Aston Martin DB11

Debut: 2016
Maker: Aston Martin
Predecessor: DB9

 Published on 26 Aug 2016 All rights reserved. 

Probably the best sorted Aston Martin in modern ages.

Beauty, Power and Luxury have always been the 3 pillars of Aston Martin, and they have been lifted to new heights on the DB11. From the perspective of history, I am not sure if it can match the greatness of DB4 or DB5, but it is very likely to be the best Aston in modern ages which started with DB7 in 1993. There are more brutal Astons like Vanquish or One-77, or more driver-focused ones like V8 or V12 Vantage S, but the new DB11 is better sorted than any of them. It looks beautiful, it feels truly potent and it is built with a quality normally associated with German brands. It feels more rounded and polished than Aston ever tried. This must be a promising start of a new era.

Yes, the DB11 kickstarts a new era. Its new generation aluminum platform, though still called VH, will provide the basis for the next generation Vantage, Vanquish and new DBX crossover. That is also part of the £700 million investment set to double the company’s output. As Aston has been making losses in recent years, its success will be crucial to the turnaround plan. Leading this turnaround are four men: CEO Andy Palmer (ex-Infiniti boss joined in late 2014), long-time engineering chief Ian Minards (who oversaw the development of all Astons in the last 10 years), design chief Marek Reichman (who joined Aston in 2005 but, ridiculously, this is his first chance to design from a clean sheet!) and, in my opinion probably the most important, ex-Lotus road test engineer Matt Becker, who serves to tune the ride and handling of DB11. The name Becker is probably no stranger to our readers. His father Roger was responsible for the chassis tuning of every Lotus from
Esprit to Elise (also contributed to the great handling of the original Toyota MR2). Matt himself worked on the evolutions of Elise, Exige and then played the leading role in the ride and handling development of Evora. While modern Astons are all good to steer, they don’t always return good ride comfort at the same time. If Becker can apply his know-how from Hethel to Gaydon, DB11 could be a dream to drive. We shall see…

If Matt Becker can apply his know-how from Lotus, DB11 could be a dream to drive...

It goes without saying DB11 is the replacement for DB9, which had been serving as Aston Martin’s standard GT car in the last 12 years. What happened to DB10? It was used by the purpose-built prototype starring in James Bond movie Spectre. I suppose Aston did not want to use that nameplate anyway. Jumping from DB9 to DB11 implies a giant step like that from DB7 to DB9. How big is the leap? There is an all-new chassis and rear suspension, a nearly new twin-turbo V12 engine, a complete overhaul of interior and a new styling direction. By the usual subtle standards of Gaydon, this is almost a revolution!

However, don’t expect the DB11 to break away from the formula set out by its predecessor. This is still a large 2+2 grand tourer powered by a V12 engine. What differ are the details. Its overall length is less than an inch longer than DB9, but it appears larger than that because it is both wider and lower. Its sleek body profile remains, but its lines are tauter and the details get more elegant. Marek Reichman finally stepped out of the shadows of Ian Callum and created something original. While DB9 is purer, DB11 looks more sophisticated. Its Aston Martin-signature front grille gets larger, more 3-dimensional and simply more stylish. The side air vents now extend forward and merge with the front wheel arches, which is a unique feature of the car. Another departure from the previous Astons is the colored roof, which can be ordered in black, polished aluminum or body color. It is visually separated from the body at the base of C-pillars. The C-pillars and the rear screen are incredibly fast and shallow as they meet the more pronounced rear fenders and a higher boot line. This not only gives the DB11 a more muscular look when being viewed from the rear, but it should reduce aerodynamic lift as well. 

Marek Reichman finally stepped out of the shadows of Ian Callum...

Speaking of aerodynamic lift, two more devices help minimizing it. The first is a tiny rear spoiler which is normally recessed into the boot lid and raised automatically at speed. Another device is called “Aeroblade” by Gaydon. There is a small intake hidden under each C-pillar, which channels air through ducts towards the tail and blows out from the gap located behind the rear spoiler. Its working principle is similar to the “blown spoiler” on Ferrari 488GTB. Why does Aston care so much about aerodynamics this time around? Because the DB11 tops 200 mph, a far cry from the 183 mph top speed of DB9.

Viewing from the side, you might find that the front overhang of DB11 is noticeably shorter than previous Astons. Yes, its wheelbase has been extended by 65 mm to 2805 mm, primarily by means of
pushing the front axle forward. This allows the V12 motor to sit almost entirely behind the front axle, improving weight distribution to 51:49 front to rear.

