Aston Martin DB11 coupe - Engines, drive & performance
The switch to turbocharging hasn’t robbed the Aston Martin DB11 of character, while the ride and handling balance is excellent
The DB11 uses a rear-wheel-drive layout in true Aston Martin style and – whether you choose the V12 or the V8 – the engine is mounted a long way back in the chassis to help achieve even weight distribution. Compared to the DB9 (which the DB11 replaced), the chassis is far stiffer, thanks to engineering input from another famous British brand, Lotus. This means the suspension can work as well as possible over bumps, allowing all that power to be deployed effectively and it also gives rise to the DB11's remarkable ride quality
The Aston Martin DB11 can be set up according to your mood, with GT Mode maximising comfort. In this setting, the car’s ride is akin to an executive saloon’s, despite the standard 20-inch alloy wheels and very slim tyres. Yet somehow even in this most passenger-friendly mode, the Aston is incredibly agile, feels poised and responsive thanks to fast and direct steering that’s far more user-friendly than that in the Ferrari F12.
The result is a car that can be placed in a corner with real confidence – even more so in Sport or Sport+ mode. In the first of these, the engine and steering responses are instant and the gearbox will hold onto gears longer, to keep the engine spinning at exactly the right speed for the quickest possible progress. Sport+ allows expert drivers to exploit the engine’s power to steer just as effectively with the accelerator as with the steering wheel – in this mode, the traction-control system is eased off a little to allow some careful mischief.
The Aston responds obediently to your demands, gripping the road’s surface eagerly and flying through corners while staying on your chosen line. It also has a clever ‘torque vectoring’ system to keep power going to whichever rear wheel has the most grip at really high speeds.
Until the finely honed V12 AMR came along, we were inclined to say that the V8 version provided the more involving driving experience. In part this was because Aston Martin tweaked its suspension for sharper responses, while a stiffened rear suspension and heavier power steering allowed a rather sportier feel. A 115kg overall reduction in weight didn't hurt, either. However, the AMR bought a package of improvements that saw the V12 regain its sporting spirit, thanks to more power, reduced weight and some subtle tweaks to the chassis – which are noticeable as soon as you pull away.
Neither version suffers from much in the way of body lean and the suspension does a great job of keeping the weighty DB11 body under control, even in the more relaxed GT mode. Most drivers will find this setting to offer more than enough entertainment on backroads while keeping their passenger cosseted and unruffled in the luxurious front seat. Switch to Sport or Sport+ mode, though, and either model gains an uncompromisingly responsive edge. The V8 and V12 are both thrilling, but there's a sense that the latter has a deeper well of talent.
Aston Martin DB11 petrol engine
Key to the appeal of any Aston Martin is an ocean of accessible, strong and smooth power, and the Aston Martin DB11 offers two engine choices that allow you to experience all of that.
The range opens with a 4.0-litre V8. It's the same engine as used by the Mercedes-AMG GT – with great success – but has been fettled to properly suit installation in an Aston Martin. It's twin-turbocharged and produces 503bhp but, crucially, delivers little less pulling power than the more expensive V12. What's more, with a considerable weight saving, the V8 is anything but a poor relation to the V12. The V8's top speed may be 'only' 187mph compared to the V12's 208mph, but its 0-62mph time of four seconds is only a 0.3 seconds down on the more powerful car.
Before the V12 AMR, our money would have gone on the smaller, lighter engine. However, Aston Martin's race influence gives the AMR renewed vigour, and an additional 30bhp symbolically eclipses both the Bentley Continental GT W12 and the Mercedes-AMG S 65 Coupe. The eight-speed automatic gearbox also now has faster, more responsive Sport and Sport+ settings.
Whichever version you choose, Aston Martin has also taken care to ensure the exhaust note of the DB11 is as appealing and evocative as possible. You can even quieten the engine on start-up, in case its ‘bark’ is too much for neighbours or passers-by to stand. Once on the move, the V12 engine howls and crackles like a race car while the V8 emits a pleasing muscle-car bark. Both cars pull with incredible force all the way through the rev range, never letting off until it’s time to change gear and start all over again.