Power. Beauty. Soul. For many years, Aston Martin proudly displayed these three words on the instrument panels of its cars right before they roared to life. For me, these are the three words that sum up everything Aston Martin stands for. Together, they form the ethos of a brand so effortlessly cool one wonders if it’s even possible for Aston to build an ugly car.
At the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, Aston Martin gave its adoring fans the next object of their affection with the unveiling of the DB11.
For Aston Martin, the DB11 is one of the most important cars in company history and certainly the most important since its separation from Ford a decade ago. As storied as Aston Martin the brand may be, Aston Martin the business has had more than its fair share of run-ins with financial ruin in its history. The DB11 has to keep the company in the black for the foreseeable future.
However, the sleek luxury grand tourer will have the unenviable task of replacing the company’s beloved, but ageing DB9.
Like the super spy with whom Aston is so inexorably linked, finding the perfect successor is paramount. Get it wrong and hundreds of millions of dollars go down the drain. But, get it right and a bountiful decade awaits.
Recently, Aston Martin let Business Insider borrow a DB11 coupe in Magnetic Silver. The 2017 Aston Martin DB11 starts at $A290,649 while our test car came to $A320, 603 after a few options.
Photos by Hollis Johnson unless otherwise credited.
For more than a decade, the stunning DB9 carried on Aston Martin's tradition as the purveyor fine grand touring motors. However, by 2016, even its captivating beauty couldn't hide the fact that it was time to move on.
That's where the DB11 comes into play. Unveiled at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, the new grand tourer will propel Aston into the future.
Even though Aston Martin chief creative officer Marek Reichman has his fingerprints on special editions like the One-77 ...
.... Bond's own DB10, the DB11 is the English car designer's first chance to really work his magic on one of the brand's main production models.
For Aston, the DB11 marks a significant departure from the design language set by former designer Ian Callum's DB7 in the early 1990s.
The DB11 is an amalgam of the DB10's sharp edges and muscular haunches with the long, flowing lines expected of cars in this genre.
Overall, the DB11 delivers a magnificent blend of unadulterated beauty and aerodynamic functionality.
One of the major triumphs of the DB11's design is the new AeroBlade system, which creates a virtual spoiler using jets of air directed through discrete ducts located on the decklid of the car. This allows Aston to deliver great downforce without the need for a large and unsightly spoiler. There is a small retractable spoiler, but that's only deployed at high speed.
The Aston's leather upholstery is brogued, just like the leather on a fine benchmade pair of gentleman's shoes.
The stylish front seats are extremely comfortable with firm lumbar support, perfect for long drives through the English countryside -- or down the New Jersey Turnpike.
The DB11 no longer requires the insertion of the crystal key into the dash to start the engine. A simple push of the start button will suffice. (A welcome change, as far as we're concerned. The crystal key was cool, but this setup is more reliable.)
Also on the center dash is Aston's new infotainment system, complete with a larger 8-inch screen than what we've seen before. Actually, this isn't an Aston system.
It's actually borrowed from Mercedes-Benz, as evidenced by the Mercedes dial and touchpad controller. It's the most obvious example of Aston's new technical partnership with the German automaker. As part of the deal, the three-pointed star also owns 5% of Aston Martin.
Even though it's not Mercedes' newest system, it works well enough and is a significant improvement over the unit found in the DB9. The response time is quick and the three-band layout is easy enough to use after a small adjustment period.
With that said, knocking a small boutique car maker like Aston for its infotainment system is like complaining that a Michael Bay movie lacks subtlety. You know what you're getting into when you buy the ticket.
Overall, the Aston's interior is tasteful and restrained -- an exercise in luxury without verging into gout-inducing decadence.
Open up the one-piece clam-shell hood and you'll find a sublime 5.2 litre, twin-turbocharged V12. Paired with an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission, the 600-horsepower motor propels the Aston to 60 mph in a manufacturer-claimed 3.9 seconds. Keep your foot on the gas and the DB11 will go all the way up to 200 mph.
In addition, the DB11 features three driving modes -- GT; Sport; and Sport + -- that vary the car's powertrain and dampers. GT is geared towards everyday use, while Sport and Sport + are designed to deliver more spirited driving experiences.
In town, the Aston is a perfectly behaved boulevard cruiser. It's more than happy to offer up its services as the automotive equivalent of arm candy.
As you leave town for the wilds of rural New Jersey, (yes, that exists.), the athlete within the DB11 emerges. The 600-horse V12 comes alive, delivering power on demand accompanied by an ear-pleasing exhaust note. As much as the twin-turbos try, they can't keep the sweet music of 12-cylinder fury at bay.
The DB11 is neither sports car nor supercar. It's a grand tourer designed to eat up large amounts of real estate at very high speeds while cocooning its occupants in absolute luxury. In that regard, the DB11 is a purebred GT car and doesn't attempt to do anything more than its job description indicates.
As the road turns twisty, the Aston hunkers down, moving swiftly and efficiently through the corners without compromising comfort.
Depending on the road, the Aston varies from relaxing to invigorating. And in a few instances, life affirming.
To drive the DB11 is akin to a 6-course meal at a Michelin Star restaurant. Each course engenders different feelings, taking you on an emotional rollercoaster until the experience is over and you're left in awe of the price tag while wanting to do it all over again the following week.
With the DB11, you get Aston Martin at its most refined. It's easy to live with, a joy to drive, and its technology works without a hitch.
But, what makes the car a triumph of engineering also threatens its place in the hearts of those who adored its predecessors for their rough edges and imperfections. People loved the DB9's designer watch-inspired instrument cluster even though it caused so much glare you struggled to see the gauges on a sunny day. Then there are its difficult-to-use, but-oh-so-stylish touch sensitive center dash and the big 6.0 litre, V12 that was immensely powerful, but objectively antiquated.
In the twisted minds of automotive enthusiasts like myself, perfection is boring, flaws add character while noise feeds the soul. This is why cars like the Toyota Camry are often derided for their no-fuss, A-to-B demeanors.
Fortunately for the DB11, automotive excellence doesn't stifle Aston's trained-killer-in-a-Savile-Row-suit personality. Neither Mercedes' electronics nor the twin-turbos could sanitize the entertaining driving experience. There's plenty fine leather, rich wood, and throaty V12 rumble left to ensure the brand's personality abounds.
Because the new DB11 is able to deliver modern refinement without corrupting the essence of the parental heritage, it is, without a doubt, the best car to ever carry the Aston Martin badge.
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