Firstly, Happy New Year. I’ve not updated for a while. Life has been a little chaotic. My goal for this year’s car content was to be to recreate the drive I enjoyed back in June 2018 in the BMW M2 but this time in a car that was a bit of a step up on that wonderful BMW. Imagine my excitement then when Aston Martin Birmingham gave me a call right at the start of January to say I could borrow their DBS Superleggera. The DBS is my dream car and would without doubt be my first purchase if my lottery numbers came up so straight away, I thought this would be the perfect car to fulfill my main ambition for 2019.
So, the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is the £225000 plus options replacement to the beautiful Vanquish S and is the current flagship Aston Martin. It features a 5.2 litre twin turbo V12 engine with 725PS and 663 lb ft of torque making it the fastest production car Aston Martin has ever made. 0-60 is 3.3 seconds and Vmax a considerable 211mph.
I’ve not been so excited about driving a car since the day I picked up my very first car 19 years ago. The only time that has come close was driving a Ferrari F430 Spider in Italy on my honeymoon but that was only a short, if still memorable drive. I had sat in the DBS back in the summer when I went to the dealership to take some photographs but getting in this time and getting everything set up for me to be comfortable on my drive feels very different. The DBS is so special even just sitting in it and then you press the start button and one of the best sounds to have passed through the exhaust of a car is unleashed. A cold start in this thing is an event in itself and despite having a quiet start mode if you hold down the start button, this is no subtle ignition.
Knowing the first part of my journey was a motorway cruise I made myself comfortable and steadily made my way towards the mountains before quickly realising the attention this car draws is astonishing. On the motorway everyone turns their heads as they drive past, within minutes a middle-aged lady mimed ‘nice car’ to me as she passed up the slip road. Every time you stop people ask about the car and stop to take photographs. It takes a little getting used to when you are used to blending into the background in a small BMW SUV. Even taking it very steadily on this first part of the journey it becomes very apparent under even small accelerations that you have some serious performance potential waiting to be let loose and that performance will probably not want to be unleashed in a straight line. It was frosty and the roads were damp and even slight accelerations had that traction control light patronisingly winking at me from the dashboard.
On reaching Shrewsbury, and the end of the motorway I checked the trip computer that I had reset on my departure and the biggest surprised of the whole experience was apparently this car isn’t actually that bad on fuel. Considering its enormous performance potential and displacement I easily achieved 26mpg on the motorway run and even throughout a whole day of driving spiritedly up and over mountain passes as well as stopping and starting to take photographs I achieved around 20mpg. I was expecting fuel costs to be far more painful.
If you haven’t read my M2 piece, the route to take from Shrewsbury is to head to Knockin then it’s the B4396 to Penybontfawr then B4391 to Bala. Then the fast-flowing road that is the A4212 to Trawsfynydd. This route has a bit of everything from tight twisty country lanes which open up into a mountain pass with hairpins, good tarmac and little traffic before opening up further past Bala with fast flowing wide A roads with sweeping bends and fantastic views. Finally, it’s back onto the B4391 diverting off of the A4212 short of Trawsfynydd and cutting the corner to Ffestiniog.
These roads really highlight a cars abilities but also its shortcomings and just as the M2 shon on these roads and whilst different, so did the DBS. The body control is excellent even in the softest suspension setting. The suspension can be independently adjusted to the engine mode via a separate steering wheel button and things tighten up in Sport and Sport plus modes. Even in the hardest setting all but the bumpiest roads feel comfortable if quite firm. The DBS defaults to GT mode for engine settings which places the exhaust in its quietest tune. The DBS the great cruiser just as any good GT car should be. Even in GT mode this car feels an occasion to drive all of the time. Sport sharpens up the throttle response and unleashes the lion within those exhaust pipes. In Sport and particularly Sport Plus mode the sound is incredible. It might not have quite the volume of a Vanquish S but the tone is stunning and anti-socially loud when you want it to be. When you are really pressing on and everything is hot the pops and cracks become gun shots from the back. This car is worth having for the engine note alone, as should always be the case in an Aston Martin.
