The most important new Aston for a decade. After all the rumours, it’s finally here: DB11, first of a new Aston generation. The future starts here. With a twin-turbo V12 and cutting-edge aerodynamics and electronics, the DB11 is the first of a new generation of Astons. Words Richard Meaden. Photography Aston Martin.
So this is it. The moment we’ve all been waiting for: our first look at the new DB11. Not since the DB9, more than a decade ago, has a new Aston carried the weight of so much anticipation and expectation.
The first fruit of the so-called ‘Second Century’ plan, DB11 is the car to break the period of stasis in which Aston Martin has survived by garnishing its staple dishes with increased performance and upgraded equipment levels. It’s been a challenging time for all concerned, but now the eagerly awaited new model is here and there’s plenty to shout about. Things like it being the fastest, most powerful and most fuel-efficient ‘DB’ road car ever. Thanks to the technical partnership with Daimler, it’s the most advanced, too, with much-improved (and much-needed) state-of-the-art infotainment systems. Perhaps most excitingly, it also promises to be the most dynamically capable, thanks to a suite of new hardware and software, and a sprinkling of magic courtesy of ex-Lotus chassis man Matthew Becker.
We’ll have to wait until later this year to discover how the DB11 drives, but for now feast your eyes on this dramatic new Aston Martin while we take you through its design and engineering secrets. Our first glimpse of DB11 is in the design studio’s viewing room. Big and airy, the room is more like a gallery space, which is appropriate given Aston Martin’s desire to create cars with a sculptural quality. We’re shown around the car by Aston’s chief designer, Miles Nurnberger.
I always think it must be quite strange to be a car designer, because you’re always working years ahead of what you’re able to show people. The DB11 is no different, though Nurnberger is clearly relishing the opportunity to talk about something entirely new. And it certainly is something new, from nose to tail.
‘We thought about all the elements that make an Aston Martin an Aston Martin and set about re-imagining them,’ Nurnberger tells me. ‘Amplifying them, distilling their essence and looking at things with fresh eyes. It’s all about being noticeable, relevant, modern, in context, but not just yelling indiscriminately to draw attention. We’re trying to shout about being quiet, if you like.’
It works. The forward-hinged clamshell bonnet and more assertive grille are very much a continuation of the look first seen with the DB10 and the source of the DB11’s powerful stance and immaculately sculpted surfaces. The bonnet itself is a triumph of engineering, too, for although it shrink-wraps the engine it avoids the need for heavy and complex active (pyrotechnic) pedestrian safety systems by dissipating the energy of a pedestrian impact across the huge surface of the one-piece panel. Minimising visible shut-lines is an obsession at Aston Martin and this car takes that to new levels. Just two can be seen from the front, the overlapping edges of the clamshell hiding those near the front wheelarches and at the edges of the grille.
We’ll discuss the aerodynamics in detail a little later, but suffice to say the way the airflow is managed has had a huge influence on the shape and its unusually clean lines, with familiar details given new functionality. The unbroken arc from A- to C-pillar – called the roof strake by Aston – is a dazzling signature. Literally so, if you opt for a polished finish. At the rear there’s no familiar ‘flip’ to the bootlid, those clever aerodynamics enabling an elegantly sloping boat-tail, made even more striking by all-new taillights. It’s a handsome, technical, confident shape that reveals more the longer you look. It’s a very fine looking car and a proper Aston.
That smooth, unadorned shape is only possible thanks to the DB11’s pioneering aerodynamics, which not only manage the flow of air around the car, but also through it. Main areas of interest and innovation centre upon solutions named Curlicue and AeroBlade. The former extracts highpressure air from the front wheelarch and allows it to escape through the side-strakes. Supplemented by the secondary ‘stirrup’ vents located at the base of the front sill, these cleverly disguised outlets combine to reduce front-end lift and channel airflow along the flanks of the body.
The AeroBlade is where things get really clever, with a pair of discreet intakes mounted in the base of the C-pillars catching high-speed airflow, sending it through carefully contoured ducts within the bodywork and venting it as a jet of air from the trailing edge of the rear decklid. This disrupted airflow mimics the effect of a rear spoiler, but without the drag (or the aesthetic challenges). A small deployable spoiler supplements the effect of the AeroBlade at higher speeds, but retracts when not needed to preserve the DB11’s smooth tail.
