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HomeREVIEWSASTON MARTIN DB11

ASTON MARTIN DB11

Revealed at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, the replacement for the then 13-year-old Aston Martin DB9 saw a new era heralded in for the British Carmaker. Under their “Second Century” plan, Aston Martin hopes to regain its former glory as a sports car benchmark brand. BERNIE HELLBERG recently drove the thrilling new DB11 and has become properly hooked on Aston’s new direction.

As one of the oldest automobile manufacturers in the world, they’re 104 this year, Aston Martin is not short on heritage. But it is surprisingly short on mainstream product, counting the Rapide, Vanquish, Vantage, and now the DB11 in its stable.

But if Aston’s expansion plan, known as “Second Century” is a harbinger of things to come, the brand will not only increase its manufacturing output, thanks to a new factory in Wales, but it will enter the hotly-contested luxury crossover market with the new DBX that will be manufactured there.

However, sport- and supercars will remain at the heart of what Aston Martin stands for, as the brand relies rather heavily on the fortunes that the new DB11 will certainly generate for them.

ALL ABOUT COOPERATION

The DB11 is as British as they come, which means it carries itself with an air of sophistication and pride that befits the stature of the British race cars of yesteryear.

But in a new age of globalism, for the marque to not only survive the onslaught of behemoth sports car manufacturers such as Ferrari and Porsche, but also to thrive and grow, they need to produce vehicles that will entice buyers away from other exclusive brands and into Aston Martin showrooms.

Aston Martin needed help to achieve this, and found salvation in the form of a Daimler partnership, which has the German brand now owning 5% of Aston Martin Lagonda.

Through its partnership with Daimler and its subsidiary, Mercedes-AMG, the DB11 has already been endowed with Mercedes’ infotainment system and satellite navigation, while future cooperation will see AMG supply Aston Martin with powertrains too.

STILL ALL ASTON

It is important to note, however, that the DB11 is very much an original Aston concept. While it benefits from Mercedes electronics, it rocks Aston Martin’s brand-new, in-house developed and built, 5.2-litre twin turbo V12 engine that produces a maximum power output of 447 kW and 700 Nm of torque between 1,500 and 5,000 r/min.

Coupled with a rear mid-mounted ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox – operated by the classic AM pushbutton-style gear selector, and combined with steering-mounted gear paddles, the all-Aston powertrain is one of the best the company has produced. Ever.

It is so good that it will propel the grand tourer from zero to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, pushing it to top out at 322 km/h. While South African roads will, and should, never see this kind of speed, the DB11’s seemingly never-ending acceleration capacity thrilled and delighted me like only a true Britmobile could.

Backed up by the right numbers, the DB11 not only feels lighter and more rigid than the DB9, it really is, thanks to a new aluminium structure that is 39 kg lighter than the DB9 and 25% stiffer.

A BLADE TO A GUNFIGHT

Although not quite a world first invention — the Ferrari 488 GTB uses similar technology – the Aston Martin Aeroblade eliminates the rear spoiler by channelling airflow over and around, as well as through the body of the vehicle, to enhance stability.

Created by the company’s lead aerodynamic expert, Darren Coe, the system directs air along the bonnet and side panels, into intakes under the C-pillar, before venting into slots in the rear boot lid. The resultant airflow creates so much downforce that it removes the need for a pop-up rear spoiler, which helps to keep the DB11’s flowing lines unbroken.

GET IN AND DRIVE

Although it felt familiar to Aston Martin, the DB11 interior is a study in elegant sportiness that I haven’t seen in an AM before. All-Brit touches like the brogue detailing on the seats, in the doors and on the dash are super stylish, and it is greatly enhanced by the effortlessness of the Mercedes-derived infotainment screen, rotary control and touchpad plus satnav.

The DB11’s seating position is cosseted and secure, although rear seating is limited for anyone of significant height. Front seats are obviously electrically adjustable from centre console mounted switches, and offer firm support for all driving conditions.

To get the most from the Aston’s brilliantly smooth engine, one simply toggles between GT, Sport, and Sport Plus engine modes. Although an everyday driving option, GT mode comfortably unleashes the DB11’s full might when the pedal goes to the floor. At the same time, the DB11 remains mindful of fuel efficiency by utilising only six of the available 12 cylinders when not driving vigorously. Moreover, to ensure even valve wear, the engine management system will alternate between cylinder banks when the system is engaged.

When dialling in Sport mode the Aston firms up noticeably, and adjusts the steering, revs and exhaust note to signal that the beast has awakened.

Sport Plus mode is best left to track use as it intensifies the intensity in the suspension and steering, the transmission and the torque vectoring system, tuning into the DB11’s true sports coupé heritage.

The Aston Martin DB11 comes with loads of standard spec including leather seats, Alcantara headlining and keyless go. At this end of the market, though, anything less would simply not be cricket.

LAST WORD

The Aston Martin DB11 is one of the finest grand tourers available now. It has a wicked turn of speed, fantastic styling, and a premium feel that was not always present in previous DB cars. Judging by the DB11, the future looks bright for Aston Martin, and if the company applies the same high levels of sophistication and refinement to the upcoming Vantage sports car, Vanquish flagship, and the DBX crossover, the DB11 offers but a taste of what’s in store.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG | Images © ASTON MARTIN

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