First Drive: Exploring Aston Martin

16 May 2018
POSTED BY Y Magazine

Swathed in expensive materials, the all-new DB in more than a decade blends style and power. Alvin Thomas bonds with the GT coupe and feels like 007



It’s quite hard to pinpoint the feature that makes Aston Martin one of the coolest GT carmakers of all time. Maybe it’s the fact that the world’s greatest spy, James Bond, lingers around the cities of Europe looking to garner vital intelligence in an Aston Martin; or perhaps – after all these years – it remains to be quintessentially British. There’s a certain sense of class and elegance that an Aston Martin carries along: Imagine stepping out to a flurry of cameras ready to go off at an award ceremony draped in a designer gown or suit from an Aston Martin.

While all of that is undeniably lavish, the automotive scene hadn’t really seen any particular Aston Martin product – and specifically a car with the revered ‘DB’ nameplate – for over a decade. To put things into perspective, the last DBS began production in 2007, while the DB9 was put on sale in 2003!

So, needless to say, we were a bit enthralled when we were handed the keys to the brand’s latest product – the Aston Martin DB11. Oh, and even James Bond hasn’t got his hands on this car – he had to settle for his one-off million dollar DB10 supercar in Spectre. But hey, ‘11’ beats ‘10’, right?

It isn’t hard to see where the DB11 gets its looks from. Aston Martin has based the car on the gorgeous-looking DB10, but with a few more sensible bits and pieces added to the mix. The long headlights have grown to become Aston’s monogram along with the traditional grille that has found its way onto every Aston Martin that we can think of.

The side profile is dressed to resemble that of a coupe – which is arguably what the ‘DB’ grand tourers are all about in the first place – but unlike its predecessors, it masks its length with efficacy. A floating roof makes its way to the sloping C-pillar, while a B-pillar has been omitted completely. Meanwhile, the large vents on either side of the car are functional, and are strategically placed to delete any vortex or pressure zones that may be created by the spinning tyres.

Aston keeps its signature hook-shaped tail lamps on the chiselled posterior. It looks aggressive – and more so with the dual sports exhausts. There’s no visible diffuser (like what you would find in the Ferrari GTC4 Lusso) or spoiler in the rear, though, but the boffins state that the sharp rear-view mirrors coupled with the flared arches on the rear quarter of the car are capable enough to channel air through two flaps on either sides of the C-pillars to increase the overall downforce and stability at high speeds. After spending a day with the car, we agreed with them too.

The interior, however, is where the DB11 steals the show. Million-dollar luxury yacht interiors are less swanky than the insides of this car; trust us, we’ve been around in a few. Sure, the inspirations from Aston Martin’s alliance with Mercedes-Benz is evident upon stepping into the cabin, but everything from the contrast stitching on all the panels and the (almost square-ish) steering wheel, to the sloping centre console and the a/c vents are what you’d expect to see on a cruise liner or maybe shapes you’d normally see in (late) Alexander McQueen’s fashion lines.

Attention to detail is what sets this car apart from the rest – and the British (for once) can take credit for that here. Each line on either seat is symmetrical, despite being hand-stitched. This is also the case with the arm rest on the centre console, the inserts on the door and even in places in the cabin where your eyes would normally not visit. Speaking of which, Aston Martin designers have covered the headliner in high-grade Alcantara.

Also added to the interior is the new 12-inch TFT LCD display on the gauge cluster. This all-new screen presents all the primary vehicle information you will require, while a second, centrally mounted 8-inch dedicated infotainment touchscreen takes control of all the other in-car functions. The latter is a welcome change from the dreadful Volvo-based systems of old. We also admired the ease of the Mercedes-derived rotary control with the touchpad for character recognition, and multi-touch and gesture controls.

The list is completed by a 360-degree birds-eye view camera and a 400-Watt Aston Martin audio system, among many, many other features.

Like all Aston Martins, the DB11 also has a front-engine (and almost mid-engine) layout, meaning it harbours its beating heart – a 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12 – under the hood. The result from the marriage is 600hp and an astonishing 700Nms of torque. The drivetrain is completed by an eight-speed ‘ZF’ automatic gearbox that sends power to the rear wheels.

So, how’s the performance? In one sentence, we’d say that under normal circumstances, it drives like any other grand touring car. But there’s more to the DB11 than what meets the eye – and it’s something that you can only explore once you’ve taken your RO100,000-plus GT car to a closed road or a racetrack.

It doesn’t take much to realise that you’re plodding around in a GT car and not a sports car, albeit it could be because of the supple dampers that can really mimic the ride comfort of a competitive Audi or Mercedes-Benz. But, switch it into ‘Sport +’ mode and you’ll find that the car comes alive – and it’s best to stay awake and at the height of all your senses at all times.

The engine doesn’t particularly feel turbocharged and we had to constantly remind ourselves not to play with the limits. The power and torque delivery are extremely linear – and almost similar to what you’d expect from a naturally aspirated engine. Sure, the forced induction becomes apparent from the muffled, yet soulful, exhaust note that bellows from the exhaust when you put your foot down a bit.

Upon doing so, you’ll also be hitting the 100kph mark from a standstill in 3.9 seconds. That’s seriously impressive from a car that tips the scales at 1,770kg. The reason it picks up speed so well is because of the gearbox calibration, which is simply staggering. The ZF gearbox responds in ways we had never seen in any other car, and the first three gears can come across as a tad intimidating if you’re driving the car on ‘Sport +’ mode.

But should the car stray out of its line in a fit of oversteer, you’ll find the steering more than adept to deal with the situation. The steering – while operated by an electric motor assisting power system – offers a great deal of progression while turning, and also a level of feedback not seen in other cars in this class.

The brakes seemed to be biased to the rear, meaning, we were able to tip the car into corners with a hint of oversteer without even trying. Need we say: The handling characteristics of the car – while it didn’t mimic that of a supercar – still felt superior to that of its other competitors from Britain and maybe even Italy.

Aston Martin’s first attempt at making a grand tourer in over a decade or so may seem like a collaborative effort to some. But, scratch beyond the obvious and you’ll find that the DB11 is more than just a Mercedes-Benz on stilts; it’s a brilliant car which on a good day could even put other sports cars to shame. Not to mention: It’s also going to steal all the attention from everyone else.

 

Aston Martin DB11

 

  • Engine: 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12
  • Transmission: Eight-speed ‘ZF’ automatic
  • Horsepower: 600hp
  • Torque: 700Nm
  • Top speed: 322kph

 

Features:

 

  • Rear-wheel drive
  • 8-inch touchscreen
  • 360-degree birds-eye view system
  • 400-Watt Aston Martin audio system
  • Memory front seats and mirrors
  • LED headlights
  • Ventilated disc brakes
  • Torque vectoring (by braking)
  • Satellite navigation system
  • Cruise control with speed limiter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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