England’s history is filled with war. The last 70-plus years of peace and prosperity are an anomaly. Aston Martin, the nation’s only independent carmaker, has similarly weathered strife – often of the financial variety – for most of its existence. Now Aston seeks stability. Its plan calls for new vehicles, a crossover even, and some electric propulsion for good measure. This is still a few years away. To get there, Aston will rely on its specialty, the sports car. Enter the 2017 Aston Martin DB11.
While the company transitions, the latest in the DB line is already transformed. It’s the successor to the 13-year-old DB9 (the DB10 was James Bond’s car in Spectre) and has a new V12 with twin turbos cranking out 600 horsepower. The car is based on a new aluminum architecture that’s lighter and stiffer than the DB9’s, so the DB11 handles better. Naturally, the design is striking. That’s not a cliché.
Is all of this enough to sway some Ferrari, Porsche, and Bentley loyalists to Aston’s fold? We’ve come to the gorgeous Italian region of Tuscany to find out. Taking the wheel on a sun-drenched morning, we head for Monte San Savino where a rustic lunch awaits. The V12 immediately grabs our attention. The note is buzzy at first, grows agitated, and then the sound morphs into a growling shout. Naturally aspirated engines are more visceral, but the DB11’s turbo 12 is nothing to scoff at. The car sounds best in Sport Plus mode, which gives the engine and eight-speed transmission their most aggressive character. We lay on the throttle and the DB11 shoots forward, its long hood pointing the way through the countryside. The names of the villages roll off the tongue as the signs blur. Montisi. Montalcino. Trequanda. Florence and Pisa lay tantalizingly just outside of our route.
On the car’s rear, the designers created an element they call AeroBlade, which pulls air through side vents in the C-pillars and directs it through tunnels in the body before exiting out the deck lid. At high speeds, a small Gurney flap lifts up, acting like a spoiler. The wing retracts back into the deck lid when it’s not needed. The aerodynamic treatments are extensive, but Aston went to Bond levels of secrecy to conceal them. “This is our genteel product,” Aston chief creative officer Marek Reichman says. “It’s about being subtle.”
All of this rides on a new platform that replaces Aston’s ancient and prolific VH underpinnings. The bonded aluminum body structure is about 86 pounds lighter than the DB9’s yet it’s 15 percent stiffer, and the hood, roof, and doors are made of pressed aluminum. The advancements continue under the clamshell hood, where the 5.2-liter twin-turbo easily outguns the DB9’s naturally aspirated 6.0-liter V12.
The typical DB11 buyer didn’t see Spectre in the theater. He knows Daniel Craig and they’ve shared martinis. And during that first cold sip tinged with lemon peel, he’s not concerned with the DB11’s precise 0-60 time. Who cares? The DB11 is fast. It stands out, and so it delivers on the promise of Aston’s potential for a successful second century.