A true GT is about idealism and opportunity, embodying the lingering dream of the next journey, a symbol of limitless potential. Aston Martin’s DBS Superleggera expresses these characteristics more than most. As the marque’s flagship, it excels in terms of both power and dynamics: when the car stands idle before you, thoughts quickly turn to where you’re going next. 

Fulfilling this level of wanderlust isn’t always easy in the modern world; time has become an even more precious commodity than a super-luxury GT. Any opportunity to stretch the Superleggera’s legs is one to be savoured. 

Tour de force: Discovering Cornwall in the DBS Superleggera

Inching through narrow lanes caused the car’s proximity sensors to chime incessantly

The lingering dream of the next journey, a symbol of limitless potential. Aston Martin’s DBS Superleggera expresses these characteristics more than most. As the marque’s flagship, it excels in terms of both power and dynamics: when the car stands idle before you, thoughts quickly turn to where you’re going next. 

Fulfilling this level of wanderlust isn’t always easy in the modern world; time has become an even more precious commodity than a super-luxury GT. Any opportunity to stretch the Superleggera’s legs is one to be savoured. 

The DBS is not a car to be taken lightly, despite its name, and the first leg into central London is an exercise in re-familiarisation. That means marvelling at the throttle response, being bewitched by the steering and savouring the impressive ride — as well as acknowledging the inevitable nods and waves that this combination of car, colour and esteemed number plate generate on the cross-capital trip.  

 

 

Tour de force: Discovering Cornwall in the DBS Superleggera

Reaching Porthleven’s stone quay proved a challenge, but provided a perfect backdrop to photograph the DBS Superleggera

From here, we point the DBS’s sculpted nose south-west and join the fluid metal river of an early evening British motorway. We power along beneath a darkening sky, cocooned in the Superleggera’s beautifully trimmed cabin, with the 5.2-litre V12 barely ticking over at a decent cruising speed and the road surface filtered into a velvety ride. Aston Martin describes its flagship as a “Super GT” and it is down to us, the pilots, to find a suitably super itinerary with which to do it justice. We’re heading far to the edges of the country, a route that takes us down the M3 to the A303, an evocative stretch of single and dual carriageway best known for passing the ancient stone circle at Stonehenge. There has been a road here for thousands of years and the landscape — in daylight — is still timeless, with rolling green hills under big skies, punctuated by stands of ancient trees and hedgerows. In the early 19th century, the express London-to-Exeter coach would have taken around 14 hours to make the journey from Piccadilly, a trip that involved up to 20 changes of horses. We have 715 horsepower at our disposal, but they’re barely breaking a sweat as we cross Berkshire, Wiltshire and Somerset on the way to Devon, where we’ll skirt Exeter and pass north of Dartmoor, across Bodmin Moor, heading for our first waypoint, just outside Padstow in Cornwall. 

Tour de force: Discovering Cornwall in the DBS Superleggera

The DBS Superleggera driving through Newlyn Harbour

The fast roads out of London are a place to re-familiarise myself with the DBS. Any worries about the shift from my last experience of the car — smooth Austrian alpine roads versus cold British tarmac — is ameliorated by the useful addition of winter tyres. The Superleggera is a sure-footed machine in all conditions, but a British January is a climatic cocktail of uncertainty (something that’s also troubling the photographer). 

Three hundred miles pass quickly and comfortably — not for nothing is this considered the ultimate grand tourer. Travelling great distances across 21st-century roads veers between the prosaic and the spectacular, just as it almost certainly was many centuries before. The modern grand tour, on the other hand, isn’t a chore or a duty. Instead, it is a rarefied indulgence; the luxury of time spliced with a willingness to accept improvisation and enhanced by an eye for detail. 

This is a journey into the light — getting up with the sun and chasing the scant patches of brilliance as the winter winds whip the sky into constant upheaval

The weather has turned ferocious in honour of our arrival, and the thick blanket of rain makes our first stop all the more welcome. The Cornish Arms is one of chef Rick Stein’s portfolio of local eateries, with fish an ever-popular speciality. Out of season, we have the place to ourselves. Stein’s domination of the local culinary scene shows no sign of diminishing and even formerly obscure local pubs now have a high wattage gastronomic light shone upon them.  

Tour de force: Discovering Cornwall in the DBS Superleggera

The DBS Superleggera leaving Watergate Bay

In many respects, this is a also journey into the light, requiring we rise with the sun and chase scant patches of brilliance as the winter winds whip the sky into constant upheaval. We start the next day early with a trip to Trevose Head Lighthouse at St Merryn. The structure dates back to 1847, overlooking the busy Bristol Channel. It’s a good start, but a cold one — great waves can be seen crashing against both sides of the peninsula from our elevated vantage point — and the DBS’s heated seats have never felt more welcome. Our route is unplanned and all the better for that, but the general idea is to hug the sea, scouting out the best locations as we head further and further south west towards Land’s End. 

These roads are notoriously busy in the summer season, but at this time of year there’s space to breathe. The DBS Superleggera is easy to place and effortlessly nimble, even in the relative calm of GT mode. Advancing the steering wheel button to Sport sparks an awakening and the heightened exhaust note mirrors the urgency of the re-mapped throttle and gearbox. Sport+? Well, suffice to say we gave it a go, but the neck-snapping acceleration and lightning fast paddle changes demand plenty of space and guaranteed traction, neither of which are readily available on public roads like these.

Tour de force: Discovering Cornwall in the DBS Superleggera

On the runway at Perranporth Airfield, once home to Spitfire squadrons

Still, we enjoy the sound. The shifts in gradient open up panoramic views as the big carbon fibre bonnet dips down the hill towards Watergate Bay, en route to Newquay. Here you’ll find Jamie Oliver’s pioneering Fifteen Cornwall Restaurant, nestled into the fold of the creek. Avoiding Newquay and the shoal of hardy surfers making the most of the swell takes us along the St Agnes Heritage Coast. Here we stop to take in Perranporth Airfield, the well-preserved remains of a Second World War Spitfire base that’s now a flying club and driving school, set high up on the cliffs. A bit further on is another surfing hangout, Chapel Porth beach, with impressive waves and a similarly choppy car park surface that tested the DBS’s ground clearance. It was a whistle-stop tour, circumnavigating Penzance, taking in the beautiful beach at Sennen, St Michael’s Mount — that icon of the south coast — another remote lighthouse at Pendeen and the busy fishing port of Newlyn.  

Tour de force: Discovering Cornwall in the DBS Superleggera

Driving the remote road by Pendeen Lighthouse

Cornwall might be shut down for the season, but there is much to be done for those that live here, even in the depths of January. It’s easy to overlook the county’s industrial side, given its long-standing reputation as a holiday destination. There has been large-scale industry here for centuries and tin mining for considerably longer. In the 19th century, Cornwall’s mines were the world’s primary source of tin, with vast areas given over to the practice, as well as the use of pioneering mechanisation. Ruined mines are still a defining feature of the modern landscape. Some speculate that mining may yet return; fishing, however, remains vital. 

Newlyn is one of the UK’s largest fishing ports. The DBS Superleggera probably can’t compete with a modern trawler for power output, but it won many admiring glances as the exhaust boomed off the town’s wharves and warehouses. Positioning this impressive beast of a machine in a variety of suitably picturesque backdrops was often a challenge, whether inching down the stone quay at Porthleven or squeezing through the narrow streets of St Ives. Occasionally, a promisingly winding country lane would turn to rutted track, liberally sprinkled by great clods of earth shed by passing tractors. The car’s proximity sensors would chime incessantly and those voluptuous haunches had to be inched past high stone walls and thick hedges of twigs and brambles. Roll on the DBX? 

Tour de force: Discovering Cornwall in the DBS Superleggera

St Michael’s Mount, ancient icon of the south coast, with the iconic DBS Superleggera in the foreground

But then the road would open up. Many of the coastal routes are set at high level, perched above craggy shores with the roiling sea in the background; Cornwall does good landscape. Roads like the B3306 from Zennor offer moorland, cliffs, plunging curves and distant views. Here you’ll find the acclaimed Gurnard’s Head, a golden-walled gastro pub that offers a cosy respite from the wind and time to reflect on the past few hundred miles of super GT motoring. However brief our trip, this far-flung corner of England offered the perfect place to enjoy the DBS Superleggera to its fullest. This is a sports car of true character, a machine that swathes its tremendous reserves of power with unparalleled refinement and grace. All that remained was to head back east, the freshly laid A30 providing a smooth stage for an enjoyable final demonstration of dynamic brilliance. A super GT is the key to getting away from it all. 

With thanks to Sarah and Nathan Hayes at Poldark Cottage, Heston

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