Gaydon, Warwickshire - Never one to shy away from milking its illustrious heritage for all it’s worth, Aston Martin has brought together two of the most iconic nameplates in its 105-year history in a new Super GT car, the DBS Superleggera.
Superleggera (‘super lightweight’) is a way of building very light, rigid car bodies in small batches using thin aluminium panels over a welded frame of small-diameter steel tubes, patented by Milanese coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring in 1936. David Brown, then owner of Aston Martin, licenced the technology for the DB4, DB5, and DB6 models in the 1950s and 60s, for the princely sum of £9 (then R18) each for the first 500 cars bodies and £5 (R10) each thereafter.
This svelte, achingly beautiful Touring-styled series of models was replace in 1967 by the DBS, a bigger, more angular all-steel car designed by William Towns, initially with the same four-litre straight six as the DB6 but later with a superb 5.3-litre V8 by Marek Tadek. Initially decried as ‘clumsy’ and ‘louche’ by the purists it later went on, renamed simply the V8, to become Aston Martin’s longest-running model ever, with more than 4800 built before it was replaced by the Virage in 1989.
Now Aston Martin has announced the DBS Superleggera, a lightweight 2+2 ‘Super GT’ car that will replace the Vanquish S, with a twin-turbo 5.2-litre V8 with uprated mapping and an authoritative quad big-bore exhaust system with active valves, for which it quotes 533kW at 6500 revs and 900Nm from 1800-5000rpm, set as low and as far back in the chassis as possible, driving the rear wheels via a carbon-fibre propshaft and a new rear-mounted ZF eight-speed automatic transaxle with a mechanical limited-slip differential and dynamic torque vectoring.
Nobody builds ‘bird cage’ car bodies on separate chassis any more but the new DBS lives up to its Superleggera nameplate by combining an evolution of the latest generation lightweight bonded aluminium structure first seen on the DB11, featuring forged double wishbones in front and a sophisticated multi-link system at the rear, with carbon-fibre body panels for a dry weight of 1693kg - 72 kilograms lighter than the DB11.
The result is a luxurious 2+2 coupé that’ll hit 100km/h from a standstill in 3.4 seconds, 160km/h in 6.4, accelerates from 80-160km/h in fourth gear in 4.2 seconds and tops out at 338km/h.
But, as Pirelli never tires of telling us, power is nothing without control; adaptive damping is standard, as are three selectable drive modes - GT, Sport and Sport Plus - as well as 410mm front and 360mm rear carbon-ceramic discs with six-piston front and four piston rear callipers, behind 21 inch rims (standard Y-spoke or lightweight twin-spoke forged alloy) shod with ‘A7’ Pirelli P-Zeros (265/35 in front, 305/30 at the back) specially developed for this car.
And that smoothly-curving body - 4712mm long on a 2805mm wheelbase, 2146mm wide and just 1280mm high - sexy though it is with it’s GTE-inspired front splitter, high waistline and biplane diffuser, is not just for show; the maker quotes an impressive 180kg off downforce at top speed.
The interior is trimmed as befits the car’s persona as a ‘Gran Turismo muscle car’ with Sports Plus performance seats and steering wheel trimmed in a mix of supple leather and alcantara; keyless entry, tyre pressure monitoring a 360-degree camera with parking sensors and display are standard, as are DAB plus Bluetooth audio and phone streaming, iPod, iPhone and USB playback, integrated satellite navigation and a wi-fi hub - all displayed on a central LCD screen and controlled via a rotary ‘twist and push’ switch.
The DBS Superleggera is available to order now in South Africa, for delivery in the first quarter of 2018, and an indicative price of around R5.5 - R6 million. Several are already on order for local customers, that first of which is expected in Cape Town before the end of the year.
That means the orders were placed a full two months before the car was announced; when asked how that worked, Aston Martin South Africa explained that a few interested customers were flown to Gaydon ahead of time for a private viewing of the pre-production prototype.