Just enjoying the view
TAKE 15 MILES OF MOORLAND ROAD, add overnight dew, a pinch of road salt and a lot of grime, then chill to just above freezing point. Roughen the surface slightly and garnish with gravel. Now add two 600bhp Aston Martins…
Editor Meaden, being by some margin the quicker of the two of us, is leading the way in the Vanquish S. I’m just about keeping up in the DB11 – thanks in no small part to its all-season tyres, but also to its pliant ride, which keeps those contact patches pressed to the tarmac.
It’s remarkable how much of their prodigious horsepower both cars are able to translate into forward motion. In conditions like these, it’s a miracle they’re finding very much grip at all. Of course, if you’ve a mind to, you can make the surface work to your advantage. Ahead, Meaden is now sliding the S’s tail, into, through, and out of the corners. Sometimes on the straights.
It’s slightly galling to discover that he can go pretty much as fast sideways as I can in a straight line, but it’s never less than a treat to watch a skilled driver make a powerful sports car dance. Given an airfield runway or a circuit with acres of run-off, I might even attempt something similar myself. But not here. I simply don’t have the skill, or the chutzpah (it’s Yiddish for balls). What you’re reading here, then, is the view of our two Astons from the perspective of a driverwithoutsupernatural abilities.
Aston Martin had kindly offered to deliver the cars to our homes so that we could beat a path straight to those wonderful moorland roads. Tantalisingly, neither Dickie nor I knew which one we’d get. So it’s the first measure of how closely matched they are, in desirability as well as hard numbers, that I was equally enthralled by the prospect of either car. And as the DB11 rolled up outside, it looked completely wonderful. Unmistakably an Aston, but different, and imposing too – though some of that might be down to its width. On the local lanes, it felt another size up from the DB9,
tempering my speed in those early miles. It’s also immediately apparent how much stiffer the bodyshell is and how much better the structure and suspension are at soaking up both small surface imperfections and serious jolts.
On the long haul up the A1, the DB11 plays the grand tourer to perfection, exactly as billed, the engine barely ticking over at 1750rpm at 80mph, the occasional squirt of throttle when the traffic clears producing an absolute gale of turboenhanced urge. Be in no doubt, this thingflies. It hasn’t lost its throaty V12 timbre either, at least not under load and with Sport engaged.
I find myself selecting Sport for the damping, too – just to give a little more feel for the road surface. It’s the only chink in the DB11’S armour – the electric steering is just a little vague at the straight-ahead. Actually apply some lock and it feels alert for a GT, darting to your bidding.
Heading across country to our rendezvous, I’m further beguiled by the depth of the DB11’S abilities and the quality of its chassis, not to mention the haymaker hit of the twin-turbo engine. The combination makes it crushingly quick on challenging roads like these. In Sport+ it makes a decent fist of being a sports car, too, sinews tightening, reaction times shortening. It seems to be the Aston that does it all.
And then I climb into the Vanquish S and discover what I’ve been missing. A cleaner connection with the tarmac, especially through the steering. A cleaner connection with the engine, too. The DB11’S throttle response is superb for a turbocharged engine. But the Vanquish S’s is just that little bit crisper.
And the noise! Like a trumpet player removing the mute, the nat-asp V12 sounds glorious. The top-end rush, the way the power just keeps growing as the revs rise and rise is just intoxicating, the air behind crackling. Everything is just that bit more intense, as if your senses are on heightened alert.
The cockpit has a more analogue, more handbuilt ambience, but it’s also more intimate. The DB11 counters with a more ‘designer’ feel, better quality switchgear, and of course all the latest toys. It all functions beautifully. Indeed the whole car feels like the product of a major manufacturer – almost, dare I say it, Germanic.
In fact both feel beautifully built, and both are hugely desirable. The DB11 is the more rounded, more sophisticated machine. There’s so much to enjoy, on any road, in any conditions. And the harder you push it, the more impressive it gets. In terms of all-round ability, the DB11 is the best car that Aston Martin has ever made. But the Vanquish S could just be the bestaston. It has an even stronger identity, and an intensity, an extra layer of connection that makes you feel like a realdriver. Even if you’re not.
‘BOTH FEEL BEAUTIFULLY BUILT. BOTH ARE HUGELY DESIRABLE’