Former Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer memorably described the DBS Superleggera as “a brute in a suit.” Five years on, this smartly dressed supercar is getting ready to retire, although not before flexing its muscles, bursting a few shirt buttons, and tearing off its tie. Meet the DBS 770 Ultimate.
The Valkyrie might be, strictly speaking, the ultimate Aston Martin, but the DBS (the “Superleggera” suffix was dropped in 2021) is the purest distillation of the British brand’s DNA. Effectively a DB11 on steroids, it inhabits that rarefied space somewhere between a Bentley Continental GT Speed and a Ferrari 812 Superfast.
The 770 Ultimate is an “emphatic last word” for the DBS—and perhaps for Aston Martin’s 12-cylinder engine: also shoehorned into last year’s limited-edition V-12 Vantage. Only 499 examples of the Ultimate will be made, split between 300 coupes and 199 Volante convertibles, and the order book is already closed. “Even this press car has been sold,” I’m told as I collect the keys. Better be careful, then . . .
Thankfully, it’s a dry and mild day in the Cotswolds and the DBS knows these meandering, poorly surfaced roads very well. They’re close to Aston Martin’s Gaydon headquarters and used by its engineers to hone ride and handling dynamics. “If we can make a car work here, it will work anywhere,” says Simon Newton, Aston Martin’s head of vehicle integration.
The regular DBS serves up 725 hp from a 5.2-liter twin-turbo V-12. Here, that figure swells to 770 hp—achieved via increasing airflow and boost pressure—plus the same 663 ft lbs of torque as the base model. Performance? Yep, there is plenty of that. Try zero to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds (3.4 seconds for the Volante) and a top speed of 211 mph.
Newton and his team have upgraded the chassis to suit, with recalibrated adaptive dampers, a stronger front crossmember (improving lateral stiffness by 25 percent), and a reinforced undertray. And the steering column is now solidly mounted for a greater sense of connection.
This brute’s suit may be a little sportier, but design chief Marek Reichman has wisely resisted the urge to bolt on a giant rear wing à la V-12 Vantage. For all its hypercar-baiting output, the DBS 770 Ultimate is still an iron fist in a velvet glove. Reichman sums it up as “something so raw, and yet so beautiful it’s almost intimidating to look at”.
Visually, the car’s most striking features are its “horseshoe” hood vent and stunning 21-inch alloy wheels—the latter inspired by the Valkyrie and one-off Aston Martin Victor. Look closer and you’ll spot the new front splitter, carbon-fiber side skirts, and jutting rear diffuser. Inside, there’s a laser-etched “DBS 770 Ultimate” badge on the center armrest, along with unique “One of 300” (or “One of 199”) plaques on each sill.
I drop down into the Sports Plus seat, a sculpted carbon-fiber recliner that is more accommodating than it looks. It’s certainly more comfortable than contorting yourself into the rear seats, although that extra space makes the DBS usefully more practical than the supercar norm. And you could always ask coachbuilder Zagato to craft a Shooting Brake version.
Although the exterior of the DBS hasn’t dated a day, the interior’s wrinkles have started to show. The quality isn’t in the same league as, say, a Bentley Continental GT, and the squared-off steering wheel obscures the dials if you’re on the shorter side. Also, the touchpad controls aren’t very tactile and this particular iteration of Mercedes-Benz media system—which was outmoded even in 2018 – looks blockier than a Tetris tournament. If your daily-driver is a Tesla, this will seem like switching from broadband to dial-up.
However, all that pales into unimportance when you prod the start button and feel the V-12 burst vigorously into life. And this really is an engine you feel, as well as hear. It throbs like a muscle car at idle, tingling your fingertips and reverberating through your ribcage. Auto journalists love to eulogize about operatic, naturally aspirated V-12s, but this turbocharged motor has a hard-rock soundtrack to rival the best of them.
My first half-hour is spent pottering through tranquil Cotswold villages, trapped behind dawdling tourists but enjoying the Aston Martin’s supple ride and easygoing docility—along with the many approving looks—though feeling ever more like a caged animal. Then the tractor I’ve been following turns off, the road unfurls, and the traffic magically melts away. I won’t need any more encouragement.
I click the eight-speed ZF ‘box down to second gear and bury the throttle. The DBS reacts with startling intensity, piling on speed with the exponential force of an avalanche. As the hedgerows become a blur, the snarl of the engine hardens to a blood-and-thunder roar. It’s so violent and visceral, so ridiculously bombastic, that I find myself laughing out loud. Truly, we will miss these engines when they’re gone.
Interestingly, I’d jumped into the DBS straight after driving a McLaren Artura. On paper, these two British supercars seem like polar opposites—one an old-school V-12 bruiser, the other a modern V-6 plug-in hybrid—yet on this challenging home turf, which ranges from arrow-straight Roman roads to tightly wound single-track lanes, the Aston didn’t find itself outclassed.
Indeed, the car feels athletic and reassuringly planted, helped by near-perfect 51:49 weight distribution. It can’t match the absolute agility of the mid-engined McLaren, of course, but you can apply the power sooner and more forcefully than in a stock DBS, trusting in the Ultimate’s lucid steering, mechanical limited-slip differential, and wide Pirelli P Zero tires.
Like a certain James Bond (you didn’t honestly think we’d get through an Aston Martin review without name-checking 007, did you?), the DBS 770 Ultimate has a broad breadth of talents. It’s a suave English gentleman one minute, a bare-knuckle boxer the next, with a force of character that easily overwhelms its faults. No Time to Die? Sadly, the DBS must do so soon, but what a way to go out.
Ready to start summer in high gear? There’s still time to join Robb Report’s 2023 California Coastal Rally, June 4 through 8. For more information, or to register, visit here.
Click here for more photos of the Aston Martin DBS 770 Ultimate