Gay­don swaps out twin-turbo V12 for Mercedes-AMG 4.0-litre V8. We find out which is best

Motor (Australia) - - FRONT END. JUST LAUNCHED -

THERE’S AN OLD SAY­ING: it’s not what you’ve got, but what you do with it that counts. It’s not al­ways used in ref­er­ence to cars, but it’s very ap­pli­ca­ble to the As­ton Martin DB11 V8. It’s As­ton’s first model to use an en­gine from its tech­ni­cal part­ner­ship with Mercedes-AMG, and the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 from the AMG GT sits un­der that alu­minium clamshell bon­net. Given their lay­out sim­i­lar­i­ties, you could be for­given for think­ing of the DB11 V8 as an An­glo AMG GT, but the two are very dif­fer­ent in char­ac­ter. Part of the rea­son is that As­ton hasn’t just plonked the en­gine in, con­nected the wires and gone to the pub. It’s adapted the M178 to wet-sump lu­bri­ca­tion, changed the en­gine mounts, de­vel­oped be­spoke in­take and ex­haust sys­tems and re­cal­i­brated the ECU soft­ware. The re­sult is a slightly softer, more rounded en­gine char­ac­ter. Un­der full throt­tle there’s a deep roar, but it lacks the hard-edged bark of the AMG and over­run the­atrics are toned down slightly. It’s more vo­cal than the V12, which is in line with As­ton’s in­ten­tion for the DB11 V8 to be more sport­ing with­out los­ing its gen­tri­fi­ca­tion. The 375kW/675Nm V8 gives plenty away to the 447kW/700Nm V12, but a 115kg weight loss means there is lit­tle to choose be­tween the two in raw pace. As­ton claims the V12 is just 0.1sec quicker to 100km/h (3.9sec vs 4.0sec), though it man­ages an extra 22km/h at the top end (322km/h vs 300km/h). On the road it would take a back-to­back test to split them, for af­ter tak­ing a mo­ment to wake the tur­bos, the V8 hits mas­sively hard in the mid-range and revs cleanly to 7000rpm. Another key dif­fer­ence be­tween As­ton and AMG is the for­mer’s use of an eight-speed au­to­matic rather than adopt­ing the GT’s seven-speed du­al­clutch. What­ever it loses in shift speed (not much) is more than com­pen­sated

for in smooth­ness, with the oc­ca­sional lurch on tip-in its only real vice. The pad­dles are beau­ti­ful, too; cool to touch, long enough to pre­vent their fixed lo­ca­tion be­ing an is­sue and very sat­is­fy­ing in their long-throw ac­tion. As­ton used the change in en­gine con­fig­u­ra­tion to, in its words, “ex­plore the more dy­namic side of the DB11’s char­ac­ter”. The 115kg diet helps, which also slightly al­ters the front-to-rear weight distri­bu­tion from 51:49 to 49:51. Most of the chas­sis has come in for at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing re­vi­sions to the springs, dampers, anti-roll bars, bush­ings, ge­om­e­try and ESP, though the wheels and tyres re­main the same as the V12’s. Es­sen­tially, the two cars han­dle quite sim­i­larly, though the V8 is def­i­nitely the most ex­tro­verted of the pair. Whether be­cause of tyre con­di­tion, chas­sis setup or power de­liv­ery – likely a com­bi­na­tion of all three – the V8 is much hap­pier to lose trac­tion than its big­ger brother. It’s still a big, heavy car with a setup bi­ased to­wards grand tour­ing abil­ity rather than out­right dy­namic pre­ci­sion, but its more ex­u­ber­ant han­dling does make it the more fun car to punt hard. The steer­ing is a high­light, but its bal­ance is also im­pres­sive for such a big car; trail the brakes on cor­ner en­try and the rear will gen­tly slide to help point the nose. The penalty for this extra dy­namic abil­ity is an added ride terse­ness. It’s still good, but doesn’t have the same plush­ness as the V12, fre­quently fid­get­ing over small road im­per­fec­tions. It’s this penalty that leaves the V12 as our DB11 of choice, which feels to bet­ter ful­fil the grand tourer brief. Yes, it’s more than $60K dearer, but that’s hardly a deal breaker when you’re talk­ing $400K. If you want a sporty V8 coupe, we’d sug­gest the Mercedes-AMG GT R or, if you want an As­ton, a fully loaded new Van­tage.


ABOVE Lighter, but with less power than the twin-tubo V12, DB11 V8 is al­most as quick, but lacks ride re­fine­ment

LEFT Blues power. DB11 may not have the plush ride of its V12 big brother, but there’s no lux­ury spared in the gorgeous in­te­rior

BE­LOW DB11 is first As­ton to get an AMG en­gine, but the Brits changed it to wet-sump lu­bri­ca­tion, re­cal­i­brated the ECU, and toned down over­run crackle

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