Aston Martin DB11 VS BMW M4
Aston Martin DB11
- Expected safety tech MIA
- Modest warranty
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Brilliant engines
- Dual character for road and track
- Practical daily drivers
- Value equation between CS and Pure is questionable
- Steering still not class leading
- Staggered tyre size for CS
Aston Martin DB11
It might look like a stealth fighter, but this dramatic example of Aston Martin’s DB11 AMR didn’t fly under anyone’s radar during its time in the CarsGuide garage.
Forget the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, this piece of British royalty caused jaws to drop and camera phones to rise more effectively than any mere ginger celebrity or ex-TV trouper.
AMR stands for Aston Martin Racing, and this performance flagship replaces the ‘standard’ DB11, delivering even more fire under the hood and fury from the exhaust. Aston also claims it’s faster, dynamically superior, and sleeker on the inside.
In fact, the DB11 AMR’s 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 now produces enough grunt to accelerate it from 0-100km/h in just 3.7 seconds.
More than just a flash Harry, then? Let’s find out.
|Engine Type||5.2L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
BMW continues to expand its range of hot-to-trot sedans and coupes, with the company adding three new variants across its M3 and M4 ranges.
At one end is the Pure, a stripped-down version of the regular M3 and M4, while at the other is the new M4 CS, which is designed to appease potential buyers who may have missed out on the potent but limited – and expensive – M4 GTS.
We had a brief drive in both variants in Victoria, and it’s clear that one variant is a lot better than the other. And not necessarily the one you might think…
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Aston Martin DB118/10
The Aston Martin DB11 AMR is fast, capable and beautiful. It has a unique character and charisma its Italian and German competitors can’t match. That said, some important media and safety-tech features are absent. So, it’s not perfect... just brilliant.
Is an Aston Martin DB11 AMR on your sports car wish list? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The CS is a rocketship, no doubt, and it looks pretty incredible up close. Honestly, though, I’m struggling to see the value in an $82,000 leap from the Pure.
Factor in more expensive tyres – and different sizes at each end! – and little things like less robust interior trim, and the Pure starts to look like very good buying.
If you missed out on the GTS, the CS is a good substitute. If you’re looking for a BMW M4 that offers most of the bang for far fewer bucks, then the Pure is for you.
Would you go for the BMW M4 CS or the Pure?
Aston Martin DB1110/10
For a while there it looked like Aston Martin had fallen into the ‘everything looks the same’ trap, with Ian Callum’s breakthrough DB7 design in the mid-‘90s writing the script for the DB9 that followed, and heavily influencing everything else in the brand’s subsequent portfolio.
But in 2014, Aston’s design chief Marek Reichman sent a message with the DB10 Concept that things were about to change.
James Bond had Q and MI6 to thank for his DB10 company car in Spectre, but real-world Aston Martin customers were soon offered the DB11, which combined the muscularity of Reichman’s work on the ultra-exclusive One-77 from a decade earlier with the swooping, long-nosed proportions of his track-only Vulcan hypercar.
The hallmark of a well executed 2+2 GT is that it looks bigger in photos than it does in reality, and the DB11 is a perfect case in point.
Appearing limo-sized in our accompanying images, the DB11 is in fact 34mm shorter end-to-end than a Ford Mustang, but it’s exactly 34mm wider, and no less than 91mm lower in overall height.
And as any fashionista worth their salt will tell you, dark colours are slimming, and our ‘Onyx Black’ AMR, with gloss black 20-inch forged rims and black ‘Balmoral’ leather interior accentuated the car’s tightly drawn, shrink-wrapped surface treatment.
Signature elements in the shape of a broad, tapering grille, divided side vents, and sharply curved, two-level (smoked) tail-lights clearly identify the DB11 as an Aston Martin.
But the smooth integration of the car’s broad haunches (very One-77), gently tapering turret (optional exposed carbon) and flowing bonnet is masterful and fresh. The dash-to-axle ratio (the distance from the base of the windscreen to the front axle line) is Jaguar E-Type-esque.
And it’s all subtly aero-efficient, For example, the door handles fit flush to the body, the mirror housings double as mini ‘wings’, and the Aston Martin ‘Aeroblade’ system channels air running from carefully crafted openings at the base of the C-pillar, through the rear of the car to generate downforce (with minimal drag) across a lateral vent on the trailing edge of the bootlid. A small flap rises at “high speed” when more stability is required.
