I’d love to meet the person who puts foot in the new DB11 V8 and goes, “Nah, too slow…”
It’s got over 500 horsepower and 675Nm of torque. You can call it a lot of things, pretty, ambitious, loud (particularly if you spec a purple interior), traditional (it’s got a last-gen infotainment system), magnanimous, fun, but you can’t call it slow.
If anything, the latest Aston Martin steps too closely to the V12’s toes — the custom in Gaydon is to offer the flagship GT model solely with a V12 engine as the exclusive power choice, but times are different and even über-luxury cars need entry-level options, if you can call this that. The V8 starts from Dh840,000…
One hard acceleration run gives you an idea of Aston Martin’s understanding of entry-level. The new V8 DB11 does zero to 100kph in four seconds flat and tops out at 300kph. The V12 is a mere tenth quicker to the ton. That’s half-a-car on the line, so hardly anything in it. In the real world, I only had memories of last year’s DB11 V12 drive in Tuscany and I couldn’t remember being it that much quicker at all.
So what’s more ironic — a base model that makes a lot more sense than the flagship, or the fact that Aston’s best GT is powered by one of its main competitors?
The V8 in the new DB11 comes from Affalterbach, with love from Mercedes-AMG. Aston Martin sticks a new Bosch management unit on it and a reshaped sump to contour over the DB11 subframe, and make the V12 obsolete.
For Gaydon, on the back of a record sales year (earning over £100m for the first time) the numbers are held up mainly by the new DB11 V12. To keep momentum and the targeted doubling of sales the company plans a new model launch every nine months. And so the DB11 V8. A crossover is due in 2019.
As one of the last independents in the industry not part of a giant auto group — Aston Martin is owned by funds in Kuwait and Italy — the Brits need help, no shame in that. Commoditisation is everything in the modern automobile. It’s why eternal rivals like the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang can share transmissions and nobody has a fit. It’s why a Citroën and a Toyota are built in the same factory, and a Bentley is made in Slovakia, and a Mercedes is a Nissan Navara.
AMG was happy to help — the M178 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine from Mercedes’ performance arm is already in everything with a silver star up front so there are plenty of them to go around. It’s also in the new updated Mercedes-AMG S 63 Coupé, one of the new DB11’s direct rivals, where it makes 613 horsepower and 900Nm of torque so relatively speaking Gaydon gets the scraps.
Still, 503bhp and 675Nm in the DB11 V8 is plenty up narrow Spanish roads in the Pyrenees mountains. Crucially the entry-level car has more power per kilo than the V12 DB11. The bigger car produces 700Nm of torque but weighs considerably more so it’s the base model that actually has more torque per tonne, and that’s the stuff that really counts.
The total savings amount up to 115kg compared to the V12 car, so the V8 hits a kerb figure of 1,705kg. The more compact engine is also located closer to the middle of the car benefitting front to rear weight distribution, while the slimmer wet sump brings the centre of gravity down. To compensate for this change in balance, Aston engineers retuned the suspension without sacrificing ride comfort since with less weight in the nose the dampers don’t have to be as stiff.
It all adds up to make for a Grand Tourer that involves you in the drive a fair bit more than we’ve come to expect from modern, isolationist GTs. You don’t feel as bunkered in behind the wheel of the DB11, although it’s a massive amount of car for these tight roads. Through the steering wheel rim you actually get some road feel which is a surprise, and the more reactive front end makes it less cumbersome to place. With a kick from the paddle shifters behind the wheel it’s actually a fun car to drive, and the low weight is apparent, and it lets you more confidently find a rhythm and drive with momentum. If you try stomping on the pedals the V8 DB11 squats and dives and rolls a bit being rather suited to a more flowing drive, but what makes it stand out is that it’s enjoyable everywhere, on highways or byways.
Way up across the speedo, the DB11 V8 only starts losing out to the V12 model at very illegal speeds. The flagship will do 322kph. During our test drive the big difference isn’t in speed so much as response, with the AMG V8 always on call. In the V12 a small misstep on the accelerator pedal puts you much further down the road in an instant and obligates you suddenly with a lot more speed to shed and weight to worry about. In the V8 it’s no big deal — everything seems a bit more approachable, and plummeting downhill towards a hairpin isn’t so butt-clenching here like it normally is in some 2.2-tonne GT.
This is obviously a great hardware partnership that’s resulted in one of the best Astons to date if not the best all-round Aston GT ever, and now what Gaydon needs is the software. The interior of the V8 DB11 is just as nice a place to spend time in as the V12, but I wonder if the Aston buyer really doesn’t mind all the technology missing here. Rivals like the new Bentley Continental GT and that AMG S 63 come with semi-autonomous driving modes and road-sensing cameras and three-chamber air-suspension chassis and 48-volt electronics. I mean, the new Mercedes-sourced infotainment system in the DB11 is great and all, but over in Stuttgart it’s already considered old. The S 63 has a pair of 12.3in stacks that are a generation ahead.
There’s not much on-board in the way of equipment either out of the ordinary, no massaging seats, no scented air conditioning, night vision, or gesture control. It’s just, a car, which you could say is refreshing. There are no distractions in the DB11 V8 because you’re busy doing something else: driving.