The U.K. is turning out some cracking good whips. Here’s how two of the very finest stack up.
Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Aston Martin is back. The century-old company has had seven bankruptcies but is now on solid financial footing and cranking out brilliant cars at breakneck pace.
The company is doing so well it’s planning an IPO on the London Stock Exchange before the year’s end. Initial estimates value the company at around £5 billion.
In other words, it’s a good time for Aston to launch a new flagship sports car. Under the hood of the new DBS Superleggera is a homegrown 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 engine. It’s the same mill you’ll find in the new DB11, but for the range-topping DBS the motor has been upgraded to produce 715 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. It takes just 3.4 seconds to reach 100 km/h.
German carmakers have been dominant lately, but the Brits chose to launch the DBS in Berchtesgaden — the mountain hideaway of Adolf Hitler — as if to remind everyone who won the war.
The Superleggera (super-light) bodywork is mostly carbon fibre. The shape was honed for high downforce and low drag. On the road it looks aggressive — hungry for speed.
To drive, it’s a monster. All of the motor’s torque is on tap from 1,800 rpm. It feels a bit like riding Thor’s hammer down the road. At full throttle, you just sort of hang on and watch in wide-eyed awe. You are in the presence of god-like power, put through two tortured rear wheels. This is a car that demands respect from its driver.
The suspension is compliant, but handling improves significantly if you press a little button on the steering wheel to put the chassis into Sport mode. The steering gains weight and feel. It’s not the sharpest dynamic tool in Aston’s shed — that honour goes to the smaller Vantage V8. The DBS is a brute dressed in a nice suit. It has Ferrari’s brilliant 812 squarely in its sights, and from our first impressions, Aston is right on target.
The DBP Superleggera is the product of a company at the height of its powers, flexing its newfound muscle. It’s a sight to behold.
Bentley Continental GT
Grand Touring is a tradition that dates back to the 18th century. Long before cars were invented, rich young noblemen — and it was mostly men in the beginning — would borrow their parents’ horse and carriage to see Europe. The idea was to become worldly: read Dante, see the work of great Italian sculptors, and dabble in French poetry, Spanish wine, Belgian beer, and Dutch women. It was an early form of the gap year — proto-backpacking for little Earls and Dukes and Barons.
Bentley’s all-new Continental GT is a significant upgrade on the horse and carriage, but the idea behind it is the same. It’s a Grand Tourer — a car in which you can see the world, crossing mountains and continents. It’s a home away from home.
The old Continental shared much of its componentry with cars from Volkswagen — Bentley’s corporate parent — but the new one does not. Parts were instead co-developed with Porsche.
Bentley’s designers and engineers clearly had much more freedom this time around, and the result is that the 2019 Continental GT looks and feels not just like a true Bentley, but like a great Bentley. It’s our favourite car to wear the flying B since the Mulsanne arrived in 2010.
To put it to the test, we drove it over our favourite alpine pass, the Grossglocker. It was predictably sublime — cossetting and keen in equal measure. The sumptuous but pared-back interior is Bentley at its tasteful best. The $11,000 Naim stereo has an addictive, groovy quality that keeps the journey entertaining even on long stretches of highway.
We like that there’s no need to fiddle with suspension settings and driving modes; “Bentley” mode is designed to be optimal for all grand-touring situations. You just get in and go.
We also like how the central touchscreen rotates to disappear behind a wooden panel that lines up perfectly with the rest of the dashboard veneer. There’s a devilishly complex mechanism at work to accomplish that, but it makes the interior a very tranquil place.
It’s time, then, to dust off that copy of The Odyssey and hit the road. You’re never too old to take a gap year.