The subject of a patent application, the AeroBlade is an extremely smart concept and will surely play a part in future Aston Martin models. It also highlights the working partnership that now exists between the design and aero teams within Aston Martin – a collaboration that will undoubtedly take Aston’s design and dynamics in an exciting new direction as the ‘Second Century’ plan evolves.
Beneath the DB11’s sleek new skin lies a bonded aluminium structure that’s lighter, stronger and more space-efficient, thanks largely to more extensive use of pressings alongside the castings and extrusions. The wheelbase has grown by 65mm compared with the outgoing DB9, enabling the V12 engine to be mounted further back in the chassis for improved weight distribution. Front and rear track widths are up by 75mm and 43mm respectively, but the overall width is up by just 35mm. Front and rear overhangs have been trimmed and the roofline is only 3mm higher than the DB9’s.
Redesigned A-pillars and sills mean it’s now easier to get in and out of the car. Once inside, front seat passengers will notice a greater range of seat movement and 10mm extra headroom, but it’s in the rear where the biggest changes are felt. Though still snug, the DB11 is a more useable 2+2, with 54mm more legroom and a whopping 87mm gain in headroom. Parents of small children will also be pleased to learn that the new car has ISOFIX points in the rear – a first in an Aston Martin.
Electronics and infotainment are one of the main areas where the DB11 benefits from Aston Martin’s technical partnership with Daimler. One of the most visible too, thanks to all-new instrumentation on a 12in TFT display, with a secondary 8in TFT display for the infotainment and satellite navigation systems. These are controlled via a rotary switch at the base of the centre stack. If you’ve ever wrestled with a DB9’s sat-nav you’ll be overjoyed that DB11 has finally brought Aston into the 21st Century.
The beating heart of the DB11 is a new, twin-turbocharged V12. This was expected, but not as an in-house-designed engine: the assumption was that Mercedes-AMG would provide the basic engine. Instead we have a 5.2-litre V12 that’s related to Aston Martin’s familiar 5.9-litre unit, but significantly more potent (592bhp and 516lb ft, or 600PS and 700Nm if you prefer), much more efficient and much, much cleverer.
The clever bit comes in the form of cylinder deactivation, which means you effectively get two engines in one: a 2.6-litre single-turbo 296bhp straight-six during small throttle openings (such as a steady-state cruise), with the full dozen cylinders coming seamlessly on-stream when more power and torque are required. This, together with a Stop-Start function, helps the DB11 achieve an approximate 20 per cent improvement in both fuel economy and emissions.
Of course, the big concern with a turbocharged V12 is a loss of that magnificent soundtrack for which the DB9 and other Astons are renowned. A video released by Aston Martin suggests the DB11 is blessed with the same vocal cords, but we’ll have to hear it for ourselves before we breathe a sigh of relief, though chief powertrain engineer Brian Fitzsimons assures us we won’t be disappointed.
One thing we needn’t have any concerns about is the performance on tap. Aston is quoting a top speed of 200mph and a 0-62mph time of just 3.9sec, but just as relevant is the nature of the engine’s power delivery. If there was a criticism to level at the naturally aspirated V12 it was for its relative lack of low- and mid-range torque. Those two turbos certainly address that: the peak torque figure of 516lb ft is produced all the way from 1500 to 5000rpm.
Drive is handled via the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox already seen in the Rapide S and Vanquish. Controlled via paddles or used as a conventional selfshifting auto, the ’box is located in the rear (trans)axle, as in the DB9. For the first time in an Aston Martin, the mechanical limited-slip differential is supplemented by Active Torque Vectoring, which applies the brakes to the inside rear wheel during cornering to increase the DB11’s agility.
How the DB11 drives is the one question we can’t yet answer, but it certainly promises to make as big a step in terms of dynamics as it has in the areas of design, engineering and technology. The bald performance figures are impressive enough, 200mph and 0-62mph in 3.9sec making it one of the very fastest Aston Martins of all time, yet it’s the breadth of the performance and dynamic character that promises to set the DB11 apart from its predecessor – and its rivals, too.
