In Depth

Aston Martin DB11: The 'beautiful' car heading the Second Century Plan

All you need to know about the 'stunning' flagship GT leading the Second Century Plan

A new Aston Martin has arrived and is looking to regain its place as the best grand tourer on the market.

The DB11, it is direct replacement for the critically acclaimed yet ageing DB9 and is set to spawn a host of new vehicles over the next few years as part of the company's Second Century Plan

Aston has gone straight to the DB11 from the DB9 - the Vantage-based DB10 was an exclusive for the last James Bond film. However, the DB9 has been around for 13 years and the marque feels as if a generation has been skipped, hence the jump.

Here's everything you need to know about Aston's new flagship GT.

Design

As well as a completely new aluminium bonded platform, the DB11 ushers in a refreshed design language compared to many of Aston's releases since 2003. The company claims that not a single part of the DB9 has been carried over to the new car. However, the big, long GT is still unmistakably an Aston Martin.

The front grille is bigger and wider and new LED headlamps sit above and either side of it. They're a new shape, taking on a devil horn-like profile, and feed into a more rugged bonnet, with highly pronounced creases feeding to the windshield.

But the bonnet arrangement doesn't just look different – the clamshell is hinged at the front and lifts as one large piece to reveal the engine, a different and more eye-catching way than on the DB9 allowing for easier access.

At the back, the car gets a wide profile, with squared-off shoulders over the axle leading into a new rear end, the LED taillights split by the lip spoiler poking out of the boot panel.

Two large C-pillar buttresses arch down from the roof and into the rear, a design trait seen on the DBX crossover concept revealed in Geneva last year. There's some clever aero work in this area, too.

Aston has fitted what it calls "AeroBlade" intakes either side of the aluminium strakes, channelling air through the C-pillars into hidden ducts and back out via an assortment of slots at the rear. There's a similar arrangement at the front to remove turbulent air from the wheel-arch and send it down the sides of the car.

However, despite the aluminium platform, the new car isn't much lighter than the outgoing DB9. With a 3990lbs dry weight, the DB11 is only 33lbs lighter than its predecessor.

Personalisation is set to be a running theme for customers, too, with the DB11 being touted as one of the most customisable Aston Martins to make production. There's set to be a large scale of choices for both inside and out.

The roof panel and the new aluminium strakes come in a number of colours and customers can also choose between two different trims for details such as the grille, vents, wipers and front splitter. There are also three different colours for the 20ins alloy wheels, as well as colour customisable brake calipers. On top of all that, there are 35 different colour options – plenty for prospective buyers to mull over.

Suspension

There are a number of significant changes with the DB11's suspension setup compared to other models in Aston's range. The company has introduced a fully independent double wishbone system with coil springs and three-stage adaptive dampers at the front, while the rear-axle gets a multilink setup and adaptive dampers as well.  

A dial on the steering wheel allows drivers to adjust the dampers, while three driving modes - GT, Sport and Sport+ - allow for different handling characteristics. 

Switching to the Sport and Sport+ modes "brings ever-firmer response from the car's Bilstein adaptive dampers", says Autocar, although the regular GT setting "lends the car the amazing breadth of dynamic ability you'll want from it most of the time". 

In this mode, the softer springs make "for supple bump absorption at most prevailing speeds", adds the mag, but the Bilstein dampers mean there's little body roll and the steering is far more responsive than the car's underpinnings would suggest. 

Engine and transmission

True to form, Aston has given the DB11 a V12 engine, albeit a turbocharged one.

It's a 5.2-litre unit with two turbochargers, boasting 600bhp and 516lb-ft torque. Peak power is produced at 6500rpm, while peak torque is usefully on offer from 1500-5000rpm.

Turbocharging and reducing the capacity from 6.0-litres should make more the car more fuel efficient and there's even cylinder deactivation and start-stop technology for better emissions scores. Speed is still its primary agenda, however: Aston claims the DB11 will do 0-62mph in 3.9secs and onto a top speed of 200mph.

Mated to the engine is an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox powering the rear wheels. There are three different driving modes – Gt, Sport, and Sport + - all altering the Aston's character at a flick of a switch. There's no word on a manual gearbox yet, though.

As reported by Auto Express, production of the new engine is underway at Aston's engine plant in Cologne. While made to the tune of 600bhp in the DB11, it has been proven all the way to 820bhp and the significant headroom paves the way for its use in future, more powerful cars.

It's now thought the DB11's 5.2-litre V12 will be used in the next Vanquish, albeit in a much higher state of tune, with more than 700bhp.

It could also find its way into Aston's upcoming crossover, the DBX. The concept version unveiled at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show made use of an electric powertrain, although by the time it reaches production at the end of the decade, a conventional power unit will be on offer, too.

Will there be an eight-cylinder version?

Not long after the DB11 made its debut in Geneva, speculation began that the 5.2-litre V12 powering the car wouldn't be the only powertrain option available.

Now spyshots and video acquired by Autocar have revealed a test mule producing a distinctive V8 engine note on the track at the Nurburgring in Germany.

It's thought this version will have a 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged unit sourced from the Mercedes AMG-GT as a result of collaboration between the two companies. It is expected to produce around 525bhp.

The V8 DB11 will probably be lighter than the V12, but the 75bhp power deficit means it will be slower - but cheaper. Autocar believes it will be added to the range by 2018 at the latest.

