Aston Martin DB11
When Grand Touring is Great Touring
Whenever someone says Ferrari, I hear race track. McLaren, surgical-grade refinement in the pursuit of absolute speed, but Aston Martin, that just sings, long cruise to the South of France.
I’ll start with what’s wrong, why is the steering wheel square? I was lucky enough to drive a DB9 a decade ago when shaving was a weekly event, and although my memory is being sat in awe of it and not much else. I certainly don’t remember thinking, this steering wheel is a bit too round.
Secondly, the styling is a bit awkward, it looks fine in darker shades but the signature silvery grey that identifies an Aston picks out details that won’t settle on the eye. Aside from these gripes and the fact that the V12 makes little case for itself to a buyer with the ubiquitous 4.0 V8 from Mercedes in the lineup offering nearly as much punch at a lower cost all over from purchase to running costs. A real shame, you should still pick the V12 if you find yourself hovering a pen over a sales order, there probably won’t be another and there is something just a little sweeter about it when costs are ignored.
You can feel comfortable, at ease. Throw your phone out the window and relish a cocoon of creation for pleasure.
The dividing feature being how a V12 Aston introduces itself. A Ferrari shouts, much like a child desperate for attention has stubbed its toe on a chair leg and desperately cries for someone to reach out and kiss it better. Bentley’s romp into life, a deep-chested sound no doubt, but a whiff of old money sat in a comfortable armchair and coughing before lighting another cigar. Aston Martin V12’s introduce themselves with the grace of the fictional spy they so often accompany on the big screen. A commanding tone in the initial split second is acknowledged, then a smoothly cream gargle.
This is where British is best, the passion and attention to luxury are unparalleled. Grabbing the steering wheel is a handshake with a gracious butler, not a cold firm wrap from one of its European competitors.
What is truly endearing about the DB11 is a turn of pace that feels slightly quicker than it should. The old DB9 would punt you forward upon mashing the go pedal, but it was flowing custard from there. This car hits and then keeps punching. Serious speed is attainable with very little work. The gearbox is doing its damnedest to keep it all in shape. Almost a gift and a curse in a cruiser. When a police officer in France eventually catches up to you and waves you down, you may be genuinely surprised at the speed you were doing, instead of just acting so. That old V12 soothed you with speed, this gives you a jab, then a right hook.
There are some fantastic efforts from the established crop of contenders to take market share, but nothing does it quite this well.
Something about the gentleman cruiser instills a charm, it offers an experience beyond that of simply a car. Doubling up as art, decorative statue, and ballistic missile wrapped into one. The infotainment is up to date, no it’s not a Tesla or Audi in here, but the Astin feels as though it will be around for longer. It's as if the designers took a day out to walk around a classic car show, knowing that their creation would one day be there, long after the Tesla has been recycled into washing machines. Making it a place to sit and enjoy, much more country club lounge than technology showcase. You can feel comfortable, at ease. Throw your phone out the window and relish a cocoon of creation for pleasure.
The suspension tuning is on the right side of firm, but only just, a dab extra suspension travel wouldn’t hurt in comfort setting. The chassis itself is so well executed that it could give up a little cornering feel from the struts without being accused of wallowing.
All in all, what is left to say. Want a sports car, look somewhere else, something that can be painted yellow and scream at passers-by, look somewhere else. Want a truly exquisite machine that will make you feel special, the DB11 delivers.
Aston has released faster and convertible versions of the car since my drive. None of them I have driven. Neither do I plan to go out of my way to do. The standard DB11 plays to its talents so well that anything else added to the recipe risks spoiling it. Maybe the standard car would benefit from more speed if you want to track it, and maybe losing the roof would add some additional theatre, but at the loss of that fabulous interior cocoon. Sometimes the recipe doesn’t need adjusting, you nailed it on the first go.