Electronics play a key role in this balancing act, but more important is the fine-tuning of the various systems to ensure a car with organic, intuitive feel and consistent responses. That responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of Matthew Becker as chief of vehicle attribute engineering, though the task is by no means his alone. Becker and his team have given the DB11 its sensory fingerprint – the qualities that make it feel different to its rivals and, most likely, different to its predecessor, while remaining a true Aston Martin in the way it delivers its performance. And while new technology enables the dynamic character of the car to be stretched, the fundamentals have to be right.
For the DB11 this means new suspension: familiar double wishbones at the front now joined by a sophisticated new multi-link design at the rear. That dynamic ‘stretch’ is enabled by the Active Torque Vectoring, together with all-new electric power steering (another first for an Aston road car) and latest-generation adaptive damping, and is accessed via three distinct but complimentary driver-selectable dynamic modes – GT, Sport and SportPlus.
‘Our aim was to give the DB11 a real breadth of character and to develop a car that genuinely delivers everything,’ explains Becker. ‘The trick is creating a balance of ride, handling and response that’s intuitive and consistent across all dynamic modes, but each with its own distinct feel – a progression from one to the next, not big jumps.
‘In essence, we’ve made it possible to “turn the car up and down” as the customer wants. GT mode needs to be something that gives a connected feel, but not fidgety. You need to be able to drive a thousand miles and still feel refreshed at the other end. Go to Sport mode and you make the car more responsive and agile. This is achieved through the adaptive damping, electric power steering and Torque Vectoring. Effort levels and response can be precisely tuned; likewise the Torque Vectoring can be employed to really sharpen the sense of agility.
‘Imagine skiing down a slope. If you plant your ski-pole and turn around it, that’s the effect Torque Vectoring has – it enables us to rotate the car more rapidly. SportPlus really exploits this effect, shrinking the car around you and making it feel really nimble and quick-witted.’
The day when we get to experience this for ourselves can’t come soon enough. In the meantime we’ll just have to console ourselves by looking longingly at the pictures. With VIP viewings now taking place at Aston Martin’s Gaydon HQ, plenty of orders already taken (prices start at £154,000, including a five-year service plan) and deliveries due to commence in the autumn, the DB11 is poised to propel Aston Martin into its next era with even greater energy and panache than its hugely successful predecessor. We can’t wait to see the success story unfold.
Above. Front and rear track-widths are up by 75mm and 43mm respectively compared with DB9, but overall width is up by just 35mm. The wheelbase has grown by 65mm, but front and rear overhangs have been trimmed and the roofline is only 3mm higher.
Aston-Martin DB11 specification
ENGINE V12, 5.2 litres, twin-turbo
MAX POWER 592bhp @ 6500rpm
MAX TORQUE 516lb ft @ 1500-5000rpm
TRANSMISSION Eight-speed automatic with paddleshift, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential, torque-vectoring
SUSPENSION Front: double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: multi-link, coil springs, telescopic adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar
STEERING Rack-and-pinion, electrically power-assisted
BRAKES Vented discs, 400mm front, 360mm rear, ABS, EBD
WHEELS 9 x 20in front, 11 x 20in rear
TYRES 255/45 front 295/35 rear, Bridgestone S007
WEIGHT 1770kg (dry)
POWER TO WEIGHT 340bhp/ton (dry weight)
0-62Mph 3.9sec (claimed)
TOP SPEED 200mph (claimed)
PRICE FROM £154,000 (2016 UK)
‘THAT SMOOTH, UNADORNED SHAPE IS ONLY POSSIBLE THANKS TO THE PIONEERING AERODYNAMICS’
Above, from the top New instrumention uses TFT displays. Aerodynamic firsts include AeroBlade, which channels air in at the base of the C-pillar (centre) and out over the trailing edge of the rear deck, mimicking the effect of a spoiler. Above. New twin-turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 is related to the familiar naturally aspirated 5.9-litre unit, so it’s a true Aston engine. But it’s a lot more powerful (592bhp) and a lot smarter (it shuts down one bank of cylinders when cruising to save fuel and reduce emissions).