It’s a sad but true fact that Aston Martin has gone bankrupt seven times in its history. However, the company’s current CEO, Andy Palmer, has been absolutely committed to putting the marque on a firm financial footing, and his efforts thankfully seem to be paying off.
We say ‘thankfully’ because Aston Martin is an important brand. It makes cars that are as beautiful as supermodels, builds them in the UK, and even King Charles is a fully paid-up fan. It also helps that Canadian billionaire and investor Lawrence Stroll led a consortium to gain a 25% stake in the company.
This Aston is intended to be a lot more than just a showpiece that looks good parked up at the kerbside, though it’s claimed to deliver a driving experience and quality feel that’s worthy of its 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. And it kicks off an exciting new phase in the Aston story with all manner of hyper cars, mid-engined supercars, crossovers, and electrified Lagondas on the horizon, – not to mention a return to the top tier of Le Mans.
The DB11 launched as a coupé but is now also offered as a Volante soft-top. Neither feel as scalpel-sharp as some rivals at the same £150,000 ballpark – Audi R8s, Porsche 911s, McLaren 570s – but the DB11 does straddle the ground between performance cars like those and softly-damped GTs from Bentley and Merc.
What the DB11 is like to drive depends entirely on which year it was built. Early V12s didn’t feel especially sporty, rolling too much for you to place them with any accuracy in a tight corner, and certainly focusing more on long-distance comfort than short-term adrenaline spikes. But the tweaks for the V8 version launched in 2017 – which the AMR then borrowed in 2018 – sorted it out just nicely.
The V8 is vehemently the sporty one, not least because it is 115kg lighter. While its 503bhp engine gives well over 100bhp to the V12 – and the top speed is 21mph lower – it feels more boisterous and keener, and will actually be the quicker car in the real world simply because it compels you to drive it harder.
It turns in quicker, is keener to bring its rear axle into action and, in short, is a whole bundle of fun if you’re in the right mood. The engine is thunderous in its delivery and sounds suitably rawer than the V12 while it’s at it. This is a worse GT – it asks a lot of attention on twisty roads to keep it pointing the right way – but it settles down nicely if you dial
back its selectable driving modes, and will still cruise at a hushed pace if you want it to.
The AMR isn’t too far behind in the excitement stakes, but even with its 30bhp-higher 630bhp output over the launch V12, it’s still not a car that makes much of a fuss unless you really boot it. It sounds very good when you do, but
it does rather feel inappropriate in a car so classy. It’s hellishly quick, mind, with 0-62mph in 3.7secs. You might actually manage it too; the rear axle is much better at putting all its power down with the AMR tweaks.
Inside, there’s a handmade quality to most things you touch, like the leather on the doors and the stitching around the sat nav screen. A digital instrument cluster brings the car up to date, but also cheapens it slightly – we’d prefer
a physical dial with more detail for our £150,000-plus, at least for the tachometer.
Squint through the Aston fonts and you might recognise the various media displays as lifted straight from Mercedes. Which, thanks to Aston’s tie-up with the Germans, they are. This felt fresh, exciting and a big step-on back when the DB11 launched, but it’s hard to deny it’s already aged a bit in here. This is largely because Merc’s own media set-up has taken such a giant leap since. Perhaps future Aston models will use more up-to-date software.
You sit low, but the visibility is still fine, apart from the fat A-pillar when you’re pulling out of side roads. The parking sensors are so hyperactive in traffic, you’ll probably end up turning them off; important to remember when you come to parking…
The rear seats aren’t exactly big but you can squeeze six-foot adults back there for short journeys, and kids will be absolutely fine.
It’s a beautiful car and cruises divinely but although it will go fast, it doesn’t feel like you should. It’s great but there are so many better cars out there.
Aston Martin DB11 V8
Power: 503 bhp
Speed: 0-62 4 secs
Top: 192 mph
Economy: 22 mph combined
Price from: £155,000