The introduction of the V8 engine won't signal a facelift – the car will be aesthetically identical to its more powerful sibling and the same engine will be fitted in other upcoming Astons, such as a new V8 Vantage set to release in a couple of years.

Interior

As well as the refreshed exterior and turbocharged engine, Aston has treated the inside of the DB11 to an overhaul, too. "The interior's considerably more modern than any seen in an Aston for a long time," Car magazine says.

Thanks to Mercedes Benz's parent company Daimler now holding a five per cent stake in Aston, the British company has plucked a lot of the switchgear and fixtures from the German marque's S-Class flagship saloon, although given a unique Aston touch.

One of the biggest new introductions is the 12ins display sitting behind the driver's wheel, replacing the manual binnacles used on every other road-going Aston. This should work in a similar manner to Audi's popular virtual cockpit option. A secondary, centrally mounted eight-inch panel sits on top of the centre console and is controlled through the same rotary switchgear found on Mercedes cars.

There's a brand new interior design, too, moving the game on from the DB9. The centre console is shaped like a large teardrop, feeding down from the new dashboard with angular creases on either flank, and there's a new steering wheel. Swathes of high quality leather cover almost every surface.

There's also a decent amount of customisation, much like the large number of colour schemes available for the DB11. Interiors can be one solid colour or have a two-tone theme and there are three different leathers and tones to choose from. Added to this are six trim materials, as well as six seatbelt colours.

It's a four-seater, but a 2+2 at most. As CarWow points out, space up front should be good, but the rear will be compromised and only good for short journeys and children. Nevertheless, the overall package is bigger than the DB9 and there's more space for people both front and rear.

Prices and release

Order books opened straight from the car's unveiling, with prices starting from £154,900 – a £15,000 premium over its predecessor.

Buyers will have to wait some months to take delivery, however. CarBuyer says the DB11 will be on driveways and in garages come the fourth quarter of 2016.

Reviews

Evo says the DB11 is a "much more habitable place to spend time compared to any other recent Aston". The new cabin marks the car's biggest leap forward: it's a fresher, more modern interior than the rest of the company's range and has a "beautiful new design". The switchgear and software are welcome additions, too.

The new levels of comfort and quality add to Evo's overall impression of the DB11's character – "it's most definitely a GT car", says the site. There's enough length in the suspension to make the DB11 brilliant on long distance cruises, but it's a car that can be pushed hard too thanks to accurate and direct steering and great chassis balance, it continues.

On top of this, the turbocharged V12 is "mighty" and while it doesn't quite have the top end revs of older naturally aspirated Astons, mid-range torque is readily available. Overall, Evo says the DB11 is a "rather lovely thing" for eating up the miles.

Top Gear calls the DB11 "heartland Aston" and says the on-road capabilities are impressive, although pushing hard and taking it on track can undo it.

In terms of proportions, it's "quintessential Aston" and while turbo lag can be found if you go looking for it, the mid-range shunt of the turbocharged V12 is again very impressive – on the motorway, it ticks over at 50mph or 150mph, totally unstressed. 

Auto Express says the twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12 engine is a "real highlight" on the "stunning" DB11, offering "blistering" performance with the progressive power band of a naturally aspirated engine and "virtually no turbo lag". 

The "only" downsides are "cramped rear seats and heft running costs" - although most owners do not buy an Aston Martin "to save on your motoring bills", it adds. 

At motorway speeds, the engine "ticks over at a barely audible 1,500rpm", say the Daily Telegraph, while the low-profile tyres provide an "impressively cosseting ride".

The new dashboard with large digital dials is a welcome addition in the newspaper's opinion, while the central control panel "neatly blends Aston craftsmanship with Mercedes controls". And although there are lots of buttons to learn, drivers will "soon get used to operating the main features".

Autocar says Aston Martin's first attempt at electromechanical steering is impressive, but it's "a little lighter" and is "not as rich on feedback" than drivers may have hoped for.

Cornering, however, is "spot on", adds the magazine: "It's body breathes with an undulating surface", it says, and it doesn't pitch enough to make the ride unpredictable.

Its soft springs absorb bumps and rough surfaces nicely, with the Bilstein suspension preventing the "limp body control" and "lazy directional response" often expected with large, front-engined GT cars.

DB11 Volante to arrive in 2018

Aston Martin has revealed it will release a convertible version of the new DB11 coupe, named the Volante, in the spring of 2018. Official pictures show a development version of the car, with the punning tagline: "Opening Spring 2018".

According to Digital Trends, the Volante "appears to have sharper creases" at the tops of its rear fenders than its coupe sibling but otherwise, the styling is "pretty close".

It's impossible to say for sure, however, because the test mule in the shots is unfinished, with an ill-fitting panel behind the convertible top and what looks to be a plastic rear spoiler.

Motoring Research says the Volante is likely to stick with the "virtual" spoiler tech pioneered for the DB11 – the AeroBlade uses a jet of air, fed by discreet air intakes in the base of each C-pillar, to reduce rear lift.

The Volante also shares the hard-top version's "generously-proportioned rear wheel arches", says Motoring Research. 

The new convertible will have a soft-top roof that will drop down completely to leave the cabin entirely open-air, says the site. The roof in the pictures is black, but there will be a range of colours available.

While many of the details are not certain, we can be pretty sure about the spring 2018 release date – after all, it is written on the car.

For more on cars and the latest luxury news follow @the_week_portfolio on Instagram

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