Aston Martin taking on the Italians
QUINTESSENTIALLY BRITISH ASTON MARTIN LAUNCHES IN TUSCANY
There’s a good reason Aston Martin launched the all-new DB11 grand tourer in Tuscany. Not just because of the roads, the scenery or July weather but because it is the territory of its rival, Ferrari.
Revealed at this year’s Geneva motor show, the replacement for the 13-year-old DB9 (James Bond snaffled the DB10 badge for Spectre) is the first product to be launched under the British company’s “Second Century” plan.
Aston Martin is 103 years old with a four-model line-up – Rapide, Vanquish, Vantage and DB11. (There are also the limited-edition Vulcan and Red Bull 001 for select customers only.)
But under new CEO Andy Palmer, the brand is set to increase production from the current 7000 models a year thanks to a new factory in Wales, and the DBX luxury crossover that will be built there.
The currently named DBX will be launched in 2019, and will see Aston Martin double its output with the crossover making up half the figures.
But for now, the company is focusing on the DB11 and its global launch in Tuscany. Sure, the roads were great in the Italian region, the scenery stunning, and the temperatures in the high 30s, but for the very British brand Aston Martin, it’s time to get serious and woo customers away from the other exclusive brands such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Bentley.
Priced from $365,000 with the Launch Edition at $390,000, the DB11 has already had an “unprecedented” number of Kiwis pre-order the grand tourer, Aston Martin New Zealand general manager Greg Brinck told Driven.
“[That number] is a testament to the profile the brand has in this country … people have been waiting for this car.”
Brinck expected to have seven of the ordered Launch Edition delivered to New Zealand customers “inside this year”, with 50 per cent of the DB11 customers already owning an Aston Martin and 50 per cent new to the brand, coming from mainly Maserati and Mercedes-Benz.
There is also a link to Mercedes with Aston Martin. To help with the “Second Century” campaign, Aston Martin has joined forces with Daimler, the German brand now owning 5 per cent of the company.
AMG will supply Aston Martin with future powertrains, but for now the technology shared is electronics with the DB11 gaining Mercedes’ entertainment system, and satnav.
But Aston Martin’s chief creative officer Marek Reichman stressed to motoring media at the Tuscany launch that the DB11 was still the British brand’s product.
“It has our own all-new V12 engine, and our own all new platform … but it’s brilliant to have the [AMG] technology,” Reichman told us at the villa launch venue just outside of Siena.
The DB11 gains the inhouse-built 5.2-litre, twin turbo-charged, V12 engine that produces a maximum power of 447kW and 700Nm of torque 1500-5000rpm.
It is paired with a rear mid-mounted ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox with separately mounted gear paddles behind the steering wheel, plus a new addition of electric power steering.
The grand tourer sits on 20in, 10-spole silver wheels with diamond-turned finish.
The DB11 goes from 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds with a top speed of 322km/h – and at the Tuscany launch we reached speeds of up to 240km/h-plus with the engine showing it had plenty more power to give.
The DB11 has a new aluminum structure that is 39kg lighter than the DB9 and 25 per cent stiffer plus a 50:50 weight ratio.
Plus a world-first — the Aston Martin Aeroblade, created by the company’s lead aerodynamic expert, Darren Coe.
The Aston Martin Aeroblade eliminates the need for a rear spoiler by using airflow to enhance stability.
Air is pushed along the bonnet and side panels and into intakes under the C-pillar before venting into slots in the rear boot lid with wire mesh container to catch any debris.
The Aston Martin Aeroblade prevents the need for a pop-up rear spoiler and keeps the lines of the grand tourer clean.
The DB11 looks distinctively different to the DB9, with a more masculine appearance thanks to the clamshell bonnet, a larger Aston Martin grille, strong lines through the side panels to the generous rear.
Inside the 2+2 seater grand tourer, the AMG partnership sees the infotainment screen, rotary control and optional touchpad plus satnav and plus 360-degree camera you’ll find in Mercedes cars, with the Aston Martin touch of new instrument cluster.
The British car also gets the very British touch of brogue details in the seats, side panels and front dash.
Although silver/grey are the customary Aston Martin exterior colours, the new DB11 comes in Arden Green Cinnabar Orange and my test vehicle hue, Frosted Glass Blue that was optioned up with a black roof strake — a feature I felt enhanced the coupe shape.
It also attracted attention during our 325km Tuscan drive programme that included busy country routes, motorways then quiet country thoroughfares where we could test Aston Martin’s all-new V12 engine.
That engine had the drive choices of GT, Sport and Sport Plus modes. The GT mode was an everyday option that gave you such a smooth ride you could forget you were in a exotic car — until I was stuck behind two Italian army armed vehicles for 10km with the soldiers sitting roof-top spending most of their time looking backwards at the DB11.
On the motorway, I kept the Aston in GT mode while we sat at 130km/h, but once the traffic dissipated, I dialled in Sport mode.
It noticeably altered the firmness, steering, revs and exhaust notes of the DB11 and stepping on the accelerator we easily hit 240km/h.
But it wasn’t until after lunch when the drive route took in quiet country roads did we try the DB11 in Sport Plus mode, which dials up the intensity in the suspension steering, transmission and torque vectoring system to turn this from a grand tourer to a true sports coupe.
Until then, the DB11 had provided such a smooth ride and effortless performance that you could use this as an everyday commute vehicle.
But Sport Plus mode unleashed the beast beneath the bonnet. My co-driver planted his foot as we headed up a hill, reaching 270km/h before he spotted the crest and then blind corner so slowed down to 160km/h but not before the DB11 gave some oversteer and snort from the exhaust to show who was boss.
The Aussie laughed nervously and slowed some more.
“If the police catch me at this speed, my licence will be gone,” he said.
A week after we left Italy, groups of Aston Martin owners were staying at the villa for the company’s Art of Living experience where they too could take the DB11s around the great roads of Tuscany.
And you can bet that after a couple of days in the grand tourers the customers would be ordering a DB11 of their own.