Aston Martin DB11 VS Mercedes-Benz C63
Aston Martin DB11
- Expected safety tech MIA
- Modest warranty
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Colossal power
- Improved ride
- Fun chassis
- Interior design a bit so-so
- No spare tyre
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.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
To slightly misquote Bob Dylan, how many parts must a manufacturer change before it becomes a true facelift? Well, in the case of the C63 S, Mercedes reckons the car's mid-life facelift contains 6500 new or revised parts. That's a lot of bits, but on even close examination, it just looks like a new grille on the W205's nose.
The C63 is a familiar fixture on our roads. AMG knows how to create an audio signature for its cars - my wife can recognise a C63's V8 dirty bark a mile off, and she's not quite as keen on cars as I am. It's the highest-selling AMG in the country, so Mercedes Australia won't want serious changes to upset their apple cart.
After counting at least 15 of the 6500 new bits, a refreshed interior and one of the great road car engines left well alone, we went on a road trip to the Bathurst 12 Hour to see what's what.
|Engine Type||4.0L 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.
This facelift must have been an unenviable task. The C63 is wildly popular, particularly in Australia and there wasn't much wrong with it before. The addition of the new driving modes offers yet more adjustability and the refreshed suspension has delivered a better ride.
Leaving the core of the car alone means it remains an exceptionally appealing sports sedan. You can easily live with it as your only family car because it can carry four moderately-sized people in comfort with the genuine ability to scare the crap out of them.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
Does the refreshed C63 grab your attention? Or does the similarly-priced GLC63 tick more boxes?
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 new C63 doesn't look all that much different apart from the front. The new Panamericana grille we've already seen on the GLC63 has trickled down from the AMG GT, the old C63's grille is now on the C43. The current C-Class is a fairly conservative design - as are all the German sedans in this segment - but the AMG additions help it stand out from the rest of the range providing a C200 buyer hasn't slapped on the AMG pack. Apart from the grille and diffuser, the C63 also has red brake calipers.
Inside is roughly the same. The interior is really from a time when Mercedes weren't really doing nice looking cabins. There's certainly nothing wrong with the quality, but the mixture of materials is a bit much. The open-pore wood is lovely, with a nice texture to it and it looks good, certainly nicer than over-polished slabs of tree from of old. The AMG front seats, with a massive amount of adjustment, are excellent and hugely comfortable.
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.
Front seat passengers enjoy a useful pair of cupholders and a good size central bin with two USB points inside it to join the one in the cubby under the climate controls. The glove box is large enough to fit the massive owners manual. Each door has a bottle holder, too, but you'll be lying them on their side.
In the back you've got very welcome air vents, easily room for two adults as long as the front seats aren't occupied by giants and a rear armrest with dual cupholders (for a total of four). The plastic shells on the back of the excellent front seats might be a bit hard on a taller person's knees, though. If your feeling squished, you can poke the driver's shoulders through the fake belt slots on the front seats.
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).
You can choose from four C63 S variants - from the $160,900 sedan, $163,400 wagon, $165,900 coupe or the $184,000 cabriolet. The car I drove was the sedan, the top-seller of the range and it's worth nothing that despite me calling it the C63, it's the C63 S - we don't bother with the non-S in Australia.
Off the line, the C63 comes with 19-inch forged alloys from the AMG GT, a new stability and control electronics package, fully digital dash with telemetry pack, 13-speaker stereo system, auto LED headlights with active high beam control, active cruise control, auto wipers, head up display, Nappa leather, a naff IWC-branded analogue clock and a tyre repair kit.
The car I drove also had the air-ionizing and fragrance system that made the car smell like an Emirates A380 cabin.
A huge 10.25-inch media screen sits atop the console and features Mercedes' 'Comand' system, controlled by a rotary dial with that weird tongue with the touchpad arching over it. Comand is getting better over the years and is now quite usable, although Mercedes is resisting making the screen responsive to touch.
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.
Power from the AMG 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is unchanged at a colossal 375kW/700Nm. All of that still goes to the rear wheels only, but now sent there by a nine-speed auto. The 'MCT' (Multi-Clutch Transmission) is not, Mercedes hastens to add, a dual clutch.
