Grand grand tourer
To show off the fruits of its labor, Aston Martin invited Motor Authority to drive the DB11 V8 from San Diego to Borrego Springs and back again, a route that, thankfully, involved more than a few canyon roads.
I was on a similar drive a year ago, and, holy cow, what a difference a year makes! The DB11 is an amazing leap forward from the DB9 it replaces and, yes, Aston Martin has made that Mercedes-AMG engine its own.
Fire it up, and the 4.0-liter V-8 growls with a menace befitting the sinister beauty of its tautly wrapped sheet metal. Choose the Sport or Sport+ modes and the note drops an octave and gets more gravelly, like Mr. Cocker does when he belts out “said I'm going to make it with my friends, yeah.” Stomp the throttle, shoot toward the horizon, then let off, and listen to the pops and crackles that remind you of the nonsense “yeahs,” “nos,” and “babies,” all the rock and blues greats use to accentuate the feeling in their songs.
The power is also ready, willing, and able. It’s not immediate from a start; mash the go-pedal from a stop and the turbos need some time to spool up before the 4.0 pins you back in your seat. Once underway, however, throttle response is immediate, shifts are quick and crisp (in fact, shift paddle travel is reduced by half versus the V-12, should you decide to shift on your own), and the California landscape rushes by in a blur. Opt for the powertrain’s Sport+ mode, and it holds the lowest gear possible as long as possible, which is great for carving canyon roads but annoying in San Diego traffic.
If you were worried that stiffer dampers and a sportier character would make the DB11 V-8 too stiff, relax. Aston Martin has developed the DB11 as a true grand tourer, balancing comfort and handling in a beautiful package that would make a comfortable car for an escape to the cabin many hours away.
Cruising along with the dampers in the GT mode is surprisingly comfortable. This car is a far cry from the DB9, which relied on a weaker body and a stiffer suspension. Choose the Sport or Sport+ settings and the ride becomes more jiggly but it still isn’t overly harsh.
And yet steering and handling are more than satisfying. The DB11 is the first Aston Martin with electric assist power steering, and its quick 13:1 ratio teams with the stiff structure to make turn-in sharp and immediate. The 245/40 front and 285/35 rear Bridgestone Potenza 007 (see what Aston Martin did there?) tires bite hard in cornering and provide excellent grip. This 3,880-pound car tracks nicely through corners, too, rotating willingly.
Still, Aston Martin has left some performance equipment on the table given the fact that the DB11’s mission is to be a grand tourer instead of an outright sports car. It has a mechanical limited-slip differential to manage power through corners, and brake-based torque vectoring that will clamp the inside rear wheel and even the inside front in a turn to help the car rotate. However, it lacks other go-fast goodies that would really improve handling. A clutch-based torque vectoring differential would provide power to the outside rear wheel to help the DB11 attack corners, and rear-wheel steering would virtually shorten its wheelbase. Both would improve durability and shorten laps times, but neither are available.
The one to buy
The 2018 Aston Martin DB11 costs $198,995, while the V-12 runs $216,495. Both cars carry the same level of equipment, so the engine alone accounts for the $17,500 price difference.
Just as Joe Cocker made a Beatles song all his own, Aston Martin has made an AMG engine work well in the DB11. For the mere cost of 0.1 second in the 0-62 mph run and 13 mph at the top end, you get an engine that saves you money on the sticker price and at the pump, improves dynamics, and a sings a great song, even though it's a cover tune.
Sometimes all you need are your buddies.
Aston Martin provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.