There’s a certain mystique about Aston Martin automobiles. The name conjures a sports car with an aristocratic profile, perfectly proportioned and timeless in its elegant design. The historic connection of the iconic Aston Martin DB5 to fiction’s most beloved secret agent adds a twist of glamor that exotics from across the English Channel—even those with hot-blooded V-12 engines—don’t possess. Rarity in numbers certainly plays a role. The Gaydon, UK, manufacturer will have a global production of only about 4,000 automobiles this year. Meaning that an Aston Martin will always be a rare and delightful sight on American roads.
The DB11 is the long-awaited successor to the DB9, a model whose beauty has endured since its introduction in 2003. While it is by no means out of style, the DB9 was becoming a bit long in the technical tooth. The DB11 represents the first all-new car from the brand in 13 years. It is the first Aston Martin launched under the 104-year-old company’s “Second Century” plan, making it the harbinger of styling, engineering and manufacturing developments to be seen in future models. And it is unmistakably Aston: the front grille, the long clamshell hood, the swooping fastback shape and scarab-winged logo pay homage to the great DBs of the 1960s. Overall, the shape is taught and “fitted” like the finest hand-tailored suit from Italy.
That “couturier” is Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s chief creative officer, who penned the DB10, a car designed for the 2015 James Bond film Spectre. Never intended for production, that car laid the aesthetic and engineering groundwork from which the DB11 evolved. Many delicious DB11 details are in deference to aerodynamic efficiency, with a combination of concealed vents, side strakes and a virtual spoiler that ducts air through bodywork, exiting it through a narrow slot in the rear deck. Such “spectral” aerodynamics maintain the DB11’s clean lines. Surely, this could be the sexiest, sleekest sports car of the year.
Beneath its aluminum and composite skin is a whole new beast, beginning with the in-house designed V-12, a twin-turbocharged affair that is the most powerful engine ever fitted to a series-production DB. Efficient, too; it shuts down an entire bank of cylinders when power demand is low. That lightweight aluminum engine is front-mid-mounted to optimize front-to-rear balance. A rear-mounted 8-speed ZF automatic transmission further improves weight distribution. The stronger, lighter, bonded-aluminum chassis is an ideal platform for this new drivetrain, enhancing torsional rigidity and contributing to the superb handling dynamics of the 3,900-lb car.
One enters through Aston’s trademark swan doors that are wider than before. Increased interior space enhances front-cabin ambience, though the utility of the rear seat is restricted to ensconcing the miniature dachshund or m’lady’s fur. The rear hatch will accommodate two sets of clubs or a decent amount of designer luggage. Music lovers will enjoy the optional 1,000-watt audio system by Bang & Olufsen that sounds as magnificent as the tune of the DB11’s lusty V-12. Major improvements are the all-new sat/nav system that features a 12-inch display in the dash and an 8-inch infotainment screen controlled by rotary dial or optional touchpad. Aston Martin has partnered with Daimler (think: Mercedes-Benz) to bring the user experience thoroughly up-to-date. Followers of fashion will appreciate that the cabin could be finished in a variety of leathers and trims and, like a made-to-measure suit, it’d be a shame to miss taking advantage of commissioning a DB11 to one’s liking. Available are Nexus quilting (Baroque stitching in an elegant X-pattern), Celestial perforation or ornate brogue detailing reminiscent of the finest wingtips.
Mash said well-heeled wingtip to the floor to unleash a boundless surge of power, exhausted through a pair of fat pipes with a wail as intoxicating as that of any Italian V-12. Three settings select the driving mode from GT to sport to sport plus. Each influences the engine, exhaust, transmission, suspension, steering and active-torque-vectoring system by turning up performance incrementally. With the GT setting, the DB11 retains its composure over irregular surfaces, making it the preferred choice for a civilized drive. Sport is predictably more aggressive, exploiting the Bilstein adaptive damping system for sharper handling and more responsive feedback from the double wishbone front/multi-link rear suspension. Sport plus mode guarantees maximum fun for the driver, who must stay on his or her toes to keep the rear wheels planted and the DB11 pointed in the right direction. Altogether, this is the best-handling, best-performing, most exciting DB ever. Plus, its $211,995 starting price tag makes it a relative bargain in the world of exotics.