Our motoring correspondent Mark Gallivan test drives the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera which features in the upcoming James Bond movie No Time to Die.
Bond, James Bond, is back. The forthcoming No Time to Die spy thriller gets released in Ireland next April. Expect the usual thrills – villains, explosions and sensational locations. There’ll be elegant damsels dashing around in dinner dresses slap-bang in the middle of nowhere whispering things like “Vames, I know voo are veely doobol-agent”.
And of course, Daniel Craig. One of the very best Bonds ever committed to celluloid – will have somewhere in among the maelstrom the company pool car from heaven – an Aston Martin. This time out, the 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is featured in the movie.
“The trepidation you experience when pulling away into traffic is palpable”
Lucky me that I’m getting to test one with kind permission of Aston Martin Belfast. That’s the £225,000 (in the UK) DBS Superleggera flagship car in the Aston Martin range, not the £147,900 DB11.
A shrieking V12 5.5 litre petrol engined two-door coupe with 725bhp and the postal address 900Nm of torque that thrusts from 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds.
Aston Martin style heritage
If you’ve wondered where the DBS Superleggera sprung from then look no further than the DB11 AMR. Much of that foundation work had already been done and Gaydon simply spiced up that car’s engineering foundation. Work was done to the transmission and to take the extra horsepower of force from the engine.
The Superleggera moniker is a nod to earlier Astons like the iconic DB5 used in so many Bond films – including this one. Roughly translated, it means Superlight. But that theory is lost a bit when the 1,693 kerb weight is revealed even though the body is constructed using an aluminium spaceframe construction.
Take a good look at the photos of the DBS Superleggera on one side and the DB11 on the other. The “brute in a suit” mantra holds water. In isolation, the DB11 is a butch yet still an elegantly striking car. Now, next to that, peer at the DBS Superleggera. It has the haunches and creases expected on a sketch that an-eleven-year-old would draw if he or she was told to reimagine a more aggressive DB11 in the 3pm art class.
It is, and I’ll field as many arguments as needed on this, the best looking two-door coupe you buy today. Even if you haven’t the faintest hope of ever being a ‘Doobol-Agent’ and more likely a very affluent owner, the experience of sliding into a DBS Superleggera is properly intoxicating.
There are a few cars out there that possess the expectation of a 725hp V12 powerhouse engine as if stretched to breaking point by a giant elastic band from the engine to the rear wheels before you start it up. The trepidation you experience when pulling away into traffic is palpable.
I’ve driven the DB11 on motorways and across mountains and through valleys and a flowing nature to the GT experience.
In the DBS Superleggera there is little of the searing build-up of power. You experience thunderous ferocity from just 40pc travel of the accelerator pedal. The feedback from the steering and brakes never allows you to sit back and it urges you to plant the accelerator and thrust the rakish bonnet into the horizon.
The responsibility for this lies with Matt Becker – the engineer formerly known as the Lotus chassis man – turns up the DB11 thrills to eleven-point-five.
So slide in and peer around.
Time to be shaken and stirred
Where before I said the DB9 interior was getting dated the DBS Superleggera’s cabin like the DB11 offers seats which are beautifully handmade with fine stitching and you sit low in there eyeing the leather-lined dashboard that houses Mercedes sourced instrument and dials.
It’s a solution that many railed against but even though they are the last generation Benz it was a sensible idea to collaborate with Daimler without funding expensive R&D and shelling out extra money that Aston Martin does not have at the moment. Start her up. Harrum! Pfssss! Bam! Bam! Assuming you’ve climbed out of a typical 2.0 litre diesel engine and into this the sound is a shock. Now move off.
Sitting low and almost turning blue from holding your breath as you carefully navigate Belfast’s unfamiliar suburbs you are searching for little references to where the front’s extremities is located. The “bring her back in one piece, Bond” saying applies here – even more – so careful threading on damp streets is called for. Soon enough you’re breathing again and grey walls change to green spaces with hedges whizzing by.
Now it’s time to see what this DBS is made of. Now, two clicks down of the automatic gear paddles behind the steering wheel and you depress the accelerator by 50pc. Instantly, the familiar measured growl of the DB11 is replaced with a deeper snarl and the DBS Superleggera gallops forward. You then spot the road ahead is clear to accelerate right up to 6,500rpm and the thunderous bass rises to deafening wail – you ease off – and parph! parph! Parph! exhaust sounds fill the cabin from the overrun. Ease things back to cruising speeds your throat by now is dry and the hands trembling.
The twin turbos in the V12 do take a moment to spool up but beyond 3,300 revs all hell breaks loose but mercifully the pace is quickly scrubbed away by the effective brakes that provide the security of a private bodyguard dragging you back from danger. For comparison, the 2019 Bentley Continental GT at £159,900 is a lot cheaper with 626bhp and a matching 900Nm torque of the DBS Superleggera.
I have also driven the Bentley GT that car is a different animal with multiple personalities: one minute it’s a long-legged cruiser and the next a thrilling intercontinental express. The Aston is far more the po-faced thriller, the car that excites every pore with explosive power and shortly there’ll be a Volante version on sale to match the DB11 droptop line up.
James Bond may be back and the excitement of the screen a world away from our daily humdrum lives but if you’ve got the wherewithal then it’s possible to star in your very own movie. Few cars on sale offer the same, cool cachet.
Written by Mark Gallivan
Published: 10 December, 2019