Rancho Santa Fe, California — Being a one-percenter has its advantages. You can afford to pay for human treatment on an airplane. You can stay in hotels that cater to your every need. You can buy any vehicle you want. But finding the right vehicle might be a bit of a challenge. That’s where Aston Martin’s DB11 comes in, now with a twin-turbo V8 as an additional option.
Aston Martin is in their second century as a car manufacturer, and their storied past include some of the most beautiful cars the world has ever seen. They’re entrenched in both motorsports and popular culture. Just looking at one makes you want to order your next drink shaken, not stirred. The company’s products have a lot of hype to live up to.
That’s what brought us to San Diego. We were invited to see how the new V8-powered Aston Martin stacks up against the competition, but also if it lives up to the hype created by over a century of history.
The short answer is yes. Yes it does.
The DB11 is an all-new architecture for the company, and comes with either an Aston Martin-sourced turbocharged V12 or a Daimler-sourced turbocharged V8. The Daimler engine, a tuned version that goes into Mercedes-AMG products, makes 503 brake horsepower and a healthy 498 lb-ft of torque. That puts the zero-to-60 time at under four seconds. While it’s not the fastest or quickest car in the world, it’s certainly no slouch.
That power is sent to the rear wheels via a ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic. It’s as brilliant in the Aston Martin as it is in the Giulia Quadrifoglio or the Challenger Hellcat. Compared to a dual-clutch unit, which shifts slightly faster, the ZF transmission is smooth around town. Low speed manners are superb.
Several driving modes let you dial in the performance you want out of the car. The suspension is controlled independently of the rest of the controls, letting you keep it in the posh soft setting for a bumping road while still hearing the loud exhaust. It’s all controlled from two buttons on the steering wheel.
The default startup setting is “GT” mode, which seems fitting. It’s suited for daily driving, but even in that setting it feels taut and ready to pounce. Dialing in “Sport” and “Sport+” mode stiffens everything up, but at no point does it feel harsh.
On the highway it’s smooth. When you feel like you’re putting along at the speed limit, a quick glance at the speedometer shows you’re going much faster than that. It’s a car that you could easily spend hours in.
On really tight bends and switchbacks heading up a mountain pass, the car feels a little bit bigger and and heavier than you’d want — these are true sports car roads — but it does a great job at keeping out. And driving through long fast sweepers of a canyon road or valley, the car really feels like it was engineered to only drive on those roads.
It mimics a sports car in a way a lot of luxury cars can not, and is the reason why you’d want to choose the V8 over the more-powerful V12.
Luxury isn’t sacrificed for performance, though. All the materials in the car are real. The leather is real. The wood is real. The aluminum is real. The headliner is hand stitched leather, for Pete’s sake. If looks like you’re driving around in an expensive attaché case, and it smells like it too.
But it all feels sporty. Where a Rolls-Royce Wraith feels like a soft, comfy pillow, the DB11 feels like it has more of a purpose. it’s comfortable, yes, but it also doesn’t make you forget that it can attack a back road with gusto.
For the DB11, including the V8, Aston Martin is using a skinned version of COMMAND from Mercedes-Benz. This infotainment system, despite having several annoyances, is light years ahead of the previous system they were using. It supports all the usual, modern inputs, and can be had with an optional Bang & Olufsen stereo.
There is no touch screen. Instead, everything is controlled by an optional touch-sensitive trackpad and scroll knob. It works, for sure, but there are other systems that are a bit more intuitive to use. If you are upgrading from a Mercedes though, you’ll feel right at home.
On Mercedes-Benz vehicles, COMMAND supports Android Auto and Apple Car Play, but it’s absent here on the Aston Martin. We’re sure it’ll happen eventually, but we’re fans of the option and would like to see it on every vehicle, regardless of class or price.
Aston Martin shuns driver assist technologies because they want cars that people have to drive. We do applaud that approach, and are happy to see basic safety technology like blind spot monitoring present. While we don’t need autonomous emergency braking — at least until it’s required by law — or lane departure alerts, we would like to see adaptive cruise control on a car that is designed to eat highway miles.
The truth is, all of our grievances are minor. We’ve always been a fan of Aston Martin vehicles. The DB9 was the first Aston, in our eyes, that took beautiful design and transformed it into an awesome car. The DB11 is just a pretty but improves everything to bring the company up-to-date for their second century of operation.
Our biggest fear before driving the new Aston would be that the partnership with Daimler would make the DB11 a little bit too German. That’s not the case. The engine note is unique. The interior feels bespoke. The driving experience feels special. Is it our favorite luxury grand tourer? Until the new Vanquish drops, we’d have to say “yes.”
This review first appeared on Future Motoring and is used with permission.