The C63 is blindingly fast, cracking the ton in around four seconds. If we had the space and the law had a sense of humour about these things, top whack is a mildly incongruous 300km/h. It might even go faster if AMG didn't whack on a limiter.
The MCT is like a motorbike clutch where a number of clutch plates are in an oil bath and there's just a single input shaft rather than all the doubling-up of a twin-clutch transmission.
The C63 also has a electronic rear diff to ensure maximum fun if you've got a good tyre budget.
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.
Mercedes' official figures weigh in at 10.7L/100km on the combined cycle, which is not bad for a 375kW V8, even in the lab.
The harsh reality is that when you give it the beans, you'll be up around the 14.0L/100km mark, which we saw with a fair amount of, shall we say, spirited driving. Having said that, one wonders if a less enthusiastic right foot might realistically hit 11.0L/100km or so.
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 you might imagine, the V8 engine dominates the C63. Spectacular power and torque figures and the AMG performance exhaust mean that even pottering around is a treat, with just a toe's weight required to get it moving and a lovely V8 burble following you around. In Comfort mode it's firm but perfectly comfortable, an improvement on the first go at the car.
From the driver's seat, one of the reasons I don't like that tongue on the Comand dial is that it obscures the rocker switch that controls the driving mode selection. Not a big deal, just annoying (and it's probably only a right-hand drive problem) but AMG has fixed it.
On the new steering wheel is a Ferrari Manettino-style twisty-wheel with a little screen in it. Turn the dial to the right and you cycle up from 'Comfort' through to 'Race'. On the other spoke is a pair of shortcut buttons so you can turn up the noise or turn it down without taking your hands off the wheel.
As ever, changing the mode changes the way the car behaves. There's a new slippery mode for wet or snowy surfaces and there is also a slip control feature for when you want to unstick the rear end and a new set of chassis modes - 'Basic', 'Advanced', 'Pro' and 'Master'. So, plenty to choose from, and you can mix and match in the configurable I mode.
The MCT transmission is awesome. It feels just like a well-sorted, sports-tuned automatic when you're tooling around but when you get on it, the shifts are lighting fast. The gears are weirdly long considering how many of them there are, but there's so much torque ninth gear is longer than Trump's ties. Highway speeds have the engine turning at 1200rpm.
If you're worried about this long build-up, let me put you out of your misery - the C63's wild-child reputation is undimmed. The new system settings merely give you more choice over how wild this car can be. 'Sport' and 'Sport +' are the choice modes out in the real world, with a bellowing exhaust but a set of loose-but-not-too-loose reins to keep you from flying off the road. The giant torque figure ensures plenty of, er, driver involvement as an injudicious right foot will mean a lively rear end. Move into 'Race' and you'll be busy.
The C63's philosophy of fun rather than the outright sharpness of its Audi RS and BMW M rivals is unashamed. If a C63 went to the track, it won't be the fastest through the corners, but you'll be having the most fun and working super-hard, in a good way.
Backing up all that power is a set of what Mercedes confusingly call composite brakes - what that means is that the inner ring is made of aluminium while the actual braking surface of the 390mm (front) discs is steel. Given their size, you can reasonably expect them to be rather effective and you would be correct. What's more they have plenty of feel and the bite is just right - not too grabby but you're never in any doubt that they're there and ready.
The cabin can get a little noisy over less-than-perfect surfaces. The tyre rumble will require a deployment of some loud music to cover the racket from the sticky Michelin Sport Cups.
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 C63 has nine airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reverse cross traffic alert, slippery surface mode, driver attention detection, blind spot warning, brake assist, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, around-view camera and traffic sign recognition.
ANCAP last tested the C-Class in July 2014 and awarded it five stars, although the C63 was not included.
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.”
Mercedes throws in a segment-standard (but industry-lagging) three-years/unlimited kilometre warranty. Somewhat generously, you get three years roadside assistance and remarkably sensible 12 months/20,000km service intervals.
Servicing remains the same as before, with the first service in the standard program at $656 and the latter two at $1352 each for a total of $3360 over three years. Not cheap but not horrific either.