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

Country Life Every Week - - In The Driving Seat -

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.

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