The interior is all business, with a simple instrument binnacle showcasing a central 12.0-inch digital speedo-within-tacho combination, flanked by configurable engine, performance and media read-outs on either side.
Aston has form with squared-off steering wheels and the DB11’s is flat on the bottom and decidedly straight on the sides, affording a clear view of the gauges without compromising purpose. A leather and Alcantara trim combination is (literally) a nice touch.
The teardrop-shaped centre stack sits in a slightly recessed section (optionally) lined with ‘carbon-fibre twill’, while the form and function of the 8.0-inch multimedia screen at the top will be immediately familiar to current Mercedes-Benz drivers, as the system, including the console mounted rotary controller and touchpad, is sourced from the three-pointed-star brand.
A band of proudly illuminated buttons across the centre includes gear settings for the transmission and a winged stop-starter in the middle. Strange, then, that the plastic knobs on the adjustable air vents look and feel so cheap and bland. This a $400k-plus Aston Martin, where’s the knurled alloy?
Other highlights include elegant sports seats trimmed in a combination of premium leather and Alcantara. Aston offers various levels of leather and our car’s black ‘Balmoral’ hide is taken from the top shelf.
The key accent colour inside and out on our test example was a screaming lime green, picking out the brake calipers, centre strips on the seats, and contrast stitching throughout the cabin. Sounds awful, looks amazing.
The M4 Pure looks all but identical to the M4 (and M4 Competition, if I’m honest), with the only real difference in aesthetics coming from the rim size and style.
All three feature an M bodykit that adds aggression and punch over a regular 4 Series, while the bulgy bonnet, quad exhausts and gloss black grille also tells people it’s no ordinary Bimmer.
The CS does step the game forward, with a bespoke front splitter in carbon fibre as well as a subtle rear end revision that includes the rear diffuser from the GTS under the bumper, and a small spoiler on the bootlid.
Aston Martin DB117/10
On one hand it’s hard to describe a supercar like the DB11 as practical when its primary purpose is to go ridiculously fast and look incredibly good in the process.
But this is, in fact, a ‘2+2’ GT, meaning a couple of occasional seats have been squeezed behind the front pair to allow obliging contortionists, or more likely small children, to enjoy the ride.
No one is claiming full four-seat capacity, but it’s a trick that has for decades made cars like Porsche’s 911 a more practical choice for high-end, high-performance sports car buyers.
At 183cm I can verify the chronically limited space back there, without anything in terms of connectivity, specific ventilation or storage options provided. Good luck, kids.
For those up front it’s a very different story. First, the doors are hinged to move up slightly as they swing out, which makes entry and egress a more civilised process than it might otherwise be. That said, those doors are still long, so it pays to pre-plan a workable parking spot, and the high-mounted, forward-facing interior release handles are awkward to use.
Storage runs to a box between the seats, complete with a two-stage electrically controlled lid, housing a pair of cupholders, an oddments space, two USB inputs and an SD card slot. Then, there are slim pockets in the doors, and that’s about it. no glove box or netted pouches. Just a small tray for coins or the key in front of the media controller.
And speaking of the key, it’s another strangely underwhelming part of the DB11 AMR’s presentation. Plain and insubstantial, it looks and feels like the key to an under-$20k budget special, rather than the heavy, polished and glamorous item you’d expect to be subtly placing on the table in your preferred three-hat restaurant.
The carpet-lined boot measures 270 litres, which is enough for some small suitcases and a soft bag or two. In fact, Aston Martin offers a four-piece accessory luggage set “expertly tailored to match the car’s specification.”
Don’t bother looking for a spare wheel, an inflator/repair kit is your only option in the case of a puncture.
The Pure’s front half makes for a comfortable and familiar location, especially if you’ve sat in a BMW over the last few years. It’s less ostentatious than the other M4s, too, with simple yet attractive cloth fabric, a leather-wrapped wheel and a restrained trim palette.
The CS steps things up a few notches, with literally metres of motorsport-spec Alacantara suede covering the inside, including the steering wheel. Our experience shows that suede wheels can wear more quickly with use, but they can be easily re-covered when the need arises.
The M-Sport front seats, too, are much more aggressive and sporty, but are still a decent fit even for the, erm, larger gentleman.
Both cockpits sling the driver’s seat low, and the steering wheel can be brought in close, making for an inclusive driving feel.
