- Available for £80,000
- 4.0 V8 or 5.2-litre V12 petrol, twin turbo, rear wheel drive
- Aston's first turbo, and a genuinely modern car
- Fabulous mix of refinement, performance and comfort
- Beautiful interior
- Some random electrical problems early on
If you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor, filling big shoes is the cross many car designers have to bear. As the footwear of the flawed but intensely desirable 5.9-litre V12-powered Aston Martin DB9 was bigger than most, the task of replacing it was always going to be daunting, but the DB11 did the job in spectacular fashion.
The DB10 name had been frittered away on a ten-car blip for the exclusive use of James Bond in Spectre, but the DB11 that turned up at the 2016 Geneva show was judged by most onlookers to be worthy of a number that was two higher than the DB9. It was one of those rare delights that are more impactful in the flesh than in photographs, a bit like the Veyron on which we recently did a buyer’s guide.
The DB11 moved on from the DB9 in two key areas: one, the engine, and two, the thing that the engine sat in, or on. The uncertainty about the choice of prepositions at the end of that last sentence is a reference to the DB9’s Ford-developed VH platform. According to Aston Martin at the time, the VH actually wasn’t a platform at all, and the ‘vertical/horizontal’ acronym sounded suspiciously like mumbo-jumbo. It had nothing to do with what most of us would expect those words to mean.
Anyway, after a 15-year reign at Aston the VH was replaced in the 11 by a new, 39 percent stiffer, 21kg lighter, bonded and riveted aluminium platform. One of its main design goals was to address the tight cabin space that had become negatively associated with the marque. It succeeded in that goal. It was longer, wider and lower than the DB9, and crucially it had a longer wheelbase. Admittedly the DB11 was getting on for 200kg heavier overall than the 2008 DBS, but the S was a more specialised car with no back seats and carbon fibre in both its bodywork and its brakes.
Beneath the 11’s enormous aluminium clamshell bonnet was a second-generation version of the familiar Cologne-built 5.9-litre V12. Destroking it to 5.2-litres meant replacing the pistons, rods, cylinder head, block, and crankshaft. Adding two twin-scroll units and two charge coolers made the AE31 Aston’s first production turbo motor, not to mention the firm’s most powerful series production unit (discounting the 7.3-litre motor in the limited One-77) at 600hp. Its 516lb ft torque figure was the best part of 60lb ft up on the DB9. More importantly that ‘peak’ ran from 1,500rpm to 5,000rpm, whereas on the n/a DB9 it really was a peak at 4,750rpm.
By the time of the DB11’s launch in 2016, engine supply talks between Aston Martin and Mercedes had been going on for years and an open secret since 2013. An AMG V12 was never on the cards for Aston, but a detuned version of the Mercedes-AMG M177/178 biturbo 4.0 used in the Mercedes-AMG GT made perfect sense for an entry-level DB11, and that’s what came out in 2017. The V8 needed one less radiator than the V12, and of course it had four fewer cylinders, which meant a correspondingly smaller number of moving parts and less weight. The big-hitting V12’s 100-odd horsepower advantage more than counterbalanced the V8’s 110kg-plus weight saving, with a little over 3.1kg for each of its horsepower to push compared to 3.5kg in the V8, but the accelerative difference between the two in the headline 0-62mpg test was insignificant at just 0.1sec (3.9sec for the V12, 4.0sec for the V8).
Although Aston freely admitted that the V8’s top speed had to be politically capped at 187mph to create some showroom distancing between it and the V12, it would be a distortion to say that the performance of the V8 somehow ‘showed up’ the V12. They were different cars. Both were horribly fast. Taken in the round, you could say that the arrival of the V8 granted DB11 buyers the whimsical luxury of being able to choose either model based on nothing more measurable than their preferred engine format.
In October 2017 a cloth-roofed Volante convertible version was launched at prices starting from £159,900. It was only available with the V8 engine because the stiffening measures for the open-top body had already added 110kg to the DB11's stats, and the extra weight of the V12 motor on top of that was not deemed appropriate. This model did the 0-62mph run in 4.1sec and the 0-100mph in 9.0sec.
For those to whom numbers were important, 2018’s DB11 AMR revamp was the answer. The V12’s torque was unchanged, as was its fuel consumption, but the lift in power to 630hp lowered the 11’s 0-62 time to 3.7sec and enabled a new top speed of 208mph. New shift programming sped up gearchanges, the rear suspension was firmed up, lighter forged alloy wheels were bolted on and the exhaust note in Sport and Sport+ modes got growlier.
