From nearly ever angle, the DB11 looks like it’s not of the time, but rather from five years into the future. While the 104 year-old Aston Martin has been building some of most attractive cars ever to hit the road, it’s a bold move to bring a GT to market that breaks new design ground, but that’s part of the plan.
Recently, Aston CEO Andy Palmer told me, “If we’re known in recent years as making beautiful cars, then the future is going to be about making beautiful cars, because that’s exactly what Aston Martin stands for. We are, I would argue, the makers of the most beautiful cars in our industry. That’s true going forward. The problem has not been the cars themselves. The cars, as you can see, the cars are all beautiful. The problem has been the business model, and the business model has meant that we’ve not been able to generate enough cash from the sale of these cars in order to pay for the next generation of cars. That can’t happen.”
Indeed, the DB11 is the first car under the company’s Second Century plan and it was launched with the expected Aston Martin V12. It’s a new engine design for the company, modernized by way of a smaller displacement block than the company’s traditional six-litre twelve and the addition of a pair of turbochargers. Based on my experience behind the wheel, the stated output of 600 horsepower feels a bit pessimistic. Add another fifty to seventy-five horses to that number before I can believe it because the V12 DB11 feels a fair bit quicker than the company’s range topping Vanquish S.
Enter the Aston Martin DB11 V8, a grand tourer meant to broaden the model’s appeal, and if the DB11 V12 didn’t exist, this V8 would be a wonderful story on its own. Sure, there are plenty of DB11 buyers who will choose the V12 simply because it’s the most powerful engine, but the V8 delivers the entirety of the Aston Martin driving experience.
It’s no secret that to achieve the company’s goals they’ll have to explore new avenues to put their cars in the hands of customers. The DB11 V8 fulfills that mission because this new-to-Aston V8 is a low-emissions and fuel-efficient power plant that’s suitable for volume production and consumption in markets around the globe.
You see, the engine comes from Mercedes-AMG and, in fact, AMG parent company and Aston Martin technical partner Daimler provides a few more solutions for the DB11 than just the twin-turbo V8. If you’re familiar with the hotted up AMGs from Mercedes, you’re familiar with this engine. It’s the same powerplant you’ll find in the AMG GT, as well as numerous Mercedes-AMG models with the 63 designation.
AMGs are known to have a little bit of aural attitude, but Aston Martin embarked on a mission to tune this little V8 specifically to suit the DB11’s driving dynamics and acoustic experience.
While its bass tones were reduced, mid and high frequencies were enhanced to better suit an Aston Martin, though some of that AMG attitude has been retained for subtle growl on acceleration and the occasional burble when you close the throttle. For its fitment in the Aston chassis, the AMG V8 receives bespoke intake, exhaust, and wet sump oiling components.
In DB11 specification, the motor makes 503 horsepower and 498 pounds-feet of torque, but it’s the way in which those numbers are delivered that tells the story. While it may be down 97 horsepower on the V12, peak torque of this V8 is shy of the twelve’s peak output by only 18 pounds-feet. Plus, this V8 makes a wall of torque – maximum torque is available from 2,000 through 5,000 RPM – which is precisely where it’s needed in day-to-day driving.
The switch from the V12 to the V8 also removes 115 kilograms of curb weight from the DB11 and the net result is outright performance that’s similar, at least in the daily driving, between the two models. According to Aston Martin, the DB11 V8 takes just four seconds flat to run from zero to 100 km/h and, if given the space, it’ll achieve a maximum velocity of 300 km/h.
On this drive, my co-pilot hit 170 km/h on open roads and the DB11 V8 felt as stable as it does at half that speed. Having taken DB9s, Vanquishes, and Vantages to extreme velocities, the DB11’s stability at extra-legal speeds met my lofty expectations.
Behind the wheel, the DB11 V8’s cabin remains vastly more spacious and modern than the DB9 it replaces. Given the range of adjustment between the steering column and the seat, you can expect to find the perfect seating position.
The cabin’s finished in the finest Bridge of Weir leather with the same wonderful brogue detailing available as an extra-cost option that was pioneered at the DB11’s launch last year. It’s so truly luxurious that it should be a mandatory option, in this reviewer’s opinion, though my favourite option remains the powered armrest, which seems straight out of Q Branch. If you enjoy music, the optional Bang & Olufsen is also necessary.
The DB11 is also the first Aston to integrate modern Daimler systems architecture and much of the second-level interfaces are lifted straight from the latest Mercedes-Benz road cars. Steering column stalks and the infotainment controller are the same pieces found in the latest Benzes and work exactly as prescribed. During the V8’s development process, the throw of the paddle shifters was reduced by 50%, an improvement that also carries over to the V12 models. The paddles have a wonderfully satisfying mechanical click on each pull.
For any grand tourer, it’s significant when 115 kilograms are removed from the front axle. The result is a full two percent shift rearward in front-to-rear weight distribution and is now 49% front/51% rear for this V8 DB11, according to Aston, which is ideal for a marque that builds driver’s cars. Braking, suspension, stability and traction systems were all optimized to suit the V8’s dynamics.
While I’m still reserving some judgment until I have the occasion to drive V8 and V12 DB11s back to back, however, this V8 feels nearly identical and as rewarding to drive as the V12, with the same competent, compliant, and comfortable ride you’d expect from Aston Martin. As expected, steering remains precise with excellent feedback, and the brakes are powerful with excellent modulation.
Whether you swing for the V8- or V12-powered DB11, visually the two models are near indistinguishable. While the V12 has four hood (bonnet, in the Queen’s English) vents just below the windscreen, the V8 has just two on the outer sides of the bonnet. The V8’s headlamp bezels are finished in black and there’s a similar, subtle change to the taillamps as well. In truth, only the hardest of hardcore Aston Martin enthusiasts will be able to distinguish the difference between V8 and V12 models.
From a global perspective, the DB11 V8’s are bound to overtake V12 sales, which puts these gorgeous Aston Martins in the hands of more drivers around the world. The V8 will undoubtedly appeal to customers who prefer to lease, buyers in emerging markets, and in regions where engine emissions are a practical consideration.
And, since they’re from the future of motoring, more Aston Martin DB11s on the road is something we look forward to seeing.
2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8
BODY STYLE: Grand touring coupé
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic transaxle
ENGINE: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 (503 hp, 498 lb-ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: 9.9 l /100 km (combined, European cycle)
CARGO VOLUME: 270 litres
PRICE: $233,650 base price
WEB SITE: astonmartin.com