Soaring highs, crashing lows and everything else in between, Aston Martin has seen it all. Founded in 1913 and with over 100 years in the industry, it feels like it has filed for bankruptcy almost as many times as it’s taken the chequered flag in its motor racing history — and that’s a lot of times both ways. However, another very bright period for the Gaydon carmaker will be dawning with a raft of new models such as the Vantage, Vanquish and an SUV soon to arrive. But things are looking up right now — and it’s thanks to this sublime DB11.
The first all-new ‘DB’ car in more than a decade — and also the first Aston to reap the benefit of the new technical relationship with Daimler (it’s also the first all-new model under CEO Andy Palmer’s reign) — is one of the finest grand tourers in the world right now, but like any brilliant GT it isn’t perfect. We’re talking tiny things, like a small boot lid that makes it hard to squeeze large objects inside. And barring some wind noise at high speeds, there’s nothing else to really moan about — well, not the important stuff anyway.
Making its debut at the Geneva motor show in March last year, the replacement to the DB9 designed by chief creative officer Marek Reichman introduces an all-new riveted and adhesive-bonded aluminium platform, which replaces the old VH architecture that had formed the basis of all road Astons for over 10 years. The new structure is lighter and 25 per cent stiffer than before with extra attention being paid to improvements in ride and handling and, as you’d expect, it has been dressed impeccably to cross vast distances at obscene speeds. Reichman’s design is bold and fresh, incorporating new details and ground-breaking aerodynamics, but it’s still unmistakably an Aston Martin. The grille and clamshell bonnet are arguably its most distinctive areas but there are other facets such as the more stylish and rounded LED headlights, the unbroken arc from the A-to the C-pillar, and the reimagined side strake, all of which serve as a real treat for the eyes. The rear end features LED taillights, which retain the boomerang graphic, twin exhaust tips and a gloss black diffuser.
The cabin is class personified. It’s a contemporary look that mirrors the suave exterior; the highlight is the centre console, which flows from the clean dash to the transmission tunnel, followed closely by the sumptuous natural materials used throughout. The front seats, wrapped in Strathmore leather with intricate brogue detailing, afford plenty of leg- and headroom. However, the same can’t be said for the second row, even though Gaydon reconfigured the differential and fuel tank. At least your gym bag will fit perfectly. Overall it’s elegant and classy in there and it’s dripping with Mercedes-sourced equipment. It packs an all-new 8.0in infotainment system, has a rotary control and optional touchpad, which is very intuitive, features a 12.0in full TFT instrument cluster, it has a 12-sensor parking control system (including parallel and bay park assist), and a 360-degree bird’s-eye camera for safer low-speed manoeuvring. Sadly, the handbrake usually found right next to the driver side door is no more; it’s been replaced with an automatic parking brake, but it’d have been nice if they’d have kept a bit of the traditional Aston charm alive.
We expect a cabin reminiscent of a five-star hotel and an achingly gorgeous body, it’s what you pay the hefty price tag for, but far more impressive is this GT’s ability to move in a real hurry, accompanied by one of the best soundtracks your ears will be treated to. The chassis, suspension, and steering have been reimagined to help deliver a real thrill behind the flat-bottom steering wheel.
You’d be forgiven for thinking AMG had a hand in the new 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12 because it’s superb — but it was designed by Aston Martin’s in-house powertrain team and manufactured at Aston Martin’s engine facility. The blown motor might upset the purists — until they floor the throttle deep into the luxurious carpet and are pinned back by the thunderous 600bhp and neck-snapping 700Nm of torque. This is the most powerful DB ever; it launches hard and has a smooth delivery of power, which is the hallmark of the V12 configuration.
You’ll see 100kph flash up on the TFT screen in just 3.9 seconds, but it isn’t just wildly powerful; with variable valve timing, intelligent bank activation and stop-start technology it’s also the most fuel efficient. This Aston has so much character — and it isn’t just provided by the jaw-dropping looks and rabid performance but also because of that menacing growl. It has one of the best soundtracks created from the intake and exhaust in the business and it goes from mellow to malevolent from a mere twitch of your toe, sweet music to any petrolhead’s ears. In GT mode the sound is stifled but when you switch it into Sport and Sport Plus, the exhaust note becomes far more rich and potent and it’s the latter setting you’ll enjoy most as it brings out the best out of the Aston; the ZF eight-speed automatic swapped the cogs in lightning quick speed, the throttle response was far sharper as was the electromechanical steering too and overall, the sensation of wheeling the DB11 was extraordinary.
Its dynamic ability might just catch you cold, but just as impressive as the response of the blown V12, rapping exhaust note, telepathic steering and everything else is the ride quality. A modern GT has a lot of expectations on its shoulders; it must handle like a proper sportscar but it should also offer a relaxing drive when you just want to cruise. This one does both exceptionally; it grips hard when you push it in the corners and remains composed without a hint of body roll with the pointiest mode engaged.
The new Aeroblade does its bit, too, in keeping it planted by redirecting air through the bodywork and venting it from the aperture in the rear decklid to enhance downforce at high speed. It also means there’s no need to ruin the smooth rear end with a spoiler. Bear in mind it only weighs 1,770kg and with the suspension combining the latest generation Bilstein adaptive dampers and active torque vectoring, this one is sharp, nimble and sporty and you can drive it much harder than you might have first thought. Exit a bend, hammer the loud pedal, reel in the horizon and repeat at will. It never gets tiring.
The DB11 isn’t just one of the most beautiful cars in the world, with the new aluminium platform, revitalised chassis and that superb V12, it’s one of best to drive too. This is a new chapter in Aston Martin’s long history — and it is without a doubt its best.