Aston Martin DB11 VS Lexus RC
Aston Martin DB11
- Expected safety tech MIA
- Modest warranty
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Smooth, effortless V6
- Better looking than before
- Tweaked chassis feels good
- Useless rear seats
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.
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It's 2019 and the Lexus RC has been with us for four years which means it's time for a mid(ish)-life update. A glance at the specifications and tech details for its very low-key, late 2018 arrival suggests not much has changed. And let's be fair, it hasn't.
The mild refresh has brought a few changes in spec (in the right direction), price (the wrong direction, but few things are free in this life), and styling (you be the judge).
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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 RC's time on my drive was preceded by a cheaper, V8-powered Mustang, so it was fascinating to compare the Japanese approach to the American. They're not really competitors, obviously, but the Lexus' ability to cosset the driver while still showing a good turn of speed was an interesting counterpoint.
The 2019 RC350 isn't a step-change - if you want one of those, double your money and get the delightfully nutty RC F - but the changes inside, outside and underneath will certainly please the fans even if it doesn't bring in new ones in huge numbers.
Does anyone still even notice luxury coupes? If you do, is Lexus even on the radar?
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.
As a whole, I've always thought the RC to be handsome, but the headlights - as on the IS - always made me wince a bit. There's too much going on, which is weird because the rest of the car is very easy on the eye.
As is common with a mid-life facelift, the work all happens at the front and rear. There's a revised bumper, tweaked mesh pattern in the spindle grille, and a much better looking set of headlights - with much cooler LED daytime running lights and headlights. They're still a bit much, but they're not jarring.
The rear is a little cleaner but I reckon it didn't need much work. Along with new wing mirrors from the gorgeous LC coupe and new wheel designs, it's a subtle update, but a good one.
Inside is little-changed, which is good and bad. A new brushed-aluminium dash inlay, a new (naff) analogue clock, and not a huge amount else. The switchgear has a lovely damped feel, nothing clicks or snaps and it really is very serene indeed. Few cars can match a Lexus interior for feel and touch.
Some of the design decisions are confusing, though. A rotary dial to change driving modes looks more like it should be used to control the media system, and the media system's touchpad is really annoying.
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.
As ever, a sports coupe is the not the place to consider starting your DIY career, but front seat passengers luxuriate with plenty of space. A good-sized glove box joins two cupholders in the centre console which also has a decent-sized bin for hiding things, as well as a sensible place to put your phone (no wireless charging, sadly).
Rear seat passengers have very little space for their limbs or heads but at least the seats are comfortable. Two more cupholders back there, but really, nobody will use them.
The boot is a very useful 423 litres.
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).
While you can have an RC300 in the mid-sixties, the F Sport starts at $77,529, $200 extra than before. On the face of it, it doesn't look like amazing value, but get a Euro competitor and you'll be paying more.
You get 19-inch alloys, a 17-speaker stereo, four-wheel steering, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, sat nav, electric heated and ventilated front seats, leather everywhere, a limited-slip diff, variable ratio steering, adaptive dampers, keyless entry and start, and an improved safety package.
The 17-speaker stereo is a treat but the media system is not; controlled from the console by a touchpad, it's hard to use and a pain to navigate. It has Bluetooth and USB connectivity with terrific sound, but it requires patience to operate - which includes the time to get the required qualifications (okay, slight exaggeration). And there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to take the edge off. Pity.
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.
The RC350 packs Lexus' creamy 3.5-litre, naturally aspirated V6, a step up from the RC300's turbo four-cylinder. Power remains at 232kW/380Nm, driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed torque-converted automatic.
The RC350 cracks the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.3 seconds, which isn't bad considering it's a hefty beast at over 1700kg.
The RC300's turbo four spins up 180kW and an impressive 350Nm if you're keen to save a few dollars upfront and on running costs.
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.
Lexus says the 350 will manage 9.1L/100km on the combined cycle but I scored a rather less convincing 12.8L/100km. Again, that's probably not bad considering its weight. The tricky dash display had me thinking it was an amazing 7.8L/100km, but it was km/L...
There is no stop-start, cylinder-on-demand or battery regen tech to save fuel - features its European rivals all have at least one of.
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.
As it has ever been, the RC350 is one smooth, smooth ride. Even the way the doors open is relaxing: swinging wide open like the hinges are made of butter, (except butter that doesn't melt or sag). Look, I'm trying to avoid saying smooth again.
Engine start-up is barely audible and while pottering about the engine remains just as subdued. It's up to the digital dashboard, with its instruments clustered into a single dial with a digital speedo, to let you know what's going on. Few cars outside of the Lexus stable are this relaxing to drive.
What I don't remember from the last time I drove an RC was all-wheel steering. Either I wasn't paying attention or Lexus snuck it in - but it really makes a difference. It's not as aggressive as, say, the bonkers RC F or Renault Sport Megane, it's just there to help bring the heavy car around. It also seems better sorted than the same system in the bigger LC500. And the steering's variable rack works well with it as a partner, too.
The RC's adaptive suspension is so good at what it does. It never over-tightens the suspension but does make a difference in Sport+. It's not really in the 350's nature to take it out for a good thrashing, but it's certainly capable - if held back a little by its portly kerb weight and soft brake pedal feel.
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.
The RC comes with eight airbags (including knee bags), ABS, stability and traction controls, active bonnet, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward AEB and forward collision warning.
There are two top-tether restraints and two ISOFIX fittings in the back.
ANCAP has not tested the RC but it scored a 'Good' rating from the US IIHS test regime.
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.”
Unlike parent company Toyota, Lexus offers a four-year/100,000km warranty. Also unlike Toyota, you don't get an absurdly cheap deal on servicing, and there's with no capped-price regime. Lexus wants to see your car every 12 months or 15,000km.
To soften the blow of no capped-price servicing, Lexus will either give you a loan car or, even better, come and fetch your car from you before returning it vacuumed, washed, and serviced.
You also get a fairly comprehensive four years of roadside assist and a few other perks.