Aston Martin recently invited Cars.co.za, along with other representatives of the world's automotive media, to experience its eagerly-anticipated DBS Superleggera in spectacular Berchtesgaden, Germany.
Berchtesgaden is located in Bavaria, near Germany's border with Austria. The mountains are blanketed in pine trees (some of them are so tall that the snow adorning their peaks seems to have no effect on the balmy temperature we experienced at ground level). It is a landscape so breathtaking and of such powerful beauty that it bewitched some of the most powerful people in world history, many of whom had their holiday homes here.
The mountainous region of Berchtesgaden provided a picturesque backdrop for the media launch.
For a month, Aston Martin used this exceptional region of the world to showcase the new Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, which is nothing short of a remarkable car – as arresting in the metal as the views that surrounded it. This has to be one of the most beautiful cars ever built.
Over the course of the next 24 hours, we were immersed in the life of what might be the typical Aston Martin owner. The headquarters of the launch was the magnificent Kempinski hotel, perched on a plateau 1 000 m above sea level and nestled in an amphitheatre of some of nature’s finest work.
The elaborate grille/front airtake treatment is one of the Superleggera's most distinguishing features.
Dotted around the hotel were 7 examples of the latest car to wear the winged Aston badge. The deep red metallic examples were the most recognisable, having starred in the first official images, which were released to a global audience just a week before, and which had dominated my social media feeds like few supercars I can remember. But the dark grey matte black and pearlescent white models were no less attractive.
In the metal, it is an absolutely stunning car. Dramatic, beautiful and purposeful in equal measure, it is, in my opinion, the best looking Aston Martin ever made. The rear haunches alone evoked an involuntary “oomph” out of me. And for a company with a reputation for producing some fairly attractive automobiles, that is probably a bold statement.
The DBS Superleggera, clad in its deep-red metallic finish (as it was for the media pack), looks as good in the metal as in pictures.
Over drinks that evening, held under the late evening sun, the man responsible for the design, Marek Reichman, gave us a tour of the car. He designed the car’s predecessor, which was quite a looker itself. A tall individual with enviable hair, wearing chinos and bright green Nike sneakers, Reichman is understandably proud of his work. He said that, ultimately, even if you know nothing about cars, just one look at the DBS Superleggera should convince you that this is the most powerful Aston Martin available. Job done, then.
Premium, quality interior that you'd expect from Aston. Note the Mercedes Command control in the centre.
The DBS is, of course, based on the DB11, but, especially at the front end, it looks dramatically different to Aston Martin's (dare I say it?) "cooking-variety" grand tourer. The front overhang is shorter and the enormous front airdam is arguably this car’s signature feature. The carbon-fibre bonnet is entirely new and encompasses a new headlight design and deep-seated nostrils, which are both aesthetic and functional, helping hot air escape from the engine bay. And placed next to these “blowholes” (as one excitable Chinese journalist referred to them) is the word Superleggera.
While you might not immediately associate this quintessentially Italian term with the British marque, their association goes back decades and the DB5 featured the word on its bonnet, too. Aston Martin had to license the patented nameplate from Carrozzeria Touring, the modern incarnation of the company that invented the technique, which made the term famous.
Alloy developed by the Zeppelin industry
Superleggera means super-light, but it also refers to a car-building methodology, which features a frame made of lightweight tubing and sheet metal, made of an alloy developed by the Zeppelin industry, draped over it. It was developed in the 1930s and propelled Italian coachbuilders to the forefront of car design; the technique enabled rapid prototyping and the flexibility of the process enabled designers to pursue curvaceous, beautiful shapes that stood out among the comparatively demure designs of that era.
Although the name Superleggera is best associated with Italian supercars, most recently Lamborghini, it certainly belongs on the DBS.
The method, however, was somewhat typically Italian, in that it favoured beauty over just about everything else. The lightweight frames offered almost no crash protection and car makers around the world pursued the chassis-based approach, which later gave way to unibody construction.
Despite its obsoletion, the term Superleggera has undoubtedly left a mark on the world of motoring, and, in my opinion, stamping the word on the bonnet makes the car instantly exotic and desirable. And, as Aston’s chief driving dynamic engineer quipped, "if Ferrari can call their car the 'Superfast' in English, then the British can call their car 'Superleggera' in Italian".
A British foil for Ferrari's Superfast
The 5.2-litre twin turbo V12, which debuted in the DB11, is carried over, but heavily tweaked to produce peak outputs of 533 kW and 900 Nm of torque. Those figures and the efforts to reduce the car’s weight by 70 kg mean the DBS has the same torque-to-weight ratio as the rather loony Aston Martin Vulcan. The torque output is so monumental that AM was forced to ask ZF to create a new 8-speed gearbox specifically for the DBS. And even still, the drivetrain engineers still had to electronically limit the torque output in first and second gear to protect the transmission.
The DBS Superleggera's svelte sheet metal hides a host of carbon fibre components, all of which limit the car's dry weight to 1 693 kg.
Carbon fibre has been used extensively to reduce weight and the DBS Superleggera features a full carbon front clam-shell, rear deck and prop shaft. A carbon fibre roof is an optional extra. This has resulted in a dry weight of 1 693 kg, roughly 200 kg lighter than a Jaguar F-Type, but a good 400 kg heavier than, say, a Mclaren 720S. Which, admittedly, is not this car’s rival.
No, this is a Super GT, and the next day we experienced more than 5 hours of seat-time to see what it had to offer. And, unfortunately, that’s where this article has to end...
Look out for our upcoming Launch Review Video of the DBS Superleggera...
An embargo on driving impressions is in place until 1 August, to give the world’s media an opportunity to drive the car without any influence from other journos. I did, however, film my experience and I look forward to sharing the video with you on our Youtube channel as soon as the embargo ends. If you enjoy beautiful cars, loud noises and watching someone mispronounce “Superleggera” for 9 minutes, you’re almost sure to enjoy it.
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