed ceiling to the dashboard, doors and not forgetting the furniture, your senses bathe in fine, sweet-scented Caithness or Balmoral leather. Embossed and embroidered headrests, triaxial quilting, leather-clad steering wheel, you are simply cossetted in sporty luxury.
Infotainment, including the likes of a powerful Bang and Olufsen stereo system, 360-degree camera and smartphone connectivity, is displayed via an 8-inch LCD screen. Some of the dials and switches have been German manufactured but everything feels very proper, very, well British.
Then there’s the powertrain. A 5.2L bi-turbo, V12 with stop/start cylinder de-activation stapped to a rear mid-mounted ZF eight-speed automatic transmission via an alloy torque tube with Carbon Fibre propeller shaft. Together they provide 715 horses (or is that Calvery) and 900Nm of torque. 0-100km/h comes at just 3.4seconds, top-speed is 340km/h and the soundtrack under heavy revs is thunderous.
With only a few days up my sleeve to play with, I wasted no time in getting the DBS Superleggera onto some familiar roads. It’s a vehicle with a very defined but spilt personality. Heading through the traffic in town and up over the harbour bridge in GT mode, it’s convivial. At low-speeds the steering light, only gaining weight as the roads begin to free up. Visibility is good for a Super Tourer (who cares what’s behind you anyway) and gear changing is slick but unrushed.
Engaging Sports mode on the steering wheel has the accelerator responding more rapidly and the suspension dampers firming. The ride feels tighter, more involved and the exhaust note is up an octave or two. Out in familiar territory and away from prying eyes, the DBS hunts corners with eagerness. The 21-inch forged alloys that are wider in the rear, keep purchase on the tarmac excellently and offer positive and confident turn-in.
Up into Sports + and it feels like all 715 horses have bolted from the stable. The exhaust note goes up to 11 and everything feels alive, it’s no longer a luxurious grand tourer, it’s an off the leash rottweiler, in a word, magic. Sure it’s a speeding-ticket waiting to happen but you get the feeling (with its good looks and Italian accent) that the DBS may be able to talk its way out of it.
The big alloy paddles are a joy to play with and when combined with long tunnel driving, are something for your bucket list and the vented carbon-ceramic brakes would stop the world from turning (they were a little too snatchy for my liking, I may need longer behind the wheel).
The DBS Superleggera sits at the top of the Aston Martin tree for a reason. It’s bold and assertive and its roar would make a lion whimper. It’s not just a GT, it’s a Super GT that’s superfast and super fun to drive. It’s an iconic British tourer with a special hint of Italian flair.