In the final part of our supercar review series, LUX takes the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante for a test drive
What is a sports car? In an era of AI and soon-to-be self-driving cars, the idea of driving as a sport is an anachronism. Everything from power steering to radar-controlled cruise control mean the elements of activity and chance in driving are being eroded. If ‘sports’ is a measure of speed, the fact that even the most anodyne of fully electric cars can accelerate as fast as many traditional sports cars only adds to the question.
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One answer comes in the form of the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante. Volante in Aston terms means convertible, and while this car has many modern accoutrements as a price tag of several hundred thousand pounds/dollars/euros would suggest, it is very much old school in that it is aimed at the pleasure of the driver and passenger, and not as an implement.
The Superleggera is powered by a 715hp V12 twin-turbo engine, which means that it has to be a monster. It is a striking-looking car and the carbon-fibre finishing on the exterior adds to the air of menace and poise. Roof down around town, it attracts a lot of looks, of admiration rather than hostility. This is a cultured car, and it makes a cultured noise. Unlike almost any other car with this power, it is also pleasurable to drive around town. Give a car more than 700hp and the ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, and you often have something that is a bit of a pain to drive unless you are pressing on through an empty, fast road.
The Superleggera has a traditional automatic gearbox, rather than a F1-style manual gear shift (you shift gears with your hands on the paddles), meaning you can just stick it in D like a family school-run car and pootle around town quite happily. It rides firmly but doesn’t shake your brain out through your ears like some cars with extreme power specifications, and its medium-weighted steering makes it easy to manoeuvre. Roof down, you can see all parts of the car for parking – it’s a different story with the roof shut.
It’s the same with the accommodation. On a series of sunny summer days, we managed to cram four full-sized adults into the car for a two to three-hour journey each day. This is not what the car is made for: what you really want is to put the front seats back and drop your Bottega Veneta shopping bags in the rear. Still, when pressed, this supercar really can carry four adults, and some bags squashed in the boot.
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Conversely, the driver and front-seat passenger enjoy a wonderful experience. This is a car that can cruise at extremely illegal speeds, enjoyably and safely without too much breeze in the front. Some cars in this category excel at the racetrack, others are more aimed at high-speed comfort. The Aston is squarely in the middle, and actually succeeds in this difficult task rather well. Mashing the accelerator produces laugh-out-loud thrust all the way into those illegal speeds and beyond. Meanwhile it is a delight to steer through a series of fast, smooth bends.
It also means that it is not as exciting or capable on tight roads as a full-on supercar; the Aston is heavy and will lose composure if pushed through the gears on a bumpy, sharp corner. Nor is it a calm, quiet cruiser, and the cabin does not have the luxury finish of its competitors. More nicely finished air vents and a detail in front of the passenger (perhaps a Superleggera logo, as appears on the bonnet), along with some more exclusive-looking leather on the dashboard, would make all the difference in what is after all a low production-volume car.
Other elements, though, are unique: the bellowing thrust from the V12, the steering that is calm and talkative; and the feel-good factor of piloting a car that requires effort. It is great fun to drive, and has a feeling of cultured Britishness. It’s very much at one with the company’s history as a supplier of cars to James Bond.
In fact, we can’t think of a better car for James or Jane Bond to be driving down the Grande Corniche while chasing a master criminal in a Tesla that runs out of electricity. Before turning up for an evening of fun and frolic at the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat with his or her gender-neutral companion for the night. Expensive, but a perfect sports car for the times.
LUX Rating: 18.5/20
Find out more: astonmartin.com
This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue.