The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is a British hero with punch

Even sitting stationary in traffic is enough to have the scenery shimmering as a heat rises from the blackened vents in the bonnet of the DBS Superleggera. Pop the front-hinged engine cover and you'll see it's thanks to the carbon fibre construction, one of various efforts to shave kilograms off what is a sizeable two-plus-two coupe.

It also exposes the familiar intricate carbon fibre weave also on show across various components of the latest V12 hero for the British brand. If the length and heft of the twin-turbo engine isn't seductive enough, beautiful details – including elegantly crafted metal components and a strut brace for strength arranged in a cross across the top – cement it as the heart of the car.

None of which is wildly out of the ordinary.

The DBS Superleggera was created with the bones of the DB11 but steps everything up, leaving the subtleties of the DB11 on the showroom floor. Left and right wheels are spaced further apart, courtesy of haunches that bulge further from the main body. A wider mouth, additional lumps on the bonnet and broader nostrils create a meaner, more determined look.

At the rear, the theme continues with four sizeable matte black exhausts and a subtle carbon fibre lip spoiler near the innovative Aeroblade, which reroutes wind rushing down the side of the car to create a stream of air out the rear, gently pushing the car groundward for high speed stability.

Deep side skirts and an F1-inspired diffuser complete the healthy sprinkling of brawn to complement the beauty the brand does so well. In tweaking and pumping the long-snouted body engineers have also shelved aluminium in favour of carbon fibre for components such as the bonnet, roof and boot. Hence the "Superleggera" part of the name, the Italian word for "super light".

Sliding into the cockpit reinforces this isn't your average supercar. Squared off edges on the sides of the steering wheel allow a better view of the beautiful metal paddles for shifting gears. And leather oozes from every fissure, the roof a masterpiece of thatches and stitches.

For anything that may not quite have the fizz, the marketing department steps up to save the day, such as the seatbelts available in various hues, including Spicy Red, Graphite, Champagne and Flint. Like the Superleggera moniker, it's reinforcement of how simple words can add to the charm.

There's the occasional hiccup. Some of the shiny black plastics around the centre console don't match the flair of the chopped carbon fibre and intricately woven leather elsewhere.

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And the touch slider control to adjust the volume for the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system may look suitably 007-esque, but it's devoid of functionality. Q would not approve.

Yet that's missing the point of the DBS Superleggera, a $517,000 grand tourer edging its focus more towards driving nous.

Reviving the Superleggera badge may be pushing the friendship for a car still heavier than your average four-door sedan.

But the 77kg shaved off the weight combined with more honed suspension that sits 5mm lower makes for a satisfyingly more athletic machine. Ample grip and a focused composure define a car that craves corners, but one that does so in a graceful, rewarding way.

The manner in which it deals with everyday lumps is also impressive, even when you dial up the more aggressive Sport+ damper setting. While it's got the pace and grace, the Superleggera is not a hardcore sports car at the expense of everyday comfort.

Of course, there's more power. The two turbos on the 5.2-litre V12 are huffing harder, swelling torque to a wholehearted 900Nm from way down at 1800rpm. Press the start button in the centre of the dash and there's a smooth, sophisticated noise, one that drops an octave once you select Sport mode. It's like a singer that's cleared his voice, dropping from tenor to baritone in time for a performance, the hoarse cracks and bangs a perfect occasional accompaniment.

So, the DBS Superleggera is a car with personality, one that rewards but occasionally requires you to work with it. At least you don't have to be at maximum attack to enjoy the thrills of a car that dials up the Aston Martin excitement in a measured yet thoroughly British way.

Price: $517,000

Engine: 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12

Power/Torque: 533kW/900Nm

Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive

0-100km/h: 3.4 seconds

Fuel use: 12.4L/100km