Driving any Aston Martin is a special occasion but driving the 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante on our own local roads is very special indeed. It’s hard to believe that two years has gone by since I was lucky enough to get behind the wheel of the DBS Superleggera coupe on some sensational roads in Germany, and here we are sampling the drop top on local roads.
Looking back over my story from that drive, the following paragraph still resonates – no pun intended:
Instead of introducing my right foot to the firewall, I back off and watch the tail car sweep closer and then bellow past at warp speed, exhaust note thundering off the tunnel walls and roof. A cacophony of V12 aggression screaming toward redline as the broad tail disappears out of the other end of the tunnel – 900Nm is mighty handy for overtaking.
While it is highly unlikely that I’ll see another DBS Superleggera Volante (or otherwise) in my rear-view mirror this time around, the noise whenever that V12 engine comes to life is an ever-present reality. It might in fact, be the DBS’s best party trick. That and the dramatic styling anyway.
The numbers take some time to compute, even in brief. Starting price, $570,200. Power, 533kW. Torque, 900Nm. Cylinders, 12. Gearbox ratios, eight. You do get a lot for a lot, even if the close to $600,000 on the road ask does seem eye watering. What price exclusivity? Certainly, in this country anyway, you’re unlikely to see too many. And what price handmade craftsmanship and attention to detail? If tailoring is something you respect, the DBS will tick all the right boxes.
The Aston Martin buyer is a different character, in much the same way as a Bentley or Rolls Royce buyer eschews the traditional. When you’re spending this much money, it’s a very deliberate choice to sidestep Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche et al. And whether you stand by, taking in the stunning Aston Martin before it even turns a tyre, or sit behind the wheel at speed with the top down, there’s little doubt the DBS does exactly what the intended buyer would expect.
In the cabin, despite some of the proprietary switchgear and inclusions that are very much Mercedes-Benz, the DBS does feel special. It feels bespoke. And, it feels hand crafted. The Audio system is high quality in terms of the sound stage, you get digital radio, but no smartphone link, thereby showing its age a little.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen also looks a generation old now in both functionality and graphics, but that’s hardly going to annoy a buyer at this end of the market. The 360-degree camera and parking assist functions come in handy around town – this is a big drop-top GT in the truest sense of the word.
The black leather trim in our test car feels sumptuous and softer than even the most expensive high-end cars, and our test car is enhanced with contrasting red stitching. There’s deep pike carpet, as is the go-to for Aston Martin, and the attention to detail in the fitment and the stitching is beautiful. Combined, the interior elements deliver a real feeling of quality and luxury.
The sports performance seats have plenty of electric adjustment – forget that there is a back seat at all – they are heated too, and some of the gloss interior finishes (which we often claim look out of place in ‘lesser’ vehicles) look right at home in the Aston’s cabin.
The driver’s instrument display is customisable, there’s dual-zone AC, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights for both high and low beam, DRLs, and LED tail-lights with dynamic indicators. A host of the features in our test car are optional, such as the colour of the leather, the contrast stitching, quilted embroidery and so on. They add to the price sure, but if you’re spending this much money, I daresay you’d want to personalise as much as possible.
Let’s not forget that superleggera is the Italian word for super light. And, while that term might be relative in modern motoring, you’d expect that some weight saving sorcery has gone on beneath the skin. In fact, some of that weight saving is the skin itself. Body panels formed from carbon-fibre are part of the equation, but so too is the general structure of the DBS itself, all designed to keep it as taut (but also as light) as possible. Bonded aluminium helps keep the dry weight below 1700kg, a staggering accomplishment for a vehicle of this size.
It’s an achingly beautiful convertible, especially for one so big, and it would have been easy for Aston to get it very wrong. Especially in the pursuit of high-speed stability and aerodynamic efficiency. The stylists didn’t get it wrong though; the proportions are perfect.
We loved the colour of our test model too, something different to the dark hues we’ve often had in the garage before, the burgundy/red contrasting beautifully with the black soft top and interior. Still, you can’t stare at a car of this performance potential all day. Driving is where the truest enjoyment comes, roof up or down.
Personally, I prefer a hard top at this end of the performance spectrum, however out on the road, the Aston’s broad rear, and muscular haunches arguably look even more spectacular when the top is down. The added benefit of course is the front-row seat for the symphony that takes place when you get right into it when the roof is down.
The 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 engine is sensational, riding the wave of power and thunderous torque peak all the way to redline, savagely accelerating into the realm of licence endangering territory. You’ll constantly be taming a beast that was designed for German autobahns, not our heavily policed highways, and you need to keep that in mind at all times. Still, the fact that you will know what your DBS is capable of will be enough for most buyers.
Next up, move the steering wheel mounted drive selector to Sport Plus…
The DBS pulls relentlessly from standstill, the noise climbing with the revs, making you wonder why all engines aren’t V12s. Absolutely sensational. The eight-speed ZF is smooth and almost docile around town, but missile fast and precise at speed, a beautiful balance between poise and performance. Coping with 900Nm isn’t easy, that’s for sure, but the ZF manages that with aplomb.
Sensational steering feedback and reassurance through the front end, means you can scythe through twisty roads with confidence, quickly forgetting how big the DBS actually is. There’s a deceptive elegance to the balance of the DBS, the way it subtly shifts front to rear, or side to side as you enter and exit corners. While it’s undoubtedly designed for munching long distances on the freeway with ease, it can moonlight as a corner carver. Impressively, the balance and handling stability hasn’t come at the cost of comfort.
Treat the throttle pedal without respect though, and you’ll torch the rear Pirelli P Zeros instantly. There really is that much power and torque on offer. The traction control light starts to flicker like an 1980s disco strobe, as the big Brit tries to compute its way out of lairy smoke shows.
Aston engineers have metered the torque delivery through the low gears in Sport Plus mode, attempting to overcome such lurid behaviour, but there’s only so much a computer can do. One thing is for sure, unbecoming of the high society buyer as it might be, it’s a hell of a lot of fun off public roads.
That Aston has delivered such a beautifully rounded, stunningly styled convertible is no surprise. That it has delivered a convertible with such composure, but also capable of unhinged madness might be the real kicker. The DBS Superleggera Volante is without doubt a special car, for a buyer that has made it and doesn’t need to prove anything. It seems beauty and brawn can co-exist in harmony.