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The DB11 is a grand tourer at heart — but its new V12 propels it to great heights on the test track.
It is one of those classic sweaty palm moments. The door swings open and I am invited to occupy the bright blue, leather-trimmed driver’s seat of Aston Martin’s new baby, the DB11.
This is no ordinary Aston but a development “mule” of the entirely new, 450kW twin-turbo V12 we’ll see on Australian roads in November.
After an extensive briefing, document signing and a reminder that this is the only DB11 they currently have, I am permitted to fire the psychedelically camouflaged beast into action.
Lurking under the outstretched bonnet is not the 6.0-litre V12 that’s powered every Aston since the DB9 of 2003 but a heavily revised, 5.2-litre in-house design that aims for improved efficiency.
With key in place, I press the crystal starter button. Good news: despite the new V12 being turbocharged, it has retained the feisty bark and rumbling idle of the DB9 on fire-up.
As I select sport plus, the fully digital dash morphs into serious mode showing the vitals of speedo, tacho and various temp gauges.
I pull the right paddle to engage the first of the ZF box’s eight forward gears and exit the pits of the Bridgestone test facility in Italy heading for the dry handling track.
Trundling through the pits gives me time to take in the cabin surrounds. Hideous pale blue leather apart, it now feels closer to the minimalist Mercedes-Benz AMG GT and further from the “over 50s gentlemen’s club” look of a Jaguar XK.
It’s here that the DB11 gives the first visible signs of the company’s partnership with AMG, most notably the 12-inch digital driver’s display and Mercedes rotary controller.
After savouring the first bark of its V12 on a cold Italian morning and the finer points of its new interior, it’s time to hit Bridgestone’s 3.9km test track.
In the wet it’s almost too easy to dial in more sideways motion than a night at the speedway.
I’m not sure what impresses me more, the smooth power curve with zero hint of turbo lag or the 400mm, six-piston brakes upfront that rapidly pull up the 1770kg Aston from speed lap after lap for 20 minutes.
Rear-end grip is impressive, given the lack of wings or body kit. The traction setup initially dials in plenty of understeer, especially on the wet handling section — with 700Nm coming on from just 1500rpm, it is virtually impossible to tame with the right foot. In the wet it’s almost too easy to dial in more sideways motion than a night at the speedway.
Bespoke Bridgestone 255x40 rubber on the front and 295x35 on the rear, code marked 007 of course, works overtime to pump out water on the wet track, provide stupendous grip in the dry and still offer comfort and ride levels superior to the last of the DB9s.
With the fun stuff out of the way, we try the country lane loop that’s barely wider than the car but includes the dips, crests and blind corners you typically find on a quiet rural road.
The DB11 will reach 100km/h in less than four seconds so I arrive at the first corner at an alarming pace.
Confidence now established after plenty of wet and dry track time, I simply tip it in and let the chassis settle, without even a dab of the brakes, then back on the accelerator hard for the next short straight.
It’s as close to real-world conditions you could expect, except on this occasion there’s no chance of oncoming cars or police radar.
Placing 12 cylinders over the nose should be a recipe for understeer galore during heavy braking and turn-in but mounting the gearbox at the rear balances the car sweetly, giving it a 51-49 weight distribution, so not once does it bottom out or touch the bump stops.
At the rear is a retractable flap to cut lift, eliminating the need for a garish fixed wing to ruin its natural good looks.
Air rushes from the base of the rear pillar on each side through internal ducts to the rear deck where it keeps the tail planted at up to 140km/h — then the flap deploys.
The DB11 devours the rough road, helped by its electric power steering that reacts deftly to quick changes of direction. It proves a competent grand tourer and a well deserved, and long awaited, successor to the DB9.
In the cross-hairs of the DB9 were the Bentley Continental GT and Maserati Gran Turismo. Now Aston Martin has sharpened the intent of the DB11, making it more of a rival for the Porsche 911, AMG GT or even perhaps, the Ferrari 488.
|(base)||5.2L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$349,000 – 388,800||2017 Aston Martin DB11 2017 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|LAUNCH EDITION||5.2L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$349,000 – 349,900||2017 Aston Martin DB11 2017 LAUNCH EDITION Pricing and Specs|