More revolution than evolution
Still unmistakably an arresting Aston Martin, the redesigned DB11 is more predatory than the DB9 and rakish enough for Daniel Craig’s 007, finds Charles Rangeley-wilson
NEW Aston CEO Andy Palmer has described the DB11 as ‘the most important car in Aston Martin’s history’. Sure. That and every other Aston upon which the hopes of a buoyant renaissance and financial future have been invested. Aston would not be Martin if it wasn’t selling the world’s most desirable, soulful, quintessentially British, expensively overengineered and intriguingly flawed cars at eye-watering prices that, nevertheless, don’t ever make the marque comfortably profitable.
Lionel Martin set the mould in the early 1920s, when, on the back of remarkable motor-sport success, he went into production making precision-perfect sports cars at such a level of build quality that, after car number 50 or so, he ran out of money. This was act one. Acts two, three, four, five, six and seven have all played out the same way.
Happily, today’s Aston Martin, supported by a consortium of new owners, including Mercedes Benz, and with a fresh injection of development cash, is not about to run dry, but, even so, there’s a lot riding on the DB11. Every redblooded petrol head has been droolingly impatient for its appearance. The DB11 is the first in Andy Palmer’s master plan to revive the marque’s fortune. The changes are cumulative, each one relatively subtle, but, overall, this is much more revolution than evolution. The DB11 sets the bar.
First impressions are of breathtaking beauty. Still unmistakably Aston, the DB11 is more predatory than the DB9 and ever so slightly rakish. The folds are sharper, the haunches leaner. It looks pumped. Not quite Raffles the gentleman thug, but definitely more a Daniel Craig kind of Aston. As well as some great riffs on iconic styling cues, such as the aero-inspired strakes coming off the front wheel arches, I feel there’s also a touch of the DB4GT Zagato about the new DB11, especially those racehorse wheel arches, and that’s no bad thing at all, the Zagato being just about the most beautiful postsecond World War car ever built.
Inside, the story is still good, although not as universally great. There’s more space and a feeling of space, too, with curving, sculpted surfaces giving an organic, warmly enveloping feel. Everything feels reassuringly solid: the steeringwheel buttons, the door handles and the gearshift paddles, which ting like a tuned instrument if you tap them. I loved the brogued leather and the sparing use of aluminium to highlight edges.
Sadly, I didn’t love the driving position. It was my lower back that let on, after an hour in the saddle, that my legs were canted to one side. Not by much, but when my throttle leg went numb, it was enough to spoil the party.
This was a hard one to call, because the fault, I’m sure, must have been the position behind the front axle of that volcanically sexy force of nature—the sublime 5.2-litre, quad-cam, twin-turbo V12, which, at 5000rpm, sounded like the rapture, the birth of the universe and all God’s celestial choirs hitting the same frenetic crescendo in unison.
I can’t tell you how much fun it was to knock the paddle into manual, notch down two gears and ride that rpm curve like a surfboard. Well, almost as much fun as starting her up on a cool, quiet morning in the countryside. My engine gallery of dreams had never included a V12—it’s just too Rococo, too many cylinders. A V-twin, flat four, straight six V8 is all a perfect world really needs, but I’m on the edge of a revision—i am seeing the light.
With 600bhp ready for service under the right foot, this is
‘It can spin the wheels in pretty much any gear at any speed
the most powerful road-going Aston ever. It can spin the wheels in pretty much any gear at any speed. On the rainsoaked, sugar-beet-strewn roads of north Norfolk, I learned to be careful with the throttle. It just wasn’t built for those kinds of byways.
For all its simmering power and ‘did-you-spill-my-pint?’ styling, the DB11 is a grand tourer in the grand tradition. I was just aching to try it on the sweeping Eu-funded bends and straights for which it was built, Astrid Gilberto filling the concert-hall sound system and that bassline V12 eating tarmac like a milehungry Vulcan.