What Car? says...
Aston Martin is an important brand. It engineers and builds cars that are as beautiful as supermodels in the UK, and even King Charles is a fully paid-up fan.
The DB11 we're reviewing here – which has just been replaced by the new Aston Martin DB12 – is intended to be a lot more than just a showpiece that looks good parked up at the kerbside, though. This coupé is claimed to deliver a performance car driving experience and quality feel that's worthy of the price.
Two engines are available: a twin-turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 petrol, and a similarly boosted 4.0-litre V8. The latter comes from Mercedes’ tuning offshoot AMG, with which Aston Martin has a fruitful technical alliance.
If you’ve already fallen for the Aston Martin DB11, don't forget to check out the best prices by searching our What Car? New Car Deals pages. They list lots of new sports car deals as well as plenty of new coupé car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
With sharper handling courtesy of a lighter front end, a significantly cheaper price tag and virtually identical real world performance to the ‘halo’ V12 engined DB11, the ‘entry-level’ V8 rendered its big brother redundant when it was introduced in the latter half of 2017.
Of course, there were still some buyers who felt a ‘proper GT Aston Martin’ should have a V12, but those were in the minority - thus the V12 was discontinued late last year.
Not that we were too upset. After all, the original V12 DB11 was far from perfect. It was too loosely sprung, felt nervous over brows and dips and never generated the traction required to put 600bhp to the road. Thankfully Aston’s engineers knew of the standard car’s flaws and therefore used the extra development time afforded to them with the V8 to iron out almost all of the criticisms we had with the original car.
The results were (and still are) transformative. In the bends, the DB11 V8’s body stays impressively flat, the front end is much keener to turn in and the reworked steering is judged to perfection, being quick, but not so quick around the straight-ahead that it feels nervous at motorway speeds.
And better yet, with an almost instantaneous throttle response and bags of torque, the V8 has arguably greater real-world pace than the standard V12.
However, if there’s one area where the V8 falls behind the V12, it’s noise. Put simply, the V12 sounds unforgettable at all times, whereas the V8 is much quieter than it is in AMG Mercs, only starting to snarl and spit at higher revs. Plus, we suspect there will always be buyers who won’t want to lower themselves to an Aston with a ‘lowly’ Mercedes motor.
So where can those buyers who still crave a V12 go, we here you ask? Well, as it turns out, Aston didn’t really discontinue the DB11 V12 after all, it simply replaced it with a new model: the DB11 AMR (AMR standing for ‘Aston Martin Racing’). And to put it simply, it’s the car the DB11 should have been all along.
With the V8’s revised suspension, retuned dampers, a thicker front anti-roll bar and lighter alloy wheels, the AMR grips harder, is more accurate on corner entry and is far more stable over lumps and bumps than the car it replaces. And better yet, because Aston has created bigger and more clearly defined steps between the GT, S and S+ damper modes - the AMR is no less comfortable, being surprisingly more supple than a Continental GTC.
Granted, there is a little more tyre and wind noise at speed than in the Bentley or S-Class Coupe, but then again the AMR is intended to sit at the sportier end of the GT class, and when viewed in that context it’s not really much of an issue. Put it this way: if you want to settle into a comfortable, 600-mile dash across Europe, the AMR will more than oblige.
The interior layout, fit and finish
All shapes and sizes of driver should find it easy to get comfortable in the DB11 thanks to an electrically adjustable driver’s seat and steering wheel with a wide range of movement. In fact, together with the support the seat offers and the perfectly aligned controls, it’s pretty much spot-on.
The DB11 also envelops you and feels sportier than the more open interior of the Mercedes S-Class Coupé, which feels like a luxury limo by comparison. Either is fine, and which one you prefer will depend on what you’re looking for.
The only issue the DB11's design raises is visibility. Because you sit so low in the seat and the dashboard is quite high, it can be tricky to see low obstacles from inside the car. Comparatively thick windscreen pillars make the view through tight corners tricky, too.
Fit and finish remains true to the values of Aston Martin cars of old. Soft, hand-stitched leather sits side-by-side with wood or carbonfibre trim highlights, and all that looks like metal in the interior really is metal. That’s not always the case in high-end luxury cars, and it enhances the DB11’s perceived quality, although details like the cheap feeling air vents do let the side down a little.
Unlike Aston Martins of old, though, craftsmanship is married to modernity. The instrument dials are fully digital and easy to read, even if the graphics aren't quite as high in definition as those in the S-Class Coupé.
You won’t notice much difference between the Mercedes’ and Aston Martin’s sat-nav systems, though, because the DB11 borrows its infotainment system from Mercedes. It’s not the best hardware out there – it's from an older Mercedes C-Class not the current S-Class, the menus take some getting used to and it’s laggy at times – but it’s far better than anything Aston Martin used to offer.
And you operate the 8.0in screen using a rotary controller and shortcut buttons on the centre console, which is less distracting to use on the move than the touchscreen in the Bentley Continental GT.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Front space in the DB11 is very good, with plenty of head and leg room for a couple of tall adults. However, while the DB11 does have rear seats, they’re better suited to a couple of weekend bags than they are people. Head, shoulder and leg room are so tight that even teenagers won’t fancy sitting in the back for too long. The Mercedes S-Class Coupé is a much better prospect if you’re going to be carrying more than one passenger.
The DB11’s boot might fit a small set of golf clubs, with the longest clubs removed, but in reality you’re better off slinging them across the rear seats. The boot is shorter and narrower than in the Bentley Continental GT and accessing it through its smaller opening is more difficult. It’ll certainly accommodate a suitcase or a few softer weekend bags, but there are definitely more practical options in the coupé car class.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Whichever engine you choose, the DB11 costs a fortune, but no doubt you’ve already considered that if you’re flicking through the brochure with an eye on purchasing one. Be aware, though, haggling isn’t likely to be fruitful – Aston Martin dealers won’t be offering discounts willingly.
The prospect of day-to-day running costs for a car with eight or 12 cylinders in its engine is no less intimidating that its asking price. CO2 emissions may be comparatively low for similarly engined cars, but the fact is that the DB11 still sits in the top road tax (VED) band. However, that figure will be dwarfed by the insurance premiums and annual service costs – especially when you need a new set of tyres. The same is true of any of the DB11’s rivals, though.
Better news is that the Aston Martin will prove usefully less costly to own over three years than rivals, thanks largely to its much higher predicted value at the end of the third year.
You get an extremely long list of equipment in return for your outlay, too, whichever engine you choose. There are heated, electrically adjustable leather seats, climate control, keyless entry and start, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree parking camera, a DAB radio, sat-nav, an 8.0in infotainment touchscreen, LED headlights and an Alcantara suede headliner.
The DB11 hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP or security tested by Thatcham, but that it comes with seven airbags, tyre-pressure monitoring, an engine immobiliser and an alarm as standard should provide a little peace of mind. It’s disappointing that the DB11 isn’t available with any modern safety aids, such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitoring or lane-departure warning, though.
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