But then there’s the performance. The torque of this V12 unit along with the beautiful soundtrack even from low down in the rev range mean you really can get a huge amount of enjoyment from driving at 6 or 7 tenths which is all you could ever really need on the road. When the road is dry and straight and you want to unleash all of that power you had better be alert and ready. The way this car accelerates in 3rd gear is astonishing, it really is a case of hold on tight and hope for the best. In 1st and 2nd gears the torque is limitted to protect the gearbox so when 3rd slots in it seems to pull harder than ever. Traction in the dry is a challenge if you don’t feed the throttle in progressively and in the wet it is a little scary in truth but the traction control does a great job at keeping you safely on the road as do the carbon ceramic brakes which stop this heavy car at an impressive rate.
The DBS has the strengthened ZF Automatic transmission and when you are cruising in drive it works harmoniously with the monstrous amounts of torque on offer to make this a real wafter of a car. Put it into Manual mode and using the beautiful elongated metal paddles it changes gear quickly and in Sport Plus it gives you a little push in the back between upshifts. I never felt like it needed to shift up quicker although downshifts when approaching a roundabout say and you need to drop several gears could be a little hesitant if you aren’t ‘on it’. Worth noting this wasn’t ever an issue in automatic mode so it could well have just been the operator. This is a GT car though and that’s a tiny negative when you consider its performance on a great road and its silky smooth shifts whether you are cruising around town or flat out on a straight. The gearbox is a perfect fit for a car like the DBS.
Parking the car up aside the lake at Bala I stood eating some lunch looking at the car set amongst the incredible scenery with the key in my pocket and I really couldn’t believe I was living this dream. Perfect roads, incredible mountainous countryside and my dream car which was as good as I always dreamt it would be. I will forever be thankful to Aston Martin Birmingham for giving me this incredible opportunity.
I spent the afternoon threading this wonderful car down incredible roads, my ears titillated by the stunning soundtrack in glorious winter sunshine. It really was the stuff dreams are made of. Towards the end of my route you are spoilt for great driving roads that offer a little big of everything and there is very little traffic especially at this time of year. As the short winter day was coming to an end and feeling tired and satisfied I started the 2 hour drive back home and the DBS delivered me home refreshed and relaxed which is no mean feat after 8 or 9 hours driving challenging roads.
Day two I awoke to dull misty skies and damp roads but unperturbed I was keen to take the DBS onto some more familiar roads closer to home so headed into the Cotswolds. In the wet traction is far more of challenge but that ability to make even slow progress an event shone through and the drive was no less enjoyable for it. For a car with such huge amounts of power it is very approachable and not scary at all if you are gentle with the throttle. Take liberties however and don’t respect the conditions and it becomes a scary beast to handle but this delivers a far more involving drive than a benign four wheel drive sportscar. It’s refreshing to have to think about how you are driving in a modern performance car and not being able to just dump your foot to the floor.
The interior of the DBS is a lovely place to spend time with soft leather and high quality materials and switches. Many critisise the DBS for its use of Mercedes Switchgear and imfotainment but it’s a vast improvement over the old system and particularly over the Fiesta switchgear of the old DB7. Sometimes small companies have to buy in parts so they can consentrate what they do best and not many do luxury switchgear better than Mercedes Benz. It may not feel as special as say the new Bentley Continental around that centre console and on the infortainment front but it is a luxurious purposeful cabin and I find it hard to believe the Conti GT would deliver the same excitement and drama that the DBS can on the move.
When the time came to take the DBS it was a sad moment. They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes but I disagree. You absolutely should. I want a DBS Superleggera more still than before got the chance to drive one. It’s a very sad thought that I will probably never own one and probably won’t even get to drive one again. Meeting my hero has only inspired me to aspire further and to have no regrets doing my best to get there. At least then if it doesn’t happen there can be no what ifs. The DBS is a fantastic Super GT and is as at home on a cruise as it is on a mountain pass. I can only imagine what it would be like on track. Every drive is an event and it would be a privilege to own one. Maybe one day …….
Again, enormous thanks to Aston Martin Birmingham for the opportunity. Be sure to follow them on social media and visit there website.