While pundits will say we’ve been getting much of the same – variations on a theme, if you will, from Aston Martin for the last decade – this DB11 marks a new era for the company.
As Aston CEO Andy Palmer is wont to say as of late, the DB11 is the first new car under the company’s Second Century plan. And, if I’m honest, this car fits that notion to a T. Simply put, the DB11 is light years ahead of anything in the current lineup.
It takes everything good about Aston Martins – design, craftsmanship, performance – and dials it up to eleven. Yes, I just wrote that, but it’s true. If DB9 were the jumping off point, then yes, this DB has jumped ahead two full stops.
It’s much more than I expected and only a sports car maker like Aston Martin could pull off the kind of clever engineering found throughout the DB11.
The DB11 is intended to be a gentleman’s grand tourer and as such, any aerodynamic treatments are subtle, at least visually. What they lack in a brash appearance, they make up for in their clever design.
Here under the hood, you’ll find vents in the wheel wells that force the high pressure air to vent out the fenders’ side strakes. What’s brilliant is that they’ve taken a classic Aston Martin design cue and made it perfectly functional.
To add rear downforce, there is no tacked on wing or pronounced lip on the trunk lid. No, instead the DB11 uses a virtual spoiler system called Aeroblade. Air is ducted in through an opening in front of the C pillar, through the trunk lid and exits just before the rear of the car. This disruptive airflow reduces lift and at higher speeds a discrete, active spoiler deploys and acts like a Gurney flap. I love seeing racing tricks being used cleverly on production cars.
And it feels much faster than the numbers suggest. Still made in Cologne like all Aston Martin engines, this all new 5.2 litre, 48 valve, twin turbo V12 produces a formidable 600 horsepower and a wall of torque – 516 pounds feet. Yes, the torque curve resembles a wall. Peak torque arrives at a very low 1,500 rpm and carries through to 5,000 rpm. That gives the DB11 a tremendous amount of real world flexibility.
It’s a thoroughly modern engine with cylinder deactivation where each bank of the V12 can be deactivated for emissions and fuel consumption purposes completely imperceptibly to the driver. But we don’t care about that, do we? Not really.
How fast is it? Faster than what Aston is saying, that’s for sure. In official literature, the company says it’ll do zero to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, but my finely tuned seat-of-the-pants dyno suggests it’s faster than that. On the move, it’s fast enough to command your attention, even when giving it just half throttle.
The transmission is the excellent ZF eight speed automatic transaxle with a limited slip differential. It still features skip shifting and rev matched downshifts, but now includes torque vectoring that works noticeably well.
Aston Martin says this is an all new platform, moving away from their flexible VH platform, and while it still uses aluminum extrusions, there are fewer of them. Overall the chassis is 39 kilos lighter and 15% stiffer than DB9. There is significantly more interior volume, but the from the driver’s seat, it feels exactly like an Aston Martin. If you’re familiar with the feeling of a DB9, Rapide, or even a Vanquish, you’ll feel right at home here.
Underneath this DB11, the suspension is wonderfully calibrated, as I’ve mentioned, and they’ve done that by way of the latest Bilstein three stage dampers that have a wider damping range than before. And, wow, they work brilliantly. The three damping settings are distinct and overall the platform is tuned for comfort. The ride remains compliant even with the dampers in the stiffest setting. Damper settings can be either set with or decoupled from the DB11’s three drive modes – GT, sport and sport plus.
The rigid chassis also sets up the DB11 with excellent steering. As direct and precise as ever – from the driver’s seat, it’s unmistakably an Aston Martin you’re piloting – the system is now electrically assisted. You won’t miss the outgoing hydraulic system, plus Aston has added some park assist tech from Daimler and your DB11 is capable of parallel parking itself. Wonderful tech for this writer because, as we all know, racing driver’s can’t park.
Braking powerful and feel and control are excellent…past the first bit of initial brake pedal travel. Since this is a preproduction car and production starts in nearly three months from now, I’m not making any final pronouncements on the brakes because every single Aston Martin I’ve ever driven has had an excellent brake pedal. Plus, auto writers like me have been driving this car for the last two weeks straight…
Cast your eyes upon this interior. It takes the Aston Martin interior to a new level. Look beyond the stunning brogueing for a moment and you’ll see details that belong on a show car.
Careful eyes will notice a start button in place of the old crystal key, which I will miss because it’s so cool. There are also components in here that are familiar to Mercedes-Benz drivers, like the infotainment controller and turn signal stalk, but that also means that this interior is thoroughly modern. Both the customizable instrument cluster and infotainment screens are TFTs for easy readability.
The rear seats are more usable than before and Aston Martin suggests they’re even fitting for small humans. It looks possible and while I threatened to put the company’s communications manager in back to prove it, we didn’t have the time sadly.
Priced squarely among some interesting competition – the Lamborghini Huracan 580-2, McLaren 570S, and Porsche 911 Turbo S come to mind – the DB11 is distinctly the modern gentleman’s grand tourer. Performance, design and its gorgeous interior make this all new Aston stand out from the competition – and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the DB11 finds space in many a gentlewoman’s garage, as well.
2017 Aston Martin DB11
Base Price: $254,195 CAD, deliveries begin before the end of 2016
As Tested: $254,195 plus a little more
Notable Options: Brogue detailing, 1000-watt Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system, under bonnet jewellery pack
Drivetrain: 5.2-litre, twin turbocharged V12, 600 hp @ 6,500 RPM, 516 lb-ft @ 1,500 – 5,000, 8-speed automatic transaxle, limited slip differential with active torque vectoring, rear wheel drive.
Performance: Zero to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds. Top speed of 322 km/h.
VVUZZ Recommended: Without reservation. If you’re looking for the ultra modern grand tourer, this Aston Martin DB11 is it.
Images courtesy of the author and Aston Martin.