Meanwhile, the cabin is also benefited from the wheelbase stretch. The rear seats are said to gain 87 mm of legroom and 54 mm of headroom, so it is finally a full four-seater? Sorry, bear in mind that the +2 seats on DB9 were next to non-existence, the DB11’s rear accommodation has been improved to be about as roomy as Porsche 911’s. In other words, it is good for small children but hopeless to carry adults, even small ones. Even for a short trip. That said, I think no one would expect an Aston GT to work like Mercedes S-class Coupe.

The DB11’s rear accommodation is about as roomy as Porsche 911’s, i.e. for small children only.

There is no such problem up front. Although the roof line is low, the front seats are mounted low like sports cars, so they accommodate 6-footers with ease. Visibility is inevitably limited by the shallow windows, no matter front, side, rear or rear quarters, but you can say this adds to the sense of occasion normally reserved for exotic cars.

The architecture of the interior is easily fresher and more modern than the DB9. The materials are richer, softer and warmer. The build quality is much higher. DB9 sometimes left you feeling that it was the standard, de-contented Aston GT. In contrast, the DB11 feels properly luxurious yet special. This cabin would not feel out of place if it was adopted on the pricier Vanquish.

However, the biggest improvement of the cabin is electronics. Modern electronic techs are too expensive to develop for a low-volume maker like Aston. Fortunately, Gaydon is now 5-percent-owned by Daimler, so it gets Mercedes’ latest infotainment system at bargain prices. You can easily spot that from the Mercedes-style rotary controller (with integrated touchpad) on the transmission tunnel. The 8-inch screen and the touch-sensitive center console panel are also marked improvement from the DB9. The number of buttons has been reduced thanks to shifting audio and air-con controls to software. The mechanical instruments of DB9 have been replaced with modern TFT instrument, which is re-configurable. However, it doesn’t come from Mercedes, so the resolution is a bit low.

This cabin would not feel out of place if it was adopted on Vanquish.

As before, the new VH platform is bonded from aluminum pressings, extrusions and castings, but now it consists of more pressings and fewer extrusions, which saves space and explains why the cabin gets roomier. The outer body panels are made of pressed aluminum (bonnet, roof and doors), composites (front fenders, boot lid and rear haunches) and plastics (bumpers, front splitters and diffusers). The roof rails are formed from extruded and pressed aluminum. Stressed structural parts are mostly castings and extrusions. They are bonded by rivets, adhesives and welding. The whole structure is 15 percent stiffer than the DB9 chassis.

For the first time, the Aston employs a multi-link rear suspension instead of traditional double-wishbones type. This offers higher freedom for tuning the individual character of vertical and lateral reaction (Ferrari made the same change much earlier, starting from California in 2008 and now all of its cars have multi-link rear). Further improvement to handling is contributed by wider tracks – some 74 mm and 43 mm are added to the front and rear axle respectively, although the body gets only 28 mm wider. Another first for Aston is the electrical power steering. Well, I know what you are going to say, but the DB11 is a grand tourer instead of a pure sports car like Vantage, so the superior refinement brought by EPS (i.e. free of kickback and white noise) might be worthwhile, and the loss of tactile feel could be justified.

If this is to be called “downsizing”, then I love downsizing!

And then there is the new V12, which is once again built by Ford in Cologne, Germany. It is added with a pair of twin-scroll turbochargers while capacity is reduced slightly from 5935 to 5204 cc, thanks to shortening the stroke from 79.5 to 69.7mm (bore remains unchanged at 89mm). If this is to be called “downsizing”, then I love downsizing! With so much capacity and turbocharging working at the same time, it is not surprising to learn that its output easily shades the outgoing normally aspirated unit. Even though the DB11 version is supposed to be in milder tuning, it already produces 608 horsepower, 61 ponies more than the last DB9 GT. Its torque production is overwhelming, with 516 lbft available from merely 1500 rpm and sustains until 5000 rpm. In contrast, the old engine needed 5500 rpm to see the peak value of 457 lbft. And this is only the beginning. The next Vanquish and V12 Vantage will undoubtedly have this engine tuned even higher. Moreover, bear in mind that currently the engine is yet to get modern direct fuel injection. It leaves quite a lot of headroom for improvement.

Aston said its fuel consumption and CO2 emission have been reduced by about 20 percent. Apart from the fact that turbocharging is good at deceiving efficiency tests, the new engine achieves this by using automatic stop-start and cylinder deactivation. Since this is a V12, it can easily shut down one entire cylinder bank, leaving a straight-6 to work in perfect harmony. By shutting down the left and right banks in alternating sequence every 20 to 30 seconds, it can keep the catalytic converters of both sides warm thus doesn’t affect emission.

As before, the ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox sits at the rear axle to improve balance (Aston is the only manufacturer using the ZF box in this way). It drives the rear wheels through a limited slip differential. There is no active differential, just the usual ESP and brake-based torque vectoring to save extreme conditions, but then the DB11 is inherently well balanced and easy to tame.

