Last-of-the-line DBS paves way for DB11 replacement and sets tone for all next-generation Astons, so how does the future look?

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On an improvised test route through the Cotswolds, time and again up crops the sort of corner that illustrates how surprisingly evolved the new Aston Martin DBS 770 Ultimate is from the regular DBS.

Said corner lurks on snaking, quick, fairly narrow B-roads and is taken in second or third gear. It’s smooth on the inside but corrugated on the hedge-lined outside – especially on the exit, where you also find dust, mud or, just for fun, standing water. 

We've all taken this corner a million times, and it’s one the regular DBS would get through without much difficulty but also, it must be said, without much panache. On the way in, you would lack the confidence needed to fully run the car’s endless nose up against the edge of the road. Blame that hint of imprecision in the steering and general lack of transparency in the GT-flavoured chassis. Mid-corner, the most imperious Aston of the modern era would then take just a fraction too long to settle down and ready itself for the exit, during which the back axle would squat and bob chaotically as the V12 flared up, unapologetic while doling out all too generous slabs of its 664lb ft torque potential.  

The limited-edition DBS 770 Ultimate (there will be 300 coupés and 199 Volantes, although they are sold out) is different; so subtly but meaningfully that it feels a bit miraculous. It cuts into these tricky kinds of corners cleanly, settles almost immediately, then on the way out its revised chassis essentially pulls the wrinkles out of the road, inspiring you to get very greedy indeed with the throttle pedal. And it does all of this while in general riding more effortlessly and gently than the regular car everywhere you go.

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The nutshell is this: the DBS 770 Ultimate is what you would get if you plied Toyota’s GR86 with anabolic steroids and then packed it off to the same finishing school as the BMW M5 CS. All of which is to say that it’s mind-blowingly good.

How Aston went about delivering the 770 Ultimate is interesting, particularly for anyone who expected this last-of-the-line DBS to amount to some fancy wheels (and they are truly delicious, inspired by those of the one-off Victor) and more boost for the twin-turbocharged 5.2-litre V12.  Of course, power is absolutely part of the equation here. With 759bhp, the 770 Ultimate is 44bhp stronger than the regular DBS and the most powerful series-production Aston ever made.

Torque is the same, because ZF’s eight-speed automatic transmission can’t reliably take much more before it threatens to ingest itself, but that 664lb ft total is still enough to send the 1770kg 770 Ultimate to 62mph in 3.2sec. (Interestingly, while the homologated weights are the same, the 770 Ultimate is a little lighter than the regular DBS.) As for in-gear performance, it will easily leave you laughing out loud and passengers praying out loud. Top speed remains limited to 211mph.

Yet the 770 Ultimate isn’t really about 12-pot fireworks – or an artfully sculpted bonnet, or extraterrestrial-looking carbonfibre seats, both of which are inspired by last year’s V12 mega-Vantage. It’s about chassis. Because while on one hand this car is a collectible, alluring run-out special for the wonderful DBS, on the other hand it’s a dynamic manifesto for the incoming DB11 replacement, the ‘DB12’. A bellwether, if you like, and one encouraging enough to make you wonder whether the DB12 might not merely compete with the Ferrari Roma but actually better it. 

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None of the modifications are what you would call major, but there’s a swarm of smaller ones. The springs are carried over from the regular DBS but the damping has been retuned for closer control. So far, so obvious, but the brilliance of the 770 Ultimate is its improved pliancy in the context of its noticeably tighter vertical body movements. All brittleness seems to have been chased from the chassis. This is appreciable not only in the way the car glides silkily along juicy B-roads in total command of its considerable mass but also in the way it cushions sudden potholes at low speeds.

Such breadth is impressive and also a bit confounding. The root of it all is the car’s increased stiffness. A new crossbrace and a thickened crossmember beneath the engine have lifted front stiffness by a quarter, while ‘increased engineering’ of a sheer panel has improved matters at the back. The benefit is that damper performance immediately improves, even before you refine and perfect the rates. 

Aside from ride, the 770 Ultimate’s enhanced stiffness is most obvious during turn-in. With the regular DBS, there’s a faint call-and-response effect as you guide the steering wheel and then, after a delay, the nose starts to swing. It’s just a whisper of hesitation but it’s there – and it isn’t in this car. What has helped in this regard is that Aston has removed a rubber damper from the steering column. Yet here again, paradoxically, steering feel and accuracy have improved, but so seemingly has the DBS’s occasional habit of sending road shocks up the rack. Simon Newton, Aston’s head of vehicle engineering, reckons this is more to do with the revised damping, but whatever the reason, it feeds into the 770 Ultimate’s tactile and alert yet smooth and consistent manner. 

Where things gets clever – and where Aston has shown an uncanny level of awareness – is how this heightened control and pliancy in the chassis is blended into what the car’s almighty powertrain is doing.

No changes have been made to the mechanical limited-slip differential at the back, and it behaves as dependably as ever, but the throttle mapping and, as Newton puts it, “torque shaping” of the engine delivery have been carefully reconsidered. In gears one to four and only at below 4000rpm, the DBS now unfurls its mammoth torque in a way that avoids splurts of wheelspin when you don’t want them. This sounds contrived and even a little frustrating, but the reality is a 759bhp, 664lb ft super-GT that you can more easily bully and lay into and that still adopts slivers of oversteers with supreme ease. 

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What you don’t get, if the road is uneven or you ask for more torque than the 305-section rear Pirellis can cope with, is an immediate, flow-sapping rendezvous with the traction control system – or, if all the systems are off, an unexpected armful of opposite lock. Instead, you can properly exploit the V12 while enjoying the sweetest ride and handling compromise since the excellent V8 DB11 of 2018 (the first Aston Martin overseen by Matt Becker, son of Lotus legend Roger and now chief engineer at JLR). Where the GR86 comparison comes in is the 770 Ultimate’s adjustability and forgivingness. Like many great cars, it makes a hero of the driver.

There are other fine-tuning elements that were parsed into the DBS recipe during the 770 Ultimate’s 18-month gestation. The torque interruption during gearshifts is shorter yet transmission ‘double-bump’ has also been eradicated, so the car swaps cogs faster but now pulls out of T-junctions with seamless ease and none of the shunt that you sometimes get with the regular car. Anyone familiar with the DBS couldn’t fail to notice the easier drivability this brings, just as they would better enjoy the 770 Ultimate’s more concentrated, accurate steering and iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove gait, which is just as appreciable at 20mph as at 120mph. 

The 770 Ultimate is, perhaps, a touch louder than the regular DBS at a cruise, but it still embarrasses the 812 Superfast in terms of, you know, actual touring ability. In truth, the Ferrari looks like an Aston rival but really is a hardcore supercar that happens to put its engine up front.

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So what we have here is probably the finest Aston of the modern era. One that’s not much less usable than, say, the Porsche 911 Turbo, yet has a sense of occasion any Ferrari or Bentley would be proud to have and is so dynamically proficient that you could happily hammer one a thousand motorway miles then have your jaw dropped on a tatty country road at the other end. 

The 770 Ultimate’s breadth really is something. As Newton puts it: “We don’t just want to put big engines in cars and make hot rods.” Quite an understatement. And quite a car. 

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Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017 and like all road testers is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests and performance benchmarking, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found presenting on Autocar's YouTube channel.

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat.