A new Aston Martin is a glorious thing, even if in this past century each new model has seemed like a slightly Photoshop-blurred version of every other car in its line-up. That changes with the new DB11 — the first volley of fresh product from the stately British automaker. Under the guidance of CEO Andy Palmer, Aston has promised seven new vehicles in the coming seven years. This time, however, they have vowed each new model will be sharply different than the next.
Welcome to the new Aston Martin.
Fitting then that Aston is starting this new wave of product offensive with the DB11 — the proud torchbearer of the DB bloodline, inarguably Aston’s most important model. The DB5 James Bond drove in Goldfinger featured smoke screens and an ejector seat. The new handbuilt DB11 features an all-new aluminum-intensive architecture (twice the lightweight metal of the DB9), much-needed Mercedes-sourced infotainment upgrades, and a 600-hp, twin-turbocharged 5.2-liter V12.
Aston Martin Looks
There is no better place to start the discussion of the DB11 than its sheet metal. If there is any single reason why Aston has survived the past couple decades of near insolvency it is because of its sterling panache: the long hood, muscular haunches, angry headlights and sculpted panels of the Aston design language are second to none. Pesky details like exorbitant price, antiquated technology, irksome quirks and, at-times, questionable reliability have always threatened its health; its winsome looks are what kept the brand alive in a vicious luxury marketplace.
So when we say the DB11 is the most handsome Aston of the 21st century, that’s saying a lot. Chief Designer Marek Reichman has taken the genetic elements of Aston and dialed them all just a little more towards perfection, while keeping the proportions tight and somehow improving its cohesive message. This is a Grand Tourer after all, and if it doesn’t look good, it doesn’t stand a chance. But the DB11 is the sort of machine that demands silent contemplation from those in attendance.
Some of the DB11’s best visual attributes can be attributed to Reichman’s team working so closely with the aero engineers. Their work in moving the air around the DB is simply astounding — not in tacking on ostentatious vents, air extractors or ridiculous rear wings like in many supercars, but rather in cleaning up its lines for an elegant simplicity.
The AirBlades, or hidden ducts that channel air through the C-pillars under the fender panels, and out through a vent over the taillights, are the nicest touch. These AirBlades substitute the need for an obnoxious rear wing, using internal airways to add downforce.
About that V12
This is the most powerful, most efficient, most dynamic Aston Martin ever, and that can be attributed to the latest iteration of Aston’s famed V12 lineage. While the V12 is downsized from the 5.9-liter lump in the DB9 to a new 5.2-liter, the twin-turbos bolted on add an obscene amount of power and torque. Its 600-hp can slingshot the 3,900-lb DB11 from 0 to 60-mph in just 3.9 seconds, all the way up to a 200 mph ceiling. As for turbo lag, fret not. With all 516 lb-ft of torque available at just 1,500 rpms, your skull will be pressed against the headrest at anywhere close to full throttle.
But perhaps the most impressive stat of the V12 is its fuel efficiency — good for a combined mileage of 24.8 mpgs. That’s enough to clear the DB11 of the dreaded gas guzzler tax, and is quite a feat for a normally famished 12-cylinder engine. This efficiency is accomplished thanks to start/stop and an innovative cylinder deactivation technology that essentially turns the V12 into a pair of inline six banks. About every 20 seconds the CPU alternates which bank is used to ensure both the catalytic converters stay warm; the feeling is seamless.
We cant’ really comment on the distilled track fortitude of the DB11, as we weren’t furnished any time on one. But the winding roads that carve their way through the Anza Borrego national park outside San Diego, and up and down the 6,000-foot peak of Mount Palomar, are enough to convince you of how glorious this GT is on open roads. The DB has long been a gentleman’s car, not a redline-pinned racer, and in that way the DB11 continues the heritage superbly.
Under the aptly named “GT” setting the DB11 glides over the road without trouble. Potholes are devoured without irritation, and hundreds of miles are deleted with great pleasure. Switch to “Sport” mode and the suspension gets a bit tighter, but the car still retains its grand touring character.
Choose Sport+ and the GT turns a bit more diabolic. Exhaust flaps open, and you will thank the Supercar Gods that certain automakers remain committed to a dozen cylinders. In both Sport and Sport+ the car will downshift repeatedly and very quickly under heavy braking to keep the revs up high, while in GT mode it will downshift more calmly and at lower revs. This really lends the different modes a strong differentiation. One interesting note we were told by engineers is that when you switch between modes the various settings are temporarily exaggerated so the driver can really feel the difference, and then the DB11 will slowly settle to its intended — but less dramatic — performance level. So if you dial down from Sport to GT, the ride will become a lot cushier for a bit to emphasize the difference to the driver, but then will slowly, unperceptively stiffen back to its pre-chosen setting.
One of the most considerate aspects of the DB11 is the fact that you can change powertrain and suspension modes separately via dedicated buttons on the steering wheel, each of which has three positions — so you can keep the suspension at its most compliant while dialing up throttle and transmission characteristics. Score extra points for Aston for this level of quick, intuitive customization.
Welcome to the 21st Century
We can all thank the cosmos for the deal Aston Martin struck with Mercedes-Benz, surrendering 5% of their company in exchange for desperately needed upgrades in all things technology and entertainment. AMG is even developing their new V8, but the V12 powerplant remains gloriously all Aston. What else did Benz donate? How about an 8” LCD screen for satnav, and a 12” TFT taking over for the old analog gauges. There’s even touches like keyless entry, a Quiet Mode to start up the V12 without waking neighbors, striking LED head- and tail-lamps, and a dedicated camera button to scroll across different angles when you’re parking so you can to preserve your precious 20” rims.
Of course it’s not just hardware — Daimler’s COMAND interface makes its debut on the DB11, replete with control wheel and touchpad, only with Aston Martin-approved visuals.
A cabin to remember
Simply gorgeous, an internal reflection of the car’s jaw-slacking exterior. The most salient aspect is the optional stitching on the leather — fancy brogue detailing that looks like Salvatore Ferragamo went to town across the cabin. Our blue and white interior featured a contrast red brogue across the front seats, armrest, rear seats, roof, etc. It’s really a next-level flourish, if not a tiny bit overwrought. Complimenting the buttery leather are several trims including a carbon fiber composite made to look like knurled walnut, dark ash open pore wood and piano black trims. Overall there are 35 exterior paints and three types of leather in 28 colors.
The center armrest is actually motorized, hiding storage underneath. Some touchpoints pilfered from the Mercedes-Benz deal can be found in the seat controls and other switchgear, but its not bad — heck, we’re talking Merc gear. And while this is called a 2+2, the rear seats really are almost vestigial — all that can really fit back there are some really cool babies. But you don’t buy an Aston to cart around your friends, do you? (Unless it’s the four-door Rapide, of course.) You do, however, buy it to show off to your golfing buddies, so Aston assured you could fit two sets of clubs in the trunk. That’s a first for the DB line.
For more information, options, and pricing, please visit our 2017 Aston Martin DB11 page on AutoWeb’s search and configure site.
Photo Credit: © 2017 Autoweb /Nicolas Stecher