In Depth

High-water marque: Aston Martin's DB11

Miles Nurnberger, the sports-car company's chief exterior designer, on the groundbreaking new model in its ambitious Second Century Plan

The DB is the backbone of Aston Martin – our reference through history. But we can't let 103 years of history hold us back. A key word for us is "progressive". We have to move forward and make a new history, so there was a lot of ambition when we began this project.

The DB11 is the first in what we call our "Second Century Plan". This lays out a model line that takes us to a new level. If you go back to 2000 and the launch of the DB9, we took Aston Martin from a cottage industry to an international one. This car takes us forward again.

When designing, we start first and foremost with proportion. Our cars are always based on a very simple line, a very dynamic feel; this gives them the look of moving while standing still. The real trick is the placement of the cabin - on the DB11, if you follow the line down from the roof through the windscreen to the ground, it goes right through the centre of the front wheel, meaning the main mass sits very neatly over the back wheel. But there's also sturdiness, the look a cat has when it lands on the ground on all fours. All this is quite easy to explain. The difficult part is putting all the engineering behind it to make it perform.

The front of the car is one of the most gentlemanly we've made. The nose is slightly higher and it has a "moustache". This is what we call the "S" line. The "face" of an Aston Martin is the face of an English gentleman. If you go back to wonderful cars such as the DB2 and the DB5, you'll see this moustache, but it had become a bit diluted and we wanted to bring back its beautiful curve, which defines the shape of the front and the lines that flow off it.

Photographer - Max Earey

Aston Martin DB11. Photo Credit: Max Earey 

The front may give a nod to the past, but we have a little rule that says we're allowed to be romantic but not retro. The design is not a pastiche or a copy of the past, but it does have a feeling of something you've seen before. That said, the DB11 is unashamedly modern. It has the most powerful engine a DB has ever carried: a 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12 with a top speed of 200mph and a 0-62mph time of just 3.9 seconds. We've paired with Daimler – who are now a minor shareholder in Aston Martin – which means we have access to all its technology. This has made a huge difference to what we can offer inside the car in terms of vehicle information and infotainment.

The industrial process dictates that you have to have split-lines, you have to mould things in a certain way. However, if you compare the DB11 with the Aston Martin Rapide, for example, you see those lines are now gone and we can use that space to make sculpture. We've made use of something we call "the infinity gap", so you never actually notice one part joining another and parts start to "float". The inspiration was the idea of a perfect pebble, with no marks on it whatsoever.

Another part of graphically imagining the DB11 was the roof. With this, we are adding a new story to Aston Martin: the roof can be either in a contrast colour or in the body colour. The latter "joins the car up" as one whole, but if it's, say, a contrasting black, you can separate the cabin from the rest of the car, which gives it a dramatically different look, or make it bright and so highlight it.

There are now all these different ways you can change the character of your DB11 that didn't exist before. We've introduced new ideas to emphasise the craftsmanship: brogue seating, new metallic and semi-aniline leathers and a really interesting array of woods and carbons. We even have an interior finish that looks like marble but is made up of thousands and thousands of layers of chopped carbon that are then machined back to create a type of veneer.

Finally, although this is a sports car, there's plenty of space inside. We're now accommodating a wider range of drivers – we offer a range of seats – and this is the first Aston Martin in which I don't have my seat to the floor. I'm 6ft 2in and while I physically can't get in the back of a DB9, this one I can fit into as a back-seat passenger. So, we've gone from unusable to full usability while maintaining a sleek profile. You can even fit an Isofix seat in the back for children. All in all, I consider the DB11 to be a true 21st-century Aston Martin.

From £154,900; db11.astonmartin.com

MILES NURNBERGER has worked for Aston Martin Lagonda for nine years, spending a good part of the past four working on the DB11

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