Tiny Aston Martin, always teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, is pinning many of its future dreams upon the 2017 DB11. It is the first of seven new offerings to be unveiled over the next seven years. All are meant to transform an iconic automaker into a real world rival of Ferrari and Bentley.
Aston hopes that a new twin-turbo V12, state-of-the-art hardware, and aluminium architecture will launch the company into the same realm of desirability as the aforementioned automakers. Let’s have a quick look at how the automaker is doing on all DB11 fronts.
Under the Bonnet
Aston Martin has placed a 5,204cc(5.2L) DOHC 48-valve twin-turbo V12 that produces 600 bhp and 699 N-m of torque under the bonnet of the 2017 DB11. Aston estimates that the DB11 can launch from 0-100 km/h in 3.9 seconds and has a top speed of 312 km/h. Peak torque is available at 1,500 rpm and remains steady through the 7,000 rpm redline. How does that stack up to the new Ferrari GTC4Lusso? The Lusso offers 680 bhp at 8,000 rpms. That comes from a naturally aspirated 6.3L V12. Many high-performance V12s have a tendency to reach maximum torque at high crankshaft speeds. As mentioned above, the DB11 has all of its torque available at just 1,500 rpm. The GTC4Lusso, on the other hand, doesn’t reach peak torque until 5,750 rpm. So, the DB11 stacks up fairly well, great if you consider the price difference between the two.
The new V12 is equipped with an interesting cylinder deactivation system to meet tightening emissions controls. The system will shut down one bank of six cylinders when throttle is light. That in-and-of itself isn’t very interesting. What is innovative is that the system alternates between shutting down the left and right banks. This ensures that each catalytic converter remains within the proper operating temperature range.
Drivers fire the engine by pressing a crystal start button located dead-center center of the center stack, reach a tad further over to push the button marked D, then the fun begins. Aston Martin worked to improve the ride quality of the DB11 over the outgoing DB9. To that end, front and rear compliance stiffness has been decreased by 60 percent and ride frequencies are 15 percent lower. Matt Becker, vehicle attribute engineering chief for Aston Martin said, ”We wanted the vertical motions to be more relaxed, but we didn’t want a lazy car.” Lateral stiffness on the front axle has been increased by 60 percent and stiffness at the rear has been boosted by 20 percent. Each has been accomplished by stiffer knuckles, bushings, and bearings. The added precision can be felt even in the most congenial setting of GT.
For your best all-around everyday ride, keep the DB11 in Sport mode. This setting tightens the secondary body motions, especially in the rear. The steering will turn in as soon as the steering wheel is taken off-center and the DB11 will track faithfully through wicked twists and turns; giving you a great balance between grip and ride quality.
If you switch to the Sport Plus damper setting you are going to be able to appreciate the pains Aston has gone to in order to produce a true Ferrari competitor. On the downside, you will feel each bump in the road, so take care of the quality of the pavement you are going to be on before switching the this setting. Changing between Sport and Sport Plus also changes the throttle mapping and opens the exhaust bypass valves. The result is a chest rattling exhaust roar that dares other cars to try to keep up.
There seems to always be some downside to every car. With the 2017 Aston Martin DB11, that is the rear-mounted ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox. There is noticeable shifting that is only exacerbated by toggling up to Sport or Sport Plus modes. The gearbox thumps very noticeably under hard acceleration. Additionally, there seems to be a disconnect between the engine and the gearbox, almost as if they were on different pages. The issue is rooted in the software, not the gearbox itself. Aston engineers are currently working to eliminate the issue.
In the past, Aston always did just enough interior work to look more luxurious than it actually was, but faults were forgiven. It was an Aston after all. Hand-built and charming, idiosyncrasies were forgiven much as those of your ”strange uncle” are. That forgiveness isn’t necessary in the DB11. In the DB9, Aston’s outdated electrical architecture could no longer be overlooked. Case-in-point, the Rube Goldberg nav system. The DB11 features a state-of-the-art mega-sized digital instrument display, and a large infotainment screen. The ultra-modern, chic center stack features simple, concisely marked switches and touch controls. There are power adjustments for the steering column. The column offers controls for the GT, Sport, and Sport Plus settings: powertrain and suspension alike. Within easy reach are the controls for the nav system, HVAC, audio, Park Assist, etc. Each can be controlled via a familiar rotary control or buyers can opt for touchpad controls on the center stack.
When you slide behind the controls, you are surrounded by leather. Marek Reichman’s design team has dipped way down into the trick bag to incorporate various stitching techniques, quilting, perforation, and broguing into a modern interior that can only be described as intriguing and upscale. Buyers have to take care when ordering their DB11. There are 35 standard exterior colors, that can be coordinated with 28 standard leather colors and three types of leather. Then there are the six base trim finishes and two styles of carbon fiber. Yeah, equipping your DB11 may require that you hire an interior designer.
Starting at L161,900, the 2017 Aston Martin DB11 is a relatively affordable luxury sports car. It compares favorably with the latest Ferarri offerings, but falls a tad short of what Bentley is offering. Overall, Aston may have taken a huge step toward record sales.