516 lbft is available from merely 1500 rpm and sustains until 5000 rpm, enabling effortless overtaking.

On the Road

Many good engines have their souls traded for power and efficiency through turbocharging. Fortunately, Aston Martin’s twin-turbo V12 isn’t one of them. It wakes up with a thrilling bark. At low to mid-range revs it produces a bassy yet delicious noise that is not far off the old engine. Only at high revs it fails to replicate
the manic scream of the naturally aspirated unit. The combination of turbocharger’s muffling effect and improved sound insulation, such as double-glazed windows, turns down the volume considerably, which is probably right because the DB11 is supposed to be a grand tourer and the most civilized model in Aston Martin’s family tree. However, its sound quality remains unmistakably Aston Martin. After all, it is difficult to build a poor-sounding V12.

The twin-turbo shows a bit turbo lag at very low revs, but otherwise its throttle response is quick. Mid-range torque is so much stronger than before, allowing the car to pick up instantly. The DB9 used to feel slower than it looked as it needed a lot of revs to gather momentum and overcome its weight. The DB11 is heavier still (by about 90 kilos), but it feels lighter and a lot more potent. It will do 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds, half a second quicker than the quickest DB9. Squeeze the throttle and it will press you to the backrest. Keep flooring down the throttle, the V12 will rev cleanly to its 6500 rpm power peak and ultimately touch the 7000 rpm redline. It is willing, but it doesn’t beg you to do so because of its superior mid-range torque. Consequently, in most driving situations you are likely to settle at the mid-range, relying on its torque and let the ZF automatic to do its job. The exhaust note fades into the background in high-speed cruising, so the DB11 is a better GT than its predecessor or any other Aston Martins. Likewise, the cylinder deactivation is invisible as its switchover is imperceptible. In short, performance and refinement are both massively boosted, whereas its soul is largely retained.

Performance and refinement are massively boosted. Its soul is largely retained.

The same can be said to its chassis. Despite of weighing nearly 1900 kg with fuel and coolant loaded, the DB11 hides its bulk well, displaying outstanding agility and balance for a front-engined car. There is also remarkable traction and front-end grip on offer, so the car is predictable to handle and understeers very little. It is trustworthy to drive to the limit, where it slides progressively depending on throttle. Inevitably, the electrical power steering isn’t as tactile as the old hydraulic setup, but it still delivers vital messages you need. Most important, it is geared much quicker, if not quick to the extent of nervous like some Ferraris. This makes the big Aston feels more agile yet easy to guide.

Meanwhile, the suspension is much better sorted than any Astons before, thanks to a thorough rethink of its tuning philosophy. It has the suspension travel lengthened and vertical stiffness softened by 60 percent, while lateral stiffness increased by 60 percent up front and 20 percent at the rear. These call for not only new springs and dampers but also bushings, knuckles and bearings. The outcome is tight body control yet a supple ride. With the adaptive damping set at GT mode, the DB11 covers long distance as relaxing as a Mercedes S-class – only the noise suppression tells the difference. Sport mode leaves most of that suppleness intact while dialing up body control. It absorbs bumps and crests with ease and keeps the car composed. Sport+ mode gets more serious again but it is still usable on public roads. All in all, the DB11 rides better than a Porsche 911 Turbo and leaves Bentley Continental GT in dead. It might be the best riding GT in the world. The recruitment of Matt Becker pays off !

The DB11 falls in a segment where few alternatives are offered. Starting at £155,000 it is more expensive than 911 Turbo S, Audi R8 Plus or McLaren 570S, but a front-engined luxury GT is not directly comparable with those thoroughbred sports cars. Bentley Continental GT and Ferrari California T are closer in nature, but the former has more usable rear seats and the latter has an open top. Mercedes-AMG S63 or S65 Coupe are more luxurious and accommodative still. Apples and Oranges. However, unquestionably Aston has built a great GT, and this is just the beginning of an exciting new era.
 Published on 13 Oct 2017
All rights reserved. 
DB11 V8

The AMG V8 is the best thing Aston could dream of...

The Aston Martin DB11 impresses us with its combination of supple ride and good chassis balance. As a GT, we could not think of anything better.

Well, we might be wrong, because its V8 version is probably a better car than the V12. Just like the case of Bentley Continental, buyers of the DB11 will find the V8 loses virtually no performance in real world driving, while its lighter weight – and most taken from the front axle – takes handling and agility to higher level than the heavier 12-cylinder model. Meanwhile, its price is a little bit easier to swallow, i.e. £145K versus £158K, and a 15-percent drop of fuel consumption should make it cheaper to run. The question is, can a V8 match a V12 for smoothness, response and sound quality? This takes a closer inspection to answer.

