2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera first drive review: dead serious, dead sexy

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Twelve-cylinder engines are an endangered automotive species. Only a handful are left: Mercedes and Maybach share one, and so do BMW and Rolls-Royce. Ferrari has its holdout—and it’s impossible to leave out Bentley’s W-12, though its offbeat cylinder layout makes it an outlier among outliers.

The 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera brandishes a big V-12, and it flips out a Rolodex worth of time-honored names with a flourish. The Superleggera tag harks back to the ‘60s when other hot Italian models had similarly long last names like Lollobrigida. The DBS initials come from the same era, when they were affixed to what was billed as the world’s fastest four-seat car.

After a second generation in the 2000s, then a name change to Vanquish, the DBS is back, now with the Superleggera surname. It boasts all the evocative badges—and bristles with the raw power of a Superfast without the slightly insecure name.

A dozen, done dirty

The new DBS Superleggera throws down a newly evolved Aston V-12. With 5.2 liters of displacement, twin turbochargers, and stop/start with a restart cycle that seems long enough to time eggs, the DBS howls out 715 horsepower. An epic 664 pound-feet of torque spools up at 1,800 rpm, and twists its massive tires until they yield 0-62 mph runs of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 211 mph.

Aston promises crushing passing power and delivers it with dead seriousness. The DBS rifles from 50 to 75 mph in 2.0 seconds.

Aston engineers put a lot of pressure on the V-12’s turbos and focus their output through an active exhaust system. The Superleggera can keep things civil in GT drive mode, but spin the dial to Sport or Sport Plus and the DBS turns off all the filters that amplify the wraithlike wail. It rasps, it crackles, it pops, it turns underpasses into a Mormon Tabernacle of exhaust overrun.

With its rear-mounted ZF 8-speed automatic, the DBS wastes not a single scrap of that mechanical viscera. It straps it together with a mechanical limited-slip differential and a carbon-fiber prop shaft, then grafts on electronic torque vectoring all in the name of finely balanced handling.

Weight shed, wait shed

At roughly 160 pounds less than the structurally similar Aston DB11, the DBS has grand-touring composure that’s not at all hurt by a nearly even weight split front to rear, at 51:49.

In the most southeasterly corner of Germany, the DBS Superleggera logged a couple hundred miles without a ponderous move. It wove through summer-tourist traffic and snipped off four-car passes, stable and sure through a relatively quick electric power steering system weighted for extreme high-speed stability. Carbon-ceramic brakes come standard.

Aston beefed up the big V-12’s engine mounts so its motions wouldn’t reverb in the steering rack. Despite hulking Pirelli P Zero 265/35-21 tires up front and 305/30-21s in back, it didn’t roll over road crown or reveal anything but a huge appetite for kilometers.

Like the DB11, the DBS has a bonded aluminum body, a double-wishbone front and a multi-link rear suspension. It rides a little lower than the DB11 (barely 0.2 inches), but the DBS benefits more from adaptive dampers that dissolve light road patter away in its best-life GT drive mode. Stiffer settings? Maybe you’d like a Vantage instead, ma’am.

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