The two-door M4’s rear-seat area isn’t a focus for most buyers, but it is surprisingly difficult to access. There is a rear-mounted electric slider switch, but the seat-back latch is difficult to both grab and operate, and the seat moves forward very slowly. The high sill, too, makes rear access a tough task.
There’s also space for two bottles front and rear in the Pure, a smallish stash space below the centre console and a lidded bin with a (kinda outdated) modular phone holder that requires the purchase of a bespoke bracket to suit your phone.
The CS must do without the bin, while its lightweight compressed-fibre door skins also forgo pockets and bottle holders. The door handles are also replaced with poorly placed racecar-spec fabric door pulls that make it quite an effort to actually close the door. Fashion over function of the highest order here (are you really saving that much weight over a door handle?).
There’s no spare wheel in either car, with a can of sealant and BMW’s Concierge services your only respite in case of a flat.
Price and features
Aston Martin DB118/10
Head into the $400k new car zone and expectations are understandably high. The DB11 AMR’s is a continent-crushing GT after all, and you want your fair share of luxury and convenience features to go with its huge performance potential.
For $428,000 (plus on-road costs), as well as the safety and performance tech (of which there’s plenty) covered in later sections, you can expect a lengthy standard features list, including a full-grain leather interior (seats, dash, doors, etc), Alcantara headlining, multi-function ‘Obsidian Black’ leather-trimmed steering wheel, electrically adjustable and heated front seats (with three memory positions), heated/folding exterior mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, and 360-degree ‘Surround View’ parking cameras (including front and rear cameras).
Also standard are cruise control (plus speed limiter), sat nav, dual-zone climate control, the electronic instrument cluster (with mode-specific displays), keyless entry and start, a multi-function trip computer, 400-Watt Aston Martin audio system (with smartphone and USB integration, DAB digital radio and Bluetooth streaming), plus the 8.0-inch touch-control multimedia screen.
Then there are LED headlights, tail-lights and DRLs, ‘dark’ grille, headlight bezels, and tailpipe finishers, 20-inch forged alloy rims, carbon-fibre bonnet vent blades and side strakes, dark anodised brake calipers and, to reinforce the car’s motorsport DNA, the AMR logo sits on the door sill plates and is embossed on the front-seat headrests.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality is a surprising omission, but our test car more than made up for it with a motherload of optional extras including an exposed carbon-fibre roof panel, roof strakes and rear-view mirror caps, as well as ventilated front seats, the vivid ‘AMR Lime’ brake calipers, plus a ‘Dark Chrome Jewellery Pack’ and ‘Q Satin Twill’ carbon-fibre trim inlays to add presence in the cabin. Along with some other bits and pieces this adds up to an as-tested total of $481,280 (before on-road costs).
We drove the M4s during the launch event, so we’ll concentrate on those – suffice to say the M3 is all but identical save for its extra two doors and its cheaper price point. Because sometimes, more is less.
The $129,900 M4 Pure is unique to Australia, and is based on the regular $139,900 M4. It’s still pretty well equipped, too, despite its bargain-basement assignation.
It also gets everything you’d expect in a Bimmer, including a carbon fibre reinforced plastic (or CFRP) roof, to lower the centre of gravity as well as looking sexy, automatic lights and wipers, head-up display, digital radio, powered seats, pushbutton start, a nine-speaker stereo and an updated iDrive multimedia system run from on an 8.8-inch touchscreen.
Four-piston front and two-piston rear brakes, adaptive suspension and a limited slip rear diff are also included.
It misses out on a full leather interior, the rims are only 19 inches in diameter front and back instead of 20, and the headlights are merely LED, not adaptive. I don’t know about you, but they’re all things I can live without…
At the top is the new CS, which costs $211,610 plus on roads – or about $82,000 more than the Pure, and a $56,000-odd jump from the $154,900, 331kW M4 Competition, upon which it's based.
For that you get more stick – outputs jump to 338kW and a GTS-matching 600Nm – as well as set of staggered-size wheels. The rears are 20 inches in diameter fitted with 265mm wide tyres, while the 19s up front are shod in 285mm-wide Michelin Cup Sport 2 tyres – the same set-up as the GTS, incidentally.
There’s also a 25 per cent lighter CFRP bonnet, carbon fibre front splitter and a GTS-spec rear diffuser, along with lighter M-Sport front seats and lashings of motorsport-spec Alcantara suede in the cabin.
