Combining killer performance with gorgeous good looks, the new DB11 V8 is the most complete Aston Martin in decades, says Thomas Falkiner
Oh wow, a new Aston Martin! Let me guess – it doesn’t drive anywhere near as well as it looks, right?
Wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that sports cars wearing the famed winged crest have long been high on show but disappointingly low on go. The DB9. The DBS. The Vantage. The Rapide. I’ve piloted them all and none were particularly impressive in the actual driving stakes.
Though they made you feel like a certain special agent when you parked outside the local coffee shop (and attracted a similar sort of attention), out on the open road they always seemed to disappoint. Especially if you’d recently been behind the wheel of anything made by Porsche or Ferrari. Fortunately, however, I am happy to report that this is no longer the case as the DB11 is light years better than any of its predecessors.
So you don’t find yourself yawning and reaching for your iPhone as soon as the road starts winding?
Definitely not. I threw this DB11 V8 down some pretty challenging back roads and at high speed and was amazed at how well it dispatched with them. It’s a communicative piece of driving equipment – much more so than the DB9 ever was – and consequently you feel nothing but confident in exploring the limit of adhesion. Which, courtesy of some sticky 20-inch Bridgestone Potenza tyres, turns out to be pretty damn high.
While the DB11 might not be the most svelte thing on four wheels, 1 760kg to be exact, it hides its mass well thanks to strangely light-footed reflexes and an eagerness to turn in towards the apex point that could embarrass cars less friendly with gravity. The ride is equally impressive too. A clever selective damping system allows you to morph it from cosseting highway cruiser to controlled country road bruiser with just a simple prod of button. Nice.
I see you drove the V8 – didn’t you miss those extra four cylinders?
Not at all. Though I might still be struggling with the concept of Germany powering Britain (it’s kind of like putting a Messerschmitt engine inside a Spitfire), the twin-turbocharged AMG-sourced V8 shoehorned into the DB11 is all the motor you’ll ever need. It sounds explosive when you’re driving in Sport Plus mode and delivers an insanely powerful pull from even low down in the rev range. Yeah, it makes for an impressively fast car.
It’s also 115kg lighter than the V12, which probably explains this machine’s finer cornering manners. Aston went and fused it to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, which swaps cogs with an impressive turn of speed. It’s not Porsche PDK fast but it’s not far off either. On the flipside the V8 also delivers surprisingly good fuel consumption. After more than 300km of brisk driving, the gauge was hovering just under the 12l/100km mark. Not why you buy an Aston but interesting.
How is the interior — still a nice place to be?
You bet, brother, you bet. The DB11 is, first and foremost, a Gran Turismo, and this is reflected in the way Aston Martin focused on driver comfort. Refinement is straight out of the top drawer – only a little road noise leaks through into the cabin at times – while the seats hit a perfect balance between support and suppleness. This is a machine you can happily spill into and drive for many hundreds of kilometres before even entertaining the thought of having to stop.
Now I could write a small essay about the car’s equipment level but for me the highlight was the new infotainment system. Although it might be borrowed from the Daimler group (the menu design screams Mercedes-Benz — as do the gauges in the instrument binnacle), it’s infinitely superior to the old system Aston Martin utilised in its cars of old. Jolly good job, chaps.
Well, if I must be picky then I’d say that the switchgear, particularly around the centre console, is less than ergonomic thanks to a sprawl of illogically arranged buttons. I also didn’t like the variance in interior surfaces much. Jumping from piano black plastic to leather to carbon fibre to aluminium, just seems unnecessarily fussy.
Gosh, talk about splitting hairs, Falkiner. Other than that are you impressed by the effort?
Indeed. I’m a big fan of the Aston Martin brand so it warms my heart to pilot something of theirs that can finally hold a blowtorch to the snouts of its rivals. Though maybe not as classically beautiful as the DB9 it replaces, the DB11 is a watershed car for the marque in terms of dynamics and drivability.
In other words you no longer have to feel like you’re compromising just for the prestige that goes along with brand. And, finally, I can tell you that the lighter, more nimble V8 model is definitely the model to have. The big V12 might have a little more power and torque on tap but, quite honestly, not enough to warrant the R350 000 premium. – Thomas Falkiner