We’ve been up close and personal with the design and engineering concepts at Aston Martin HQ. We’ve driven early chassis development prototypes on the Bridgestone test track. Now it’s time to find out whether the 2017 Aston Martin DB11 delivers where it counts the most: on the road.
It’s no exaggeration to say the DB11 is the most important new car in Aston Martin’s history. The first of seven new Astons to be rolled out over the next seven years, the DB11 debuts the essential building blocks of an ambitious plan to make Britain’s storied sports car maker a genuine Ferrari and Bentley rival: a new twin-turbo V-12 engine, a new aluminum-intensive vehicle architecture, and state-of-the-art electronic hardware.
It’s the latter that makes a positive first impression the moment you slide in behind the wheel of the DB11. Like a down-at-heel English aristocrat artfully papering over the cracks in his crumbling stately home, Aston Martin has always managed to look wealthier than it actually is. Faults were forgiven as eccentricities, passed off as part of the charm of owning a hand-built British sports car. But in an era when even stately homes have Wi-Fi, the shortcomings of Aston’s antiquated electrical architecture had become painfully obvious. Exhibit A: the Rube Goldberg nav system in the outgoing DB9.
There’s leather everywhere inside, of course, but old-school techniques of stitching, quilting, perforation, and broguing (just like the shoes) have been used by Marek Reichman’s design team in a modern manner to give the DB11 interior an intriguing and uniquely upscale ambience. Along with 35 standard exterior colors, there are 28 standard leather colors (and three types of leather), and six standard trim finishes include a choice of open-pore woods, piano black, and two styles of carbon fiber. For those DB11 buyers overwhelmed by the possibilities, Aston offers six ready-to-go “Designer Specification” color and trim combinations.
“We wanted the vertical motions to be more relaxed,” Aston’s vehicle attribute engineering chief, Matt Becker, says, “but we didn’t want a lazy car.” Lateral stiffness has therefore been increased by 60 percent at the front axle and 20 percent at the rear, courtesy of new, stiffer knuckles, bushes, and bearings, so even in the softest damper setting, GT, the DB11 changes direction with commendable precision and control, though Becker’s team are working on final tuning tweaks to tame a slightly floaty sensation from the rear axle over large bumps at highway speeds.
Overall, there’s an oily predictability to the DB11’s chassis that feels just right for a GT car. Sportier Astons—notably the next-gen Vanquish and Vantage—will feel sharper and edgier, Becker says.
We loved our first taste of the 600-hp, 5.2-liter V-12 on the track during our DB11 prototype drive a few months back. And we’re pleased to report it’s no less impressive out on the road, delivering a surge of thrust all the way to its 6,500-rpm power peak and 7,000-rpm redline. Those numbers betray the presence of the turbochargers mounted low at each side of the block. (The naturally aspirated, 6.3-liter V-12 in Ferrari’s new GTC4Lusso makes its 680 hp at a dizzying 8,000 rpm and revs to 8,250 rpm.)
Tiny, independent Aston Martin has often teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, often conjuring charismatic GT cars almost out of thin air for less money than Toyota would spend on a Corolla face-lift. It still works with budgets that would almost be rounding errors at a big automaker, but there are no cracks to paper over with the DB11, no eccentricities to excuse. It’s the best, most completely resolved new Aston Martin in the company’s history.