THE new DB11 is a crucial car for Aston Martin: crucial in terms of revenue for the sometimes struggling British brand, and crucial for the new leadership team put in place two years ago by president and CEO Andy Palmer. So there’s a lot riding on the DB11’s beautifully sculpted shoulders – and beautiful they certainly are. A good start. In our eyes, few modern cars are quite as stunning – just as an Aston Martin should be.
The combination of svelte curves and sharp edges blends perfectly, while innovative aerodynamic tricks (such as the intake in the C-pillar that sucks air in, then channels it out of the bootlid) add to the excitement of the whole package. As is befitting of a new era at Aston, this car has a 5.2-litre V12 under that long bonnet, but this time the new unit features twin turbochargers, boosting power and (whisper it) efficiency.
Hard as it may seem, it’s the engine, rather than the exterior style, that steals the show. Turbo power doesn’t necessarily mean turbo lag – at least as not as far as Aston is concerned. The 600bhp is delivered swiftly and smoothly through the eight-speed auto box, with a whopping 700Nm of torque to play with between just 1,500 and 5,500rpm.
It’s quick, for sure (200mph, 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds), but in keeping with a British GT, it never feels brutal – unless you switch from GT to Sport+ (via Sport) mode, which stiffens what you want to be stiffened (adaptive dampers, throttle response, steering) and relaxes what you want relaxed (traction and stability control). Even in the most extreme settings, there’s a surprising degree of comfort -yes, even on British roads. Leave it in GT mode and it glides over potholes in a way Astons haven’t done in the past.
You even go looking for bumps just to confirm that this is a supremely comfortable car to drive – and to drive quickly. You do get a very British squeak of leather on leather over the very worst of the bumps on odd occasions – German rivals simply wouldn’t allow that – but we’re told this is still a pre-production model and tolerances will be tightened for customer production cars.
There’s nothing to complain about with the steering, though – not super sharp, but linear in its feedback and reaction to inputs, helping you place this big car with a degree of accuracy you wouldn’t expect. Bearing in mind our test model’s pre-production nature, we were still a little disappointed with the quality of some of the interior fittings.
We’re told that the switches operating the air-con are painted metal, but they feel a bit plastic – as do the air vent controls (although they’re due to be improved on production cars).
Likewise the electric seat controls feel a bit cheap, while on the doors, there are different metal treatments for the door pulls and handles, the handle surrounds and the speaker grilles. Oh, and the single Mercedes indicator/wiper stalk is just not good enough on an Aston Martin. Mercedes switchgear is better in a cheaper S-Class, but at least the Mercedes nav system and controller work well and fit into the DB11, while the Bang & Olufsen sound system is very tasty. Would our minor quality queries put us off this GT, even with this launch edition’s near-£182,000 price tag? No. The car’s combination of sheer beauty and stunning pace, with exactly the sort of comfort you want from a luxury GT, is enough for us.