The 630hp AMR was a replacement for, rather than a sister car to, the 600hp 11 that had been in production for less than two years. Its price was £175,000, or £202,000 for one of the 100 AMR Signature Edition launch cars in Stirling Green with Lime Green accents. Sounds like a lot, but a Ferrari F12 was more again. Now, you can pick up a V8 DB11 for under £85,000, or a V12 DB11 for under £80,000, which doesn’t sound like a lot. Let’s look at what you get for your money.
SPECIFICATION | ASTON MARTIN DB11 V12 (2016-on)
Engine: 5,204cc V12 48v twin-turbocharged (*3,982cc V8)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 600@6,500rpm (*496@6,000rpm)
Torque (lb ft): 516@1,500-5,000rpm (*498@2,000-5,000rpm)
0-62mph: 3.9 secs (*4.0)
Top speed: 200mph (*187)
Weight (kg): 1,875 (*1,760)
MPG (official combined): 25 (*34)
CO2 (g/km): 270 (*230)
Wheels (in): 9 x 20 (f), 11 x 20 (r) (*9 & 10)
Tyres: 255/40 (f), 295/35 (r)
On sale: 2016-on
Price new: £157,900 (*£144,900)
Price now: from £80,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
There were two fantastic drivetrains to choose from. AMG’s ‘hot vee’ placement of the two turbochargers on its V8 reduced midrange lag to as near zero as made no difference, endowing the 4.0-litre with punishing grunt and inviting you to paddle-twiddle to stay on the crest of its torque wave, which was not a wearisome task even though the ZF 8-speed box (of which more in a minute) was a torque converter unit rather than a twin-clutcher.
For the DB11, Aston set the V8 on different engine mounts and softened the percussive thump of the Mercedes-AMG GT’s exhaust in favour of a more refined, and arguably more journey-friendly, tune. Having said that, Sport+ mode brought plenty of crackle and bang for those who liked that sort of thing. Again, let’s talk more about that a little later.
The V12 had long performance. Its torque peak began 500rpm earlier than the V8’s and its power peak ended 500rpm later than the V8’s, so it would tramp on in a gratifyingly rewarding fashion through the full range of each gear if the prevailing conditions of the road – and your licence – permitted it. The V12’s claimed 0-62 acceleration time was 3.9sec but some magazines, particularly US-based ones blessed with perfect conditions, bettered that.
Ported fuel injection was retained for easier emissions control and mappable electronic wastegates gave the turbo twelve the best chance of sounding every bit as good as the old non-turbo 5.9. If you were told there were no turbos you could quite easily believe it as there was no obvious turbo muffle effect. Holding down the start button engaged a ‘quiet start’ function to preserve neighbourly relations.
The DBS Superleggera in which the 5.2-litre V12 also appeared showed how much headroom there was in the DB11’s engine. In that carbon-panelled £225,000 iteration a remap was all that was needed (kind of) to hoist the output to 715hp and 663lb ft, taking the 73kg lighter Superleg to a 211mph top end via a 0-62 time of 3.4sec and a 0-100 of 6.4.
The DB11’s gearbox was the second generation (2014-on) version of ZF’s ubiquitous, versatile and tough 8HP 8-speed torque converter automatic, first used in BMW’s F01 series 760Li V12 and nowadays the transmission of choice for a raft of manufacturers across an equally wide range of models.
When Andy Palmer was CEO at Aston he said the 8HP was lighter, cheaper and (controversially) quicker than a dual-clutch box, and that the DCTs were beginning to look like the transmission of the past. He’s not there any more, but this ZF box still stands as a fine piece of engineering. The DB11 was one of only two cars to mount the 8HP at the rear in transaxle style (the Vanquish being the other). This freed up a little more passenger space and helped to optimise the front to back weight distribution.
With the DB11 in manual mode the changes weren’t necessarily the quickest on the block but you couldn’t complain about the slickness, which was arguably the right balance of attributes in a sophisticated super-tourer such as this. Leaving it in auto mode felt like a natural fit for the 11’s grand touring style.
