Char­ac­ter ac­tor

Hailed as As­ton’s most im­por­tant car to date, the DB11 flag­ship plays the aris­to­crat and sounds the­atri­cal

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CARS­GUIDE EDI­TOR richard.black­burn@news.com.au

AS­TON Martin’s new DB11 flag­ship looks ev­ery bit the su­per­model in the flesh, from its mus­cu­lar rear haunches to its un­mis­take­ably aris­to­cratic nose. It oozes drama — a mod­ern take on clas­sic pro­por­tions.

But while good looks will get buy­ers through the door, the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence needs to seal the deal in an in­creas­ingly busy su­per­car mar­ket, es­pe­cially when you’re ask­ing $428,032 plus on-roads.

As­ton boss Andy Palmer calls it “the most im­por­tant car in the com­pany’s 103-year ex­is­tence” and, on pa­per, the DB11’s cre­den­tials are strong.

Its monster bi-turbo V12 puts out sim­i­lar power to last year’s Bathurst 1000 win­ner. On its flanks and rear, a rev­o­lu­tion­ary new tech­nique adds down­force without a spoiler.

Ex-Lo­tus sus­pen­sion guru Matt Becker has tuned the ride and han­dling, the chas­sis is alu­minium and As­ton has raided the Mercedes-Benz parts bin for elec­tri­cal com­po­nents and in­fo­tain­ment tech­nol­ogy.

But the proof is in the driv­ing. The minute you hit the start but­ton and fire up the sweet­sound­ing V12, the DB11 makes an emo­tional con­nec­tion .

ON THE ROAD

That ini­tial ex­cite­ment is tem­pered some­what by the fact that the As­ton isn’t in its el­e­ment in the city. The cabin isn’t ex­actly whis­per quiet and the en­gine never sounds as if it’s cruis­ing along hap­pily in traf­fic, whirring away in the back­ground.

The first sign of free­way though and it be­gins to warm to the task of grand tourer. The eight-speed con­ven­tional auto shifts im­per­cep­ti­bly when you’re cruis­ing but the sec­ond you plant the ac­cel­er­a­tor, it rapidly picks the right gear for max­i­mum for­ward propul­sion. A Porsche with a dou­ble-clutch gear­box would be quicker shift­ing but the As­ton’s silky smooth job is a per­fect match for tour­ing.

The en­gine — with 447kW/ 700Nm — is sim­ply epic. It shoves you hard in the back at the first touch of the pedal. And the strong surge of grunt shows no sign of pe­ter­ing out at any speed, let alone the le­gal limit.

The sound­track is equally in­tox­i­cat­ing. It doesn’t have the deep-throated gur­gle and snapcrackle-pop the­atrics of an AMG en­gine, nor does it sing in the higher reaches of the rev range like a Fer­rari, but it has a magic all of its own, es­pe­cially when the throt­tle blips au­to­mat­i­cally un­der brakes into a cor­ner.

It’s also im­pres­sively ef­fi­cient. When cruis­ing, it will shut down one bank of cylin­ders to con­serve fuel. On the free­way we saw mid 9.0L/100km; spir­ited driv­ing nudged it up to the mid-14s.

Im­pres­sive as it is, the en­gine plays sec­ond fid­dle to the DB11’s chas­sis. Weigh­ing nearly two tonnes with a cou­ple of peo­ple and fuel on-board, it feels much lighter through the bends.

Push too hard into tight cor­ners and the nose will run wide. The bum will wrig­gle if you’re too en­thu­si­as­tic with the throt­tle com­ing out of them — but for the most part it feels in­cred­i­bly well-bal­anced and supremely planted, with phe­nom­e­nal grip.

The steer­ing is light but gives plenty of feed­back — even if the wheel is a weird square shape —— and the brakes are strong and re­sist fade on long down­hill runs.

The DB11 also has one of the more im­pres­sive chas­sis ad­just­ment set-ups. In GT mode, it soaks up bumps and lumps and the trans­mis­sion slurs through the gears. Step it up a notch to sport and the sus­pen­sion feels a lot bet­ter tied down, while the shifts are more ur­gent.

Sport plus de­liv­ers more vi­o­lent shifts and more the­atrics from the tailpipe, as well as a ride that’s more suited to race­tracks than Aus­tralian back roads.

On our test car, it also high­lighted a per­sis­tent rat­tle in the dash — an­noy­ing in a $15,990 hatch­back, let alone a $400,000-plus su­per­car.

Another flaw: the cabin of the As­ton is com­fort­able and smart but doesn’t de­liver the

wow fac­tor to match its en­gine and chas­sis.

The Mercedes-Benz touches are ev­i­dent but they also high­light the fact that the Ger­man maker has taken the qual­ity of its pre­sen­ta­tion up a notch since sup­ply­ing parts for the DB11.

The rear seats are al­most use­less and there’s not a huge amount of lug­gage space ei­ther.

VER­DICT

As­ton’s lat­est isn’t per­fect — there are more ac­com­plished sports cars at this price — but the DB11 is a gor­geous look­ing car with plenty of old-fash­ioned char­ac­ter. It may not be flaw­less but it sure is fun.

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