Today's super-GT inherits a legacy forged and refined over a century of sports car making, through front-engined, rear-wheel-drive legends such as the pre-war Alfa Romeo 8C and the likes of the Jaguar E-Type, Aston Martin DB4, Ferrari 250 and Mercedes-Benz 300 SL ‘Gullwing’. No other part of the performance car market has better pedigree.
These are cars intended for the idyllic, high-speed continent-crossing missions of your waking dreams.
They’re ‘have your cake and eat it’ cars, with excellent touring manners and plenty of space for your luggage, often with a couple of occasional back seats included.
But the very best combine all that with absolutely first-order speed, power, handling poise and driver engagement, or, alternatively, limousine-like luxury, as you prefer.
If there’s one marque you’d expect to get the execution of a luxurious, powerful and beautiful super-GT bang on the money, it’s Aston Martin. And with the latest DBS Superleggera, that’s exactly what the iconic British brand has done.
This new flagship model (at least until the Valkyrie hypercar arrives) was one of a small handful of cars to be awarded the full five-star rating by our road test team in 2018. It’s an impressively well-rounded car, this one. The 715bhp and 664lb ft developed by its 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12 allows the DBS to cover ground with alarming and gathering urgency, and yet even with all that performance punch, the big Aston never feels intimidating, nervous or highly strung - something that can’t be said of the Ferrari 812 Superfast. Superb handling and a ride that’s taut but still usefully supple add to its outstanding grand touring credentials.
There are a few (minor) flies in its ointment, though. It’s not exactly lightweight (despite what the Superleggera name might lead you to believe) and the eight-speed gearbox can be a bit aggressive at low speeds. The cabin is also a mite too similar to that of the considerably cheaper DB11 to effortlessly distinguish this quarter-million-pound sporting flagship as well as it might.
Even so, this is a phenomenal car, available in both coupé and Volante-badged convertible forms, that represents a welcome return to form for a much-loved British car maker.
That Aston Martin has laid claim to the top two spots on this list is a testament to the success of Messrs Palmer (now former CEO) and Co in turning the fabled British car maker from a slightly old-fashioned brand into a genuine force in exotic car making, at least from the perspective from the driver's seat.
Think of the AMR as a DB11 2.0. Nearly three years after the original DB11 V12 was launched in 2016, it has been retired and replaced by the model you see here. Power from the twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12 is up 30bhp over the old model to 630bhp, while stiffer suspension bushes and retuned dampers mean it now handles even more sweetly than before. Outright traction has also been improved. Although the car's ride is understandably firm, there’s enough composure on offer to ensure it remains a comfortable, effortless GT.