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August 5, 2016
John Carey road tests and reviews the Aston Martin DB11 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its international launch in Italy.
A twin-turbo V12 propels Aston's grand tourer to escape velocity but, says John Carey, it can also cruise in comfort and attract attention.
There's no worse car for a spy than an Aston Martin. Nothing you do in one of these goes unnoticed. Driving the Brit brand's new DB11 around the Tuscan countryside, we were always gawked at, often snapped and sometimes filmed.
Any stop meant answering onlookers' questions or accepting their praise of the Aston's beauty. The right car for covert ops, the DB11 is not — but for an espionage thriller car chase sequence, it could be a useful tool.
There's power aplenty beneath the DB11's long, sharklike snout. This big 2+2 seater GT car introduces Aston Martin's new V12. The twin-turbo 5.2-litre is a more powerful and efficient replacement for the company's 5.9-litre non-turbo V12.
The new V12 is a beast. Its maximum outputs are 447kW (or 600 old-fashioned horsepower) and 700Nm. With a regal roar it will spin to 7000rpm but, thanks to its turbo-boosted torque, there's strong acceleration anywhere above 2000rpm.
Aston Martin says the DB11 will leap from standstill to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds. From the driver's seat, this claim seems realistic.
You're pushed so forcefully into the embroidered and perforated leather of the shapely seat it seems the brogue patterns might be permanently imprinted in your back.
When less than maximum thrust is required, the engine has a neat fuel-saving trick, shutting down one bank of cylinders and temporarily turning itself into a 2.6-litre inline turbo six.
It's larger and stiffer than the DB9 body and roomier too.
To keep its pollution control gear hot and effective, the V12 can swap from running on one bank to the other. Try as hard as you like but you'll fail to sense the changes.
The engine is up front but the DB11's swift-shifting eight-speed automatic is rear-mounted, between the driven wheels. Engine and transmission are solidly connected by a big tube, with a carbon-fibre driveshaft spinning inside.
The layout gives the car near 50-50 weight distribution, which is the reason it's also favoured by Ferrari for its front-engine models such as the F12.
The DB11's all-aluminium body, like the V12, is new. It's riveted and glued, using aerospace-quality adhesives. Aston Martin says it's larger and stiffer than the DB9 body and roomier too.
There's luxurious space up front but the pair of individual seats in the rear are fit only for very short people for equally short journeys. There's not a lot of luggage space for such a long and wide car, either. And the 270L boot has a small opening.
Such things happen when star-quality style is a priority and practicality isn't.
The DB11 is a striking shape, no question. But aerodynamics, as well as the desire for design drama, played a part in moulding that muscular exterior.
Inlets concealed in the roof pillars feed air into a duct connected to a slot running the width of the bootlid. This upward-rushing wall of air creates an invisible spoiler. Aston Martin calls it AeroBlade.
The interior aims for tradition more than innovation. But among the expanses of flawless leather and lustrous wood are buttons and knobs, switches and screens that will be familiar to any driver of a current C-Class.
The DB11 is the first model from Aston Martin to use Mercedes electrical systems. This is the result of a deal inked with Daimler, owner of Mercedes, in 2013 and it's no bad thing. The parts look, feel and work right.
They need to. When the DB11 arrives in Australia it will wear a $395,000 price tag. The first deliveries, scheduled for December, will be the option-laden $428,022 Launch Edition. All examples are already sold.
The soft damping is just right for high-speed motorway cruising.
As with any other high-end, hi-tech car, the DB11 gives its driver set-up choices. Buttons on the left and right spokes of the steering wheel cycle through GT, Sport and Sport Plus modes for chassis and drivetrain.
In line with the DB11's Gran Turismo role, the GT settings deliver comfort. The soft damping is just right for high-speed motorway cruising but it permits too much body bobble on a curvy, lumpy road.
Selecting Sport brings a just-right degree of discipline to the suspension, some extra eagerness to the accelerator pedal and more weight to the steering. Sport Plus ramps both up another notch. The added stiffness means sportier handling but a bumpier ride.
The electric-assist steering is quick and accurate, the brakes are strong and consistent and the Bridgestone tyres on massive 20-inch wheels provide substantial grip when the going gets hot.
There's enough power to make the rear end wriggle sideways when accelerating hard out of corners. Turn into a corner too fast and the nose will push wide.
Mostly the DB11 impresses with its well-balanced roadholding, big-time performance and fluid handling.