As­ton Martin DB11 V8

First AMG-en­gined As­ton proves to be a V12-beat­ing for­mula

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST FANG -

THERE’S NO doubt that As­ton Martin knew ex­actly what it was do­ing when it took the de­ci­sion, four years ago, that would lead to the DB11 get­ting a twin-tur­bocharged V8 en­gine from Mercedes-AMG. It’s be­come an al­ter­na­tive to the Cologne-built twin­turbo V12 and is an in­te­gral part of As­ton’s fu­ture, in all sorts of mod­els.

Okay, the V12 has the faster 0-100km/h and higher top speed claims, so Gay­don’s per­for­mance hi­er­ar­chy isn’t ex­actly in tat­ters. But with only 25Nm be­tween the sib­lings and 115kg saved by the cheaper new­bie, there was never likely to be much breath­ing space left for the pricier model. So why take the risk?

In­ter­est­ingly there are rea­sons other than fi­nan­cial to con­sider whether your new As­ton re­ally needs 12 cylin­ders – and they're con­vinc­ing.

On the back of that weight saving (and favourable re­dis­tri­bu­tion of mass rear­wards and within the car’s wheel­base), Gay­don has taken the op­por­tu­nity to re­fo­cus the sus­pen­sion and steer­ing to make it han­dle bet­ter and in­volve its driver more.

Changes to the V8’s sus­pen­sion in­clude stiffer bush­ings and anti-roll bars front and rear, some al­tered wheel ge­om­e­try and new adap­tive dampers pro­grammed for a greater spread of ride com­fort and body con­trol be­tween the GT, S and S-Plus drive modes. There’s a new lat­eral link in the multi-link rear sus­pen­sion and a much greater sense of sup­port from the rear axle. The spring rates in ef­fect haven’t changed, but the power steer­ing cal­i­bra­tion has, with an em­pha­sis put on more weight and feed­back and im­proved on-cen­tre sta­bil­ity. But is it a bet­ter As­ton Martin GT car? I guess that’d de­pend how badly you want an As­ton V12 en­gine.

But As­ton has done a re­mark­ably good job of mak­ing Af­fal­ter­bach’s 4.0-litre V8 its own. It sounds sub­tly dif­fer­ent from that which you’ll find in a Mercedes-AMG GT or an E63 S, thanks to new in­duc­tion and ex­haust sys­tems. It’s more than po­tent enough to make the DB11 a first-class per­former, and in some ways it even shows the V12 up a bit.

Hav­ing widened the gap be­tween sus­pen­sion modes, As­ton has also cre­ated big­ger and more clearly de­fined steps be­tween the match­ing GT, S and S-Plus pow­er­train modes. S suits the car best on the road, while S-Plus is for short bursts given it can make the car highly strung.

The vigour with which the car hus­tles from 3000 to 5000rpm is im­pres­sive. How­ever, the DB11 V8’s han­dling is an even bet­ter ad­vert than its en­gine. Im­prove­ments have been made to the car’s feed­back lev­els, body con­trol and both its di­rec­tional pre­ci­sion and its han­dling re­sponse. It re­mains sup­ple and com­pli­ant, but also keeps body move­ments in check.

The dif­fer­ence that weighty, newly com­mu­nica­tive elec­tric power steer­ing sys­tem makes to your abil­ity to gauge the level of grip un­der the front tyres is a big one too. It means you can ex­plore the bal­ance and ad­justa­bil­ity of the chas­sis in a way you sim­ply wouldn’t risk in the V12.

At the end of a long drive, you’re left in no doubt that this car feels much truer to As­ton Martin’s long-stand­ing tra­di­tion of build­ing sport­ing grand tour­ing coupes and proper driver’s cars than its more ex­pen­sive and pow­er­ful cousin. The DB11 V12 re­tains its place, of course, and as a more iso­lat­ing, gen­tle-rid­ing, lux­u­ri­ous dis­tance ma­chine, it’s great at what it does. But for proof of the V8’s stature as sim­ply a bet­ter-ex­e­cuted DB11, look no fur­ther than As­ton Martin’s plan to trans­fer most of the V8’s sus­pen­sion and steer­ing changes onto the V12 as part of next year’s model year re­vi­sion. If I was go­ing to buy a 12-cylin­der DB11 I’d wait un­til 2018 to do it. But on this ev­i­dence, I might not ac­tu­ally buy a V12 at all.

It’s a shame that the DB11 V8 doesn’t sound as ma­jes­tic as last year’s de­lec­ta­ble Van­tage GT8, but there’s cul­ture and soul aplenty none­the­less

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