Gen-three 8HPs came on line in 2018 with slight improvements in fuel economy, not something in which many DB11 owners would have been unduly interested. The V8 was actually pretty good on fuel with a 34mpg official combined figure, but the V12 was quite a bit juicier at 25mpg despite its Intelligent Bank Activation system (cylinder deactivation by another name, with one bank of six switched off in low-load or cruising conditions, but with all the valves still operating). If you managed to hit the official mpg numbers the 17.2 gallon tank would take you 585 miles in the V8 and 430 miles in the V12.
DB11 suspension was a classic double-wishbone front, multilink rear arrangement with anti-roll bars at both ends, Bilstein adaptive dampers and, perhaps most importantly, key input from a certain well-regarded chassis engineer who moved to Aston Martin from Lotus. Push the V12 too hard too early on the exit of a corner and the front end would begin to wash out, but the reward for staying on the sensible side of the laws of physics was a ride quality that was silky smooth – again, a nicely judged blend for the grand touring (as opposed to the sports car) target market.
‘S’ and ‘damper’ buttons on either side of the steering wheel gave access to three powertrain and suspension modes respectively: 'GT', which was the normal default, 'Sport', and 'Sport+'. Sport+ gave you the most exhaust noise on the ‘S’ powertrain side, and less float on the ‘damper’ side, but at a cost to the silken ride. Many owners found the best combination to be GT on the damper button and the midpoint Sport setting on the S button for a little more powertrain din and sharpness. Traction and stability controls could both be completely disabled, demanding care in the bottom three gears, but the DB11’s longer wheelbase gave it good balance and surprising user-friendliness on the track.
As noted earlier, the V12 was more than 110kg heavier than the V8, and more of the V12’s total weight was carried at the front end – 51/49 front/rear, versus 49/51 in the V8 – so Aston was able to modify the V8's suspension to enhance driver engagement. Besides changes to the suspension geometry, including a new lateral link at the back, the V8’s spring rates were softened and the anti-roll bars and rear axle bushings stiffened to smooth out the V12’s sometimes glitchy weight transitions. The electric power steering was retuned to add some confidence-boosting weight coming off the centre position.
Some would say that the V8 is a little more agile on tighter roads, and non-owners would assume that to be the case just by looking at the numbers, but anyone fortunate enough to have had both cars in the garage would be unlikely to criticise one over the other. In the real world, cars are driven and enjoyed in isolation, and these were two very enjoyable and very individual cars.
The DB11 had a mechanical limited slip diff and active torque vectoring via the braking system, which was steel on both the V12 and V8. Brake balance was tweaked on the lighter car with resized pistons on the front calipers and a better feel at the pedal to counter some V12 owners’ comments about low-speed grabbiness. Some thought that the standard Bridgestone Potenza tyres on staggered width 20in wheels were a touch harder than equivalent Michelins.
It was kind of fashionable to pick holes in the DB11’s styling at launch but it looked stunning in the flesh and somehow especially right in silver. To quickly establish which DB11 you’re looking at, check the number of bonnet vents. The V12 has four, the V8 two. V8 cars also had black headlight bezels and smoked rear light lenses.
Most of the DB11 body parts were aluminium, including the big clamshell bonnet. Exceptions to this were the quarter panels and bootlid, which were in plastic composite, and the bumpers and sills which were injection-moulded plastic. The door frames were magnesium. Unwanted aero lift was quoshed by wheel arch gill-vents at the front (which annoyingly tend to spray mud down the side of the car) and by a virtual AeroBlade spoiler at the back using air channelled through intakes on the C-pillar bases.
The Volante’s eight-layered fabric roof was 26kg lighter and 5 percent more rigid than the DB9’s and was deployable at speeds of up to 31mph. Raising it was a 16-second operation. Folding it back down behind the rear seats took two seconds longer. Aston claimed to have put the roof mech through a 100,000-cycle weather chamber test programme. New leather door and centre console inserts, heated seats, front and rear parking sensors and a 360-degree surround view parking camera were all standard Volante items.
The first thing DB9 owners immediately noticed about the DB11 was the greater ease of entry made possible by its less chunky sills. There was a greater sense of cabin space generally, including in the rear which, technically at least, became a little more useable with an extra 2 inches of headroom and another 3 inches of legroom. A near-six-footer can actually get into the back seat, though they probably wouldn’t want to spend more than half an hour in there. Boot space was up by a fifth to a more than class