The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - DAMIEN REID

IT IS one of those clas­sic sweaty palm mo­ments. The door swings open and I am in­vited to oc­cupy the bright blue, leather­trimmed driver’s seat of As­ton Martin’s new baby, the DB11.

This is no or­di­nary As­ton but a devel­op­ment “mule” of the en­tirely new, 450kW twin­turbo V12 we’ll see on Aus­tralian roads in Novem­ber.

Af­ter an ex­ten­sive brief­ing, doc­u­ment sign­ing and a re­minder that this is the only DB11 they cur­rently have, I am per­mit­ted to fire the psychedel­i­cally cam­ou­flaged beast into ac­tion.

Lurk­ing un­der the out­stretched bon­net is not the 6.0-litre V12 that’s pow­ered ev­ery As­ton since the DB9 of 2003 but a heav­ily re­vised, 5.2-litre in-house de­sign that aims for im­proved ef­fi­ciency.

With key in place, I press the crys­tal starter but­ton. Good news: de­spite the new V12 be­ing tur­bocharged, it has re­tained the feisty bark and rum­bling idle of the DB9 on fire-up.

As I select sport plus, the fully dig­i­tal dash morphs into se­ri­ous mode show­ing the vitals of speedo, tacho and var­i­ous temp gauges.

I pull the right pad­dle to en­gage the first of the ZF box’s eight for­ward gears and exit the pits of the Bridge­stone test fa­cil­ity in Italy head­ing for the dry han­dling track.

Trundling through the pits gives me time to take in the cabin sur­rounds. Hideous pale blue leather apart, it now feels closer to the min­i­mal­ist Mercedes-Benz AMG GT and fur­ther from the “over 50s gen­tle­men’s club” look of a Jaguar XK.

It’s here that the DB11 gives the first vis­i­ble signs of the com­pany’s part­ner­ship with AMG, most no­tably the 12-inch dig­i­tal driver’s dis­play and Mercedes ro­tary con­troller.

Af­ter savour­ing the first bark of its V12 on a cold Ital­ian morn­ing and the finer points of its new in­te­rior, it’s time to hit Bridge­stone’s 3.9km test track.

I’m not sure what im­presses me more, the smooth power curve with zero hint of turbo lag or the 400mm, six-pis­ton brakes up­front that rapidly pull up the 1770kg As­ton from speed lap af­ter lap for 20 min­utes.

Rear-end grip is im­pres­sive, given the lack of wings or body kit. The trac­tion setup ini­tially di­als in plenty of un­der­steer, es­pe­cially on the wet han­dling sec­tion — with 700Nm com­ing AS­TON MARTIN DB11 PRICE $428,000 plus on-roads SAFETY 10 airbags EN­GINE 5.2-litre V12 twin-turbo, 450kW/700Nm TRANS­MIS­SION 8-speed auto; RWD DI­MEN­SIONS 4739mm (L), 1940mm (W), 1279mm (H), 2805mm (WB) WEIGHT 1770kg SPARE None 0-100KM/H 3.9 sec­onds; top speed 322km/h on from just 1500rpm, it is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to tame with the right foot. In the wet it’s al­most too easy to dial in more side­ways mo­tion than a night at the speed­way.

Be­spoke Bridge­stone 255x40 rub­ber on the front and 295x35 on the rear, code marked 007 of course, works over­time to pump out water on the wet track, pro­vide stu­pen­dous grip in the dry and still of­fer com­fort and ride lev­els su­pe­rior to the last of the DB9s.

With the fun stuff out of the way, we try the coun­try lane loop that’s barely wider than the car but in­cludes the dips, crests and blind cor­ners you typ­i­cally find on a quiet ru­ral road.

The DB11 will reach 100km/h in less than four sec­onds so I ar­rive at the first cor­ner at an alarm­ing pace.

Con­fi­dence now es­tab­lished af­ter plenty of wet and dry track time, I sim­ply tip it in and let the chas­sis set­tle, with­out even a dab of the brakes, then back on the ac­cel­er­a­tor hard for the next short straight.

It’s as close to real-world con­di­tions you could ex­pect, ex­cept on this oc­ca­sion there’s no chance of on­com­ing cars or po­lice radar.

Plac­ing 12 cylin­ders over the nose should be a recipe for un­der­steer ga­lore dur­ing heavy brak­ing and turn-in but mount­ing the gear­box at the rear bal­ances the car sweetly, giv­ing it a 51-49 weight dis­tri­bu­tion, so not once does it bot­tom out or touch the bump stops.

At the rear is a re­tractable flap to cut lift, elim­i­nat­ing the need for a gar­ish fixed wing to ruin its nat­u­ral good looks.

Air rushes from the base of the rear pil­lar on each side through in­ter­nal ducts to the rear deck where it keeps the tail planted at up to 140km/h — then the flap de­ploys.

The DB11 de­vours the rough road, helped by its elec­tric power steer­ing that re­acts deftly to quick changes of di­rec­tion. It proves a competent grand tourer and a well de­served, and long awaited, suc­ces­sor to the DB9.

In the cross-hairs of the DB9 were the Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT and Maserati Gran Turismo. Now As­ton Martin has sharp­ened the in­tent of the DB11, mak­ing it more of a ri­val for the Porsche 911, AMG GT or even per­haps, the Fer­rari 488.

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