The internet loves lists. Spend more than 30 seconds online and you’ll be presented with a Top Ten of Pretty Much Anything or Seven Reasons To Do Something You Really Rather Wouldn’t. One such morsel of clickbait that pops up from time to time is a nicely ill-defined list of the world’s ‘coolest’ brands. Aston Martin, of course, is a more or less permanent feature in the top ten, periodically topping the list whenever the new Bond hits the multiplex.
The company’s latest offering, however, may help the marque scale the cool list without the need for a single unstirred martini or improbable plot line. Almost unbelievably, the DB11 is the company’s first all-new car in around a decade, replacing the DB9 as the grand tourer (GT) in Aston’s line-up.
There can be little doubt that the company’s stylists are doing something right, with Aston Martins often lauded as being just as beautiful as they are cool. This new model, then, rightly sticks with the familiar frowning radiator grille, leaving nobody in any doubt as to the DB11’s heritage.
It does, however, differ from the outgoing DB9 in that it has a broader, lower stance and a more rounded posterior, suggesting a faster, more aggressive vehicle. The effect is no illusion, with the new car being some 28mm wider overall, and boasting a broader set of wheels both front and back. The exterior also shows subtle signs of the ingenious lengths that Aston Martin has gone to in order to wring the best performance from the DB11, all the while still maintaining elegance unruffled by such gauche concession to speed as visible spoilers or vents. The effort is there, it’s just hidden beneath the surface.
The launch of the DB11 also marks the debut of Aston Martin’s new all-aluminium platform – the metal template on which this and a number of soon-to-follow models have been built. The key difference comes in the use of more pressed-metal shapes rather than extruded beams. This allows the car to be curvier, banishing any additional straight lines.
The interior gives perhaps the biggest clue as to the real differences between the new and the old car. Overall, the cabin is more rounded, with far more space in both the front and back seats, despite the overall outer dimensions being little different. The effect, as you slide into the leather seats, is of a warm, welcoming and utterly secure embrace. The pleasingly hefty door thuds shut like a punctuation mark on the outside world, abruptly cutting off any intruding sound.
While indubitably a lovely place to sit, the interior isn’t perfect. The centrally positioned info-tainment screen falls victim to the current luxury car marque penchant for simply gluing an iPad in place. The digital dashboard, while simply laid out and easy to read, is also a little low resolution by modern standards, lacking the graphic flourishes that many modern drivers have become accustomed to.
Perhaps the biggest problem, though, comes with the steering wheel. Its semi-rectangular shape can be quite off-putting when it comes to any manoeuvre that requires a degree of steering input.
If these gripes sound petty it’s largely because they are. Only in a cabin as manifestly flawless as the DB11’s would you even notice such tiny imperfections. Thankfully, the new car also banishes Aston’s annoying Emotional Control Unit nonsense in favour of a normal keyless start. No more pushing a chunk of heavy plastic into the dash to fire up the engine.
A press of the start/stop button and the motor grumbles into life, giving the immediate impression that there has been little change from the outgoing DB9’s power plant. Both are large V12s, both have four camshafts and both give a satisfyingly seamless whoosh-roar when they are prodded.
Even a car maker of Aston’s lofty proportions, however, is not immune to moving with the times. This V12, then, despite sounding similar to its predecessor, follows the current trend for reduced engine size and an increased number of turbo chargers. In contrast to the DB9, the DB11 reduces capacity from 6 litres to a mere 5.2, while increasing the turbo-count from none to two.
Giving in on the turbo charging front not only reduces fuel consumption, it also increases power output – taking it to a suspiciously rounded 600 brake horsepower, up 83 over the old model. Torque has been enhanced too – up 59 lb-ft to 516 and available from 1,500 all the way up to 5,000 rpm. When power goes up, of course, acceleration time must come down. The DB11 can make the sprint to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds, 0.7 quicker than the DB9. Top speed is also up to another suspiciously round number – 200 mph.
As befits a high-speed, long-distance conveyance, it’s fast without ever being scary or uncomfortable. Power delivery from that big V12 is smooth and predictable, but never too sudden. Reassuringly, there’s also little hint of delay between pressing the throttle pedal and the engine responding, despite the presence of those turbo chargers.
With so much torque over so large a rev range, the eight-speed ZF gearbox (fitted to the rear in order to aid weight distribution) doesn’t have to do all that much cog shuffling. Assuming you don’t object to a little micro-management, the driver doesn’t have to worry too much about gear selection when approaching a corner, even if playing with the big aluminium gear paddles is addictively tactile.
As soon as the car gathers pace, you get a sense of how heavy it truly is. Even with its aluminium skeleton, the DB11 weighs in at 1,770 kg – before fuel, passengers or luggage is added into the mix. With all that mass and with a suspension set up for long-distance running, it was never going to be the most agile of cars. As a big car made for big journeys, the DB11 is at its best on big roads with big curves. It’s unhappy attacking fiddly little back roads with tight corners and lots of potholes. As a GT, it’s best at going fairly fast for a long time, rather than flat out for a short blast.
Settling down into a marathon winning pace, the GT suspension setting allows the long shock absorber to travel to do its job, ironing out imperfections in the road surface. All the while, the big V12 gets on with eating up a continental-sized serving of highway. Having completed a long-distance hurtle, the DB11 isn’t too out of place when it comes to cramped city streets. Visibility is more than adequate, despite that long bonnet, so judging parking spots and making hard turns isn’t that onerous.
As a combination of prestigious, fast, stylish and practical, the DB11 is hard to beat. Yes, there are better sports cars, yes there are better load-lugging coupes, but none can do quite so much, quite so well and look quite so good while they’re doing it.
Model Aston Martin DB11
From £154,000 (HK$1.5 million plus import tax)
Engine 5.2 litre V12 twin turbo
Power (BHP) 600bhp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque 516 lb-ft @1,500-5,000 rpm
Transmission ZF 8-speed semi automatic through rear wheel drive
0-62 mph 3.9 seconds
Top speed 200 mph
Mass 1,770 kg
Fuel consumption 24 mpg combined