Our Cars

Civic leaves tar­mac, Peu­geot 3008 – Euro­pean Car of the Year, no less – ar­rives

CAR (UK) - - Contents -

As­ton’s Paul Bar­ritt says his de­vel­op­ment team ‘fo­cused on more mid-range fre­quency and top end, with a more cul­tured, more Euro­pean sound’ than the AMG ap­pli­ca­tions. Per­haps it’s a happy ac­ci­dent, per­haps it’s the ex­haust and ECU tun­ing, but it’s startling just how closely re­lated this V8 feels to the V12. A year since I drove the V12, I’d also swear the V8 seems hun­grier un­der full throt­tle from low revs.

There’s more good news too: the V8’s price drops by £13k to £144,900 ver­sus a V12, fuel ef­fi­ciency rises by 4.5mpg to 28.5mpg, emis­sions drop 40g/km to 230g/km CO2, and the per­for­mance isn’t lack­ing: the V8 makes 503bhp and 498lb ft, com­pared with 600bhp and 516lb ft for the V12. The smaller en­gine also con­trib­utes to around 100kg of the 115kg over­all lower kerb­weight, re­duc­ing the alu­minium GT to a still-size­able 1760kg. The weight re­duc­tion not only bodes well for agility, it also makes the V8 just 34bhp-per-tonne shy of the V12, and ac­tu­ally 8lb ft-per-tonne richer.

The 20-inch Bridge­stone Potenza rub­ber car­ries over from the V12, but there are chas­sis tweaks to cap­i­talise on the weight loss, and to po­si­tion the V8 as a sportier, more driver-fo­cused propo­si­tion, where the V12 is an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal mis­sile. Chief en­gi­neer Matt Becker says his team has re­sponded to feed­back that the DB11’s elec­tri­cally as­sisted steer­ing was too light, a char­ac­ter­is­tic he prefers and some­thing that never both­ered me. You no­tice the ex­tra ef­fort that’s re­quired to tease the steer­ing off-cen­tre, and that chunk­i­ness per­sists and builds as you load up the front tyres. I like it – it makes for re­as­sur­ing feed­back, and does pro­vide a sense of ac­cu­racy and con­sis­tency, but the feel is a lit­tle syn­thetic.

Aided by the weight loss, the steer­ing is also swifter to re­spond, with the DB11 swiv­el­ling around its cen­tre point more ag­gres­sively than the al­ready pretty punchy V12. The smaller en­gine be­ing pushed fur­ther back in the chas­sis is a fac­tor – the weight dis­tri­bu­tion swaps from the V12’s 51:49 front-to-rear to 49:51 – but it’s also be­cause there are new, stiffer bush­ings on the rear axle, putting a su­per-fast broad­band con­nec­tion be­tween your steer­ing mes­sage and the rear axle’s in­box. ‘It wakes the steer­ing up,’ ex­plains Becker.

The front springs are softer but there’s less weight, en­abling the ride qual­ity to be pre­served. The damp­ing feels sig­nif­i­cantly tighter, with an un­der­ly­ing rest­less edge that’s no­tice­able even on a mo­tor­way. It’s far from un­com­fort­able, and the DB11 still wafts over crests and through com­pres­sions with a re­laxed gait, but the keener steer­ing and firmer-feel­ing chas­sis add a more ruth­less at­ti­tude to this V8 up­start. Cy­cle up through Sport and Sport Plus set­tings and there are more pro­nounced char­ac­ter­is­tics to each step too: I re­mem­ber the V12’s Sport Plus mode feel­ing use­able for fast cross-coun­try blats, but the V8’s is more track-bi­ased; noth­ing wrong with that, that’s the point of hav­ing dif­fer­ent chas­sis modes after all.

We drove on twist­ing back roads and mo­tor­ways north of Barcelona, but per­sis­tent rain­fall gave the dust-baked sur­face all the ad­he­sion of but­ter on a hot stove. Nat­u­rally, this made it tricky to work the tyres re­ally hard and get a proper feel for body roll and trac­tion, but the rear tyres would quickly cather­ine wheel if you didn’t short-shift. But this much is clear: the V8

DB11 chas­sis set-up un­der­lines the im­pres­sion that this is the more driver-fo­cused car.

Not ev­ery­thing does, though. The brake calipers’ pis­tons are a lit­tle smaller, which should boost re­sponse at the top of the pedal. Our car’s pedal felt a lit­tle soft, but that could be be­cause it’s spent its en­tire life be­ing thrashed by jour­nal­ists; car­bon-ce­ramic discs aren’t on the menu. The gear­box also leaves room for im­prove­ment. It’s an eight-speed ZF au­to­matic, laid out in a transaxle ar­range­ment (in­te­grated with the rear axle, not bolted to the back of the en­gine). Com­pared with the V12, it gets its own tune and pres­sure cal­i­bra­tion. It’s smooth and swift enough, but there’s al­ways a lit­tle fuzz to the gear en­gage­ment, even when you progress up through the pow­er­train modes. You’re treated to more of that lovely V8 bass from Sport mode and up­wards, so it’d be log­i­cal to have crisper gear en­gage­ment to in­crease driver in­volve­ment too. Higher qual­ity shift pad­dles would help aes­thet­ics and in­ter­ac­tion alike.

Out­side and in, the V8 DB11 looks as en­tic­ing as the V12, with its el­e­gant de­sign and an in­te­rior that’s a gi­ant stride ahead of its DB9 pre­de­ces­sor. The one big flaw lies with the seats, with head­rests like lime­stone, a com­plete lack of un­der-thigh support and only av­er­age lat­eral support: a gnome perched on a decorative toad­stool would feel more se­curely lo­cated than a DB11 pilot in a bit of a hurry.

But de­spite th­ese crit­i­cisms, the V8 DB11 is an ex­tremely sat­is­fy­ing GT, and the case for buy­ing one with a Mercedes V8 is so com­pelling, it risks un­der­min­ing As­ton’s own V12. Maybe you sim­ply can’t coun­te­nance a big As­ton with­out a big V12 but drop­ping four cylin­ders makes the DB11 more af­ford­able, more ag­ile and more ef­fi­cient too. That it still sounds and goes like an As­ton makes it hard not to de­clare this the pick of the range. All of which raises the ques­tion of just how fan­tas­tic it’d feel with 604bhp and 612lb ft of AMG E63 S V8 bolted in.

In­te­rior, shared with the V12, is much bet­ter than the DB9’s, al­though seats are too hard

E63 S would slot in just as neatly…

Switch­ing be­tween modes makes a real di€er­ence to the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence: it can be GT or track fo­cused

DB11 V8 a lot of fun on a rare dry stretch. Heav­ier steer­ing feels right on the V8

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.