Aston Martin has always been building its own engines. Although you might say the DB7’s straight-six was developed from Jaguar’s and the current V12 started life as a pair of Ford Duratec V6, none of them were outsourced from another car manufacturer. However, modern engines are increasingly costly to develop due to ever tightening emission standards, not to mention the requirement for electrification in the future. The financial condition of Aston is not in great shape either – it has been making losses 6 years in a row – so buying engines could be an attractive solution. Fortunately, Aston got a partner called Daimler (Mercedes), which owns 5 percent of its stakes and has been supplying infotainment system to DB11. The German giant is even generous enough to offer its very best 4-liter twin-turbo V8. It has to be the best thing Aston could dream of.

Surprisingly, this V8 is not exactly the M178 unit powering AMG GT. It has wet instead of dry sump lubrication, so it should be the M177 that sits under the bonnet of C63 S etc. Despite that, the engine is so compact that it leaves more clearance from the tower bracket than the case of V12. Moreover, it is almost 100kg lighter and sits closer to the firewall, so the car’s front to rear weight distribution is reversed from 51:49 to 49:51, guaranteeing better handling. The engine itself is just as usual, with a pair of turbos sitting inside the V-valley, direct injection but not cylinder deactivation (unlike the V12 or the Mercedes E63 version). It produces 510 horsepower and 498 pound-foot of torque, close to the spec. of AMG GT S but not quite the level of E63 S. That is almost a hundred horsepower adrift of the flagship V12, but it sacrifices only 18 lbft of torque. Moreover, the whole car carries 115 kg less weight, so in terms of torque-to-weight ratio it actually trumps the V12 car! No wonder Aston claims 0-60 mph taking 3.9 seconds, just a tenth behind the range-topper. Top speed drops from 200 mph to 187 mph, but in the real world this matters little.

The V8 is more urgent, more responsive, louder and therefore sportier.

To preserve a distinctive character, Aston worked with AMG to retune the V8’s intake, exhaust and ECU, shifting the AMG’s bass frequencies to the mid-range, boosting induction noise and reducing exhaust roar. The result is a more sophisticated sound. Compared with the twin-turbo V12 though, the Astonized Mercedes V8 is quite a lot louder, and it backfires with crackles on overrun like all AMG engines. Its peak torque arrives 500 rpm later, but when it comes the power surges more dramatically. The throttle response is faster than the V12, and turbo lag is nearly non-existent. You feel the V12 a smoother and more civilized powerplant, whereas the V8 is more urgent, more responsive, louder and therefore sportier. The older naturally aspirated Aston V8 and V12 still have more magnificent soundtracks, but the new V8 is not far off.

Due to the lighter engine, Aston retuned the suspension accordingly and by the way injected a sportier character to the V8. It employs stiffer bushings and anti-roll bars, and widens the gaps between the 3 suspension modes. In the softest mode, it is already stiffer than that of the V12, but still comfy enough to cover rough mountain roads. In contrast, the stiffest mode is now suitable only for glass-smooth surfaces like a track. No matter in which mode, the V8 car offers tighter body control than the V12. Its lighter nose makes it keener to steer and more agile on narrow roads (although the car’s 1940mm width is still a concern). The retuned electric power steering is heavier and more confidence inspiring to exploit the chassis. The reworked front brake calipers reduce pedal travel to match the sportier behavior. All in all, the V8 shifts the balance towards the sports car side.

That said, the V12 flagship remains a better GT for long-distance travel in minimal fuss, thus it is a better rival to Mercedes S-class Coupe and Bentley Continental GT. Psychologically it is also superior, because not only it has 4 more cylinders but also a bespoke Aston engine. Meanwhile, the V8 is slightly less smooth and quiet to travel along, but it is still a good GT by any standards. More important, it is a more rounded package, bridging the world of GT and sports car better than any others. Both deserve the highest regards.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
DB11 V12
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum spaceframe
Aluminum, composites
4739 / 1940 / 1279 mm
2805 mm
V12, 60-degree
5204 cc
DOHC 48 valves, DVVT
Cylinder deactivation
608 hp / 6500 rpm
516 lbft / 1500-5000 rpm
8-speed automatic
F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
F: 255/40ZR20
R: 295/35ZR20
1875 kg
200 mph (c)
3.8 (c) / 4.0* / 3.6**
8.4* / 7.8**
DB11 V8
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum spaceframe
Aluminum, composites
4739 / 1940 / 1279 mm
2805 mm
V8, 90-degree
3982 cc
DOHC 32 valves, DVVT
510 hp / 6000 rpm
498 lbft / 2000-5000 rpm
8-speed automatic
F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
F: 255/40ZR20
R: 295/35ZR20
1760 kg
187 mph (c)
3.9 (c)

Performance tested by: *Autocar, **C&D

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