Interestingly, it does – finally – give the M range a car that outpoints its arch rival, the 336kW/600Nm Mercedes-AMG C63 in outputs, although it’s still more expensive.
Engine & trans
Aston Martin DB119/10
The DB11 AMR’s (AE31) 5.2-litre, twin-turbo V12 is an all-alloy unit, tuned to deliver 470kW (up 22kW on the old model) at 6500rpm, while retaining the previous DB11’s 700Nm of maximum torque from 1500rpm all the way to 5000rpm.
As well as dual variable camshaft timing, the engine features a water-to-air intercooler and cylinder deactivation, which allows it to run as a V6 under light loads.
Drive goes to the rear wheels via a ZF-sourced eight-speed (torque converter) auto transaxle with column-mounted paddles, recalibrated for faster shifting in more aggressive Sport and Sport+ modes. A limited-slip differential is standard.
A new exhaust backbox, an ECU tweak and an extra dollop of revs to the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged straight-six petrol engine nets the CS an extra 7kW of power over the Competition to push it out to 338kW at 6200rpm with a 7600rpm redline, and yields 50Nm more torque for 600Nm across a much narrower range of 4000-5380rpm.
The 0-100km/h dash for the CS is exactly 0.1 of a second quicker than the Competition at 3.9 seconds.
The Pure, meanwhile, makes 317kW at 5500rpm and 550Nm between 1850 and 5000rpm. It’ll do 0-100km/h in 4.1 sec in dual-clutch guise.
The lighter bonnet only gives the 1580kg CS a 5kg weight advantage over the Pure in dual-clutch spec, while the manual Pure is 20kg lighter than the CS, which can’t be had in self-shifter guise.
Aston Martin DB117/10
Minimum fuel requirement for the DB11 AMR is 95 RON premium unleaded and you’ll need 78 litres of it to fill the tank.
Claimed economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 11.4L/100km, the big V12 emitting 265g/km of CO2 in the process.
Despite standard stop-start and cylinder deactivation tech, in roughly 300km of city, suburban and freeway running we recorded a figure exactly nothing like that, according to the on-board computer we more than doubled the claimed number on ‘spirited’ drives. The best average figure we saw was still in the high teens.
A 100km dash in the Pure netted us a dash-indicated figure of 9.1L/100km, while our CS test was a bit too short (and too track focused!) to effectively verify BMW’s claim.
Aston Martin DB119/10
The moment you press the starter the DB11 begins a theatrical performance worthy of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
A high-pitched whine reminiscent of a Formula One air-starter precedes a raucous blast of exhaust noise as the twin-turbo V12 bursts into life.
It’s spine-tingling, but for those wanting to remain on good terms with their neighbours a quiet-start setting is available.
At this point, rocker buttons on either side of the steering wheel set the tone for what follows. The one on the left, marked with a shock-absorber graphic, allows you to scroll the adaptive damping set-up through Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ settings. Its ‘S’ branded partner on the right facilitates a similar trick with the drivetrain.
So, throwing urban serenity out the window, we pushed into maximum attack mode for the engine, and by extension the exhaust, selected D and began to enjoy the first act.
A launch-control function is standard, so purely in the interests of science we explored its function and can confirm it works exceptionally well.
Aston claims the DB11 AMR will accelerate from 0-100km/h in just 3.7sec, which is properly fast, and two tenths of a second faster than the standard DB11 it replaces.
Keep the pedal pinned and two things will happen; you’ll reach a maximum velocity of 334km/h and generate headline news across the country while making your way directly to jail.
With 700Nm available from just 1500rpm, and remaining on tap to 5000rpm, mid-range thrust is monumental and the thundering exhaust note accompanying it is the stuff automotive dreams are made of.
Peak power of 470kW (630hp) takes over at 6500rpm (with the rev ceiling sitting at 7000rpm) and delivery is impressively linear, without a hint of turbo hesitation.
The eight-speed auto is simply superb, picking up gears at just the right point and holding on to them for exactly the right amount of time. Select manual mode and the slender shift levers on either side of the steering column allow even more control.
In Sport and Sport+ drivetrain modes the howling exhaust is accompanied by an entertaining array of pops and bangs on up and down shifts. Bravo!
Spring and damper rates are unchanged from the previous DB11 and even on enthusiastic back-road runs we found suspension in Comfort and driveline in Sport+ to be the best combination. Flicking the shocks into Sport+ is best kept for track days.
Steering is (speed dependent) electrically power-assisted. It’s beautifully progressive, yet pin-sharp with excellent road feel.
The big 20-inch forged alloy rims are shod with high-performance Bridgestone Potenza S007 rubber (255/40 front – 295/35 rear), developed as original equipment for this car and Ferrari’s F12 Berlinetta.
They combine with the 1870kg DB11’s near perfect 51/49 front to rear weight distribution and standard LSD to deliver confidence-inspiring balance and ferocious power down on (quick) corner exit.
Braking is handled by huge (steel) ventilated rotors (400mm front – 360mm rear) clamped by six-piston calipers at the front and four-piston at the rear. We might have put them under decent pressure from time-to-time, but stopping power remained prodigious and the pedal firm.
In the calm of urban traffic the DB11 AMR is civilised, quiet (if you prefer) and comfortable. The sports seats can be adjusted to grip like a vice at speed or provide more breathing room around town, the ergonomics are spot-on, and despite its striking looks, all around vision is surprisingly good.
Overall, driving the DB11 AMR is a special event, flooding the senses and raising the heart rate no matter what the speed.
Both the Pure and the CS rely on BMW’s tri-mode adaptive dampers to give the car a different character when required, as well as an ‘All Ahead Full’ M button that can be set to a driver’s preference for throttle, gearbox, damper and steering modes.
Through town and out on the freeway, the M4 is pleasant enough in comfort mode, with a bit of tyre roar making its way into the car on rougher surfaces.
The Pure’s 19-inch wheels wear slightly taller-profile, less-aggressive tyres than the CS, which, combined with its lower engine output, gives the cheaper car a surprisingly more mellow demeanor overall. It’s not soft, mind you; it’s still pushing almost 500 old-school horsepower to the rear tyres, so there’s plenty on tap if you want to play.
Like the Competition, the CS shows a more mature side once the pace increases. The stiffer springs from the Competition and the more aggressive tyre set combine to reveal a complex damper map that can handle mid-corner corrugations and bigger hits with aplomb, while the chunky brakes are superbly modulated and offer incredible feel all the way through a big stop.
Both M4s come together beautifully on longer runs, with especially seamless flow through faster, longer corners. Ultimately, the M4 likes to be leant on a bit - but it takes a deep breath to trust it implicitly.
The steering, too, is still too digital and artificial at crucial moments. It turns in with aplomb and holds a line, but you’re not feeling it through your fingertips when you need it most, despite an array of electronic feels to pick from. Older M cars were far better in this area.
A few track laps confirms that the M4 is still a terrific toy, and that lack of linearity in the throttle map and steering don’t overly hurt its pace.
Aston Martin DB117/10
Big speed demands serious active and passive safety, and the DB11 comes up short on the former.
Yes, there’s ABS, EBD, EBA, traction control, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Positive Torque Control (PTC) and Dynamic Torque Vectoring (DTV); even a tyre-pressure monitoring system, and the surround view cameras.
But if a crash is unavoidable there’s plenty of back-up in the form of dual-stage driver and passenger front airbags, front side (pelvis and thorax) airbags, as well as curtain and knee airbags.
Both rear-seat positions offer top tethers and ISOFIX anchors for baby-capsule and child-seat location.
The DB11 hasn’t been assessed for safety performance by ANCAP or EuroNCAP.
Full-length curtain, front and front-side airbags, as well as plenty of high-stregth steels in the body build, help to give the BMW a top ANCAP score of five stars.
BMW doesn’t offer a ‘full stop’ automatic emergency braking function, stating that it wants the driver to still have final control over an emergency stop. The M4 also misses out on lane guidance and adaptive cruise control.
It offers a ‘light’ city-braking option, along with lane-departure warning, pre-emptive safety preparation and an intelligent emergency call function that activates in the event of a crash.
Aston Martin DB117/10
Servicing is recommended every 12 months/16,000km, and an extended, transferable 12-month contract is available, including everything from provision of a taxi/accommodation in the event of breakdown, to coverage of the vehicle at “official Aston Martin organised events.”
A more inclusive program that includes brake rotors, pads and clutch plates costs $8195.
A three-year free roadside service assistance program also covers the range.