EDGAR takes the new Aston Martin DB11 for a spin

We spent two with the 600bhp grand tourer, to see if next generation technology can combine with traditional craftsmanship.

Steve Chalmers May 23, 2017

Aston Martin’s history is unmatched in the automotive world. Varied and somewhat unsettled, the quintessential British manufacturer has passed through many owners, resulting in the iconic-but-discreet grand tourers that have caught the imagination of schoolboys, royal families and secret agents across the globe. However, discreet does not necessarily push a company forward and it’s certainly not a word in the vocabulary of Aston Martin’s CEO Dr Andy Palmer.

Since his arrival from Nissan in 2014, Andy (no Dr Palmer here; he’s the most approachable CEO we’ve ever met) has brought in a radical way of forward thinking, thrusting the Aston Martin brand into the psyche of today’s petrol heads. With annual model launches, a new special build (such as the Vulcan and Valkyrie) to be released every nine months, plus the bespoke ‘Q’ division and the racing-derived AMR section; Aston Martin has become a global automotive powerhouse, relentless in its advance. 

This colossal wealth of technology, racing, research and design has filtered down to the production Astons and in particular, the new DB11 – the first car in the manufacturer’s ‘Second Century Plan’. The upcoming Vanquish, Vantage and DBX (SUV) are to be based on the DB11 chassis and because of this, the new Aston has received considerable R&D investment, the fruits of which are showing themselves today, as we head out of Aston Martin’s main gate and onto the Fosse Way, which, for a Roman Road, isn’t as straight as you’d think.

With a couple of miles under our belt, first impressions are that space and build quality are better than the outgoing DB9, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as its underpinnings are now almost thirteen years old.

The DB11 feels considerably larger than the DB9, both from the driver’s seat and also peering out over that huge clamshell bonnet (the largest pressed aluminum hood in the business). Headroom is not an issue and your knees and elbows have a similar ‘free range’ feel; it’s a relaxed space, which echoes AM’s racing ethos of making its race cars easier to drive, as they can be driven faster.

Sitting behind the squared-off steering wheel, you soon realise there’s only a few appurtenances that you need: the ‘D’ drive button located in the centre console, the paddle shifts at your fingertips and the ‘S’ switch on the steering wheel. Over two days with the DB11, we didn’t play, touch, or fiddle with anything else. 

Ask us how to drop the bass on the Bang & Olufsen audio system, or how to turn the air-conditioning up and we wouldn’t have a clue – the DB11 is a driver’s car and anything that isn’t part of the driving process simply doesn’t matter.

Engaging the D button puts the big Aston in drive. This can be overridden by flipping the flappy pedals when you really need to hustle, and pressing D returns you to the DB11’s equivalent of normal. Rolling through the long, fast sweepers of the Fosse Way, the DB11 is in its element. It’s a Monday afternoon, with little traffic, so the miles are eaten up by the 5.2-litre, 48-valve, twin turbo V12. It’s a magnificent engine, and despite the sound deadening qualities of the turbos, all 600bhp rumbles somewhat menacingly from the twin tailpipes, which is the way it should be in a supercar.

Standard procedure for entering the 42kmh of quaint English country villages is to lower the windows and listen to the deep rumble. It’s not anti-social and, being Aston Martin, the locals nod and wave as if you’re a valued friend – this wouldn’t happen in any other machine other than an Aston Martin.

The S button on the steering wheel switches between GT, Sport and the Sport Plus mode, which is our setting of choice for most of our test drive. Here, the throttle and eight-speed transmission work in angry harmony, keeping you bang on the V12’s power curve. The 0-100kmh benchmark is dispatched in 3.9 seconds and tops out at 322kmh.

Specs:

  • Engine: 5.2 litre V12
  • Power: 600bhp @ 6,500rpm
  • Torque: 700Nm @ 1,500-5,000rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed auto
  • 0-100 kmh: 3.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 322kmh
  • Price: AED 985,000

Perhaps most telling of the V12’s character is the fact that we travelled half way down the M40 in fifth gear (out of 8), on purpose. Here, at around 3,600rpm there is a distinct mechanical howl that only comes from a thoroughbred engine. It is the aural equivalent of sugar: sweet, tasty and highly addictive. Also rather tasty is the DB11’s styling. Designed by Marek Reichman, AM’s Chief Creative Officer, the GT is lithe but graceful, aggressive but seductive and boasts a number of technical innovations. Visually, the DB11 is far more disruptive than its smooth predecessor. 

Immediately noticeable are the Curlicue strakes in the front wings, which alleviate the build up of high-pressure in the wheel arch. Another ‘wing’ can be found, but not seen at the rear boot lid. Here you would normally find some sort of spoiler to aid downforce, but instead we find Aston’s Aeroblade, a system that channels high-pressure air from C-pillar ducts through the boot lid, and then exits vertically through the boot lid, pushing the rear down onto the tarmac. Simple, but effective, it sums up the new DB11: a perfect mixture of high-tech innovations, combined with a hand built soul. It is the best grand tourer Aston Martin has ever built.

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