Aston Martin: Time for elevenses
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The David Brown legacy finally has a next-generation entry: the new Aston Martin DB11
The new Aston Martin DB11 pulls off a rather neat trick before you've even sat in it. As you approach - say, from 20 metres away - you think to yourself "Oh. It's just like a DB9."
But as you walk around it, new stuff reveals itself. Upon closer inspection, it looks longer and leaner. Elements of the bodywork serve to stretch the overall picture. It's muscular, sinewy and more shapely than the DB9, but in an athletic way. The front profile is all Aston, all day long. That softly outlined heritage grille with those horizontal bars remains a clear signature and, despite the modern scalpel work elsewhere, it's pleasing to see the designer left the grille largely alone.
The strakes that extend from the front wheel arch remind me of something old school and British; a Jenson FF perhaps? Whatever the cerebral connection, they look fantastic -- go-faster stripes rendered in chrome.
So relax, history plays a large part in the make-up of this new Aston Martin but there is plenty of clever new tech on offer, too.
Those handsome strakes disguise the shut lines of the DB11's clamshell bonnet and feature little aerodynamic foils to help settle the car at speed. Aggressive bonnet slashes are tailored for maximum aerodynamic performance.
At the rear, just behind the leading edge of the boot lid, you'll see a subtle cutout in the sheet metal. This is Aston's future-tech take on a spoiler. Called the AeroBlade, it interrupts air as it flows from the base of each c-pillar, venting it into this slot in the rear deck. Aston Martin's engineers say it creates enough downforce to effectively mitigate the need for anything as gauche as a rear spoiler. All new LED headlights and taillights are as thin as can be and the doors still swoop upwards in a regal arc.
Once inside, the DB11 doesn't disappoint. There are several interior design themes to choose from; Iconic Craft, Shanghai Fashionista, the oddly titled Mysterious Sport.
The car you see here features the New Heritage look, with deeply detailed leatherwork that extends into the roof lining, bordered by alcantara. It looks a bit "cable knit jumper" on first inspection, but imbues British heritage in a unique way.
The first Aston Martin to benefit from the carmaker's tech tie-up with Mercedes-AMG, the DB11 features a Mercedes-Benz rotary controller inside. It's a bit belt-and-braces with its touch pad mounted over an "iDrive"-style dial, but it's relatively simple to navigate to what you need and - if you've driven a recent model Benz - it will feel familiar.
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Our tester had an optional Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system with dual speakers that rise out of top of the dashboard. But actually, it's the sonorous V12 under the bonnet ahead that gives you the best soundtrack possible.
The engine's base architecture goes back to the advent of the DB9, but it has had much in the way of re-engineering work done. It's effectively a new unit. Now boasting 447kW (600hp) of power and a colossal 700Nm peak torque, this is the most powerful DB model the marque has produced.
A newly developed bonded aluminium body structure means the DB11 is lighter and stiffer. There is more room inside the cabin (although realistically, rear seat passengers need not apply).
Push the start button quickly and the engine will come to life like a Doberman that's been poked with a stick. It's a crescendo from utter silence, designed to startle old folk and paint a broad grin on the faces of drivers who should know better.
But don't worry, there's a way of awaking the DB11 without the neighbours at the same time. Hold your finger on the start button for longer and the engine comes to life without an exclamation mark. That's clever.
So the DB11 is a GT. It says so from the get-go, with the "normal" suspension and drive setting labelled GT.
Next though is Sport. And beyond that, Sport +. That's where this GT pulls off another neat trick; morphing from a long-leg to something altogether manic with a simple flick of a steering wheel-mounted switch.
As a Grand Tourer, you want the DB11 to have heft. It feels big and relaxed on the motorway -- all those horses in the V12 are a twitch of your right foot away -- but for the most part, the car is all about grace over pace in this mode.
Things change in a microsecond once you hit the switch for Sport. All of a sudden this 4.7m coupe becomes light on its toes. You're always aware of the mass of engine in front, but the car suctions to the road through corners in a way that takes a couple of kilometres to get your head around.
It feels Vantage compact. You can scroll through different suspension settings independently of the drive mode, too. GT suspension and Sport everything else suited me fine.
Braking comes courtesy of steel discs front and rear (six pot calipers up front, four at the back) and -- as much as the DB11 will get up and go when requested, it stops firmly, too. That V12 has a growl that morphs into a raspy bark, although you'll need to get the tachometer needle swinging upwards to really enjoy it. At cruise pace, it exhibits more gentlemanly manners.
Zero to one hundred? 3.9 seconds. Oh yes it will.
The Aston Martin DB11 is a sensational thing. With a few tricks up its sleeve in terms of styling and performance, it will surprise many. But as with all great Astons, it still puts heritage front and centre.
ASTON MARTIN DB11
ENGINE: 5.2-litre twin turbo V12 (447kW/700Nm)
PRICE: From $345,000
Pro: Exterior design, out-and-out pace, sense of occasion
Con: Forget your friends; with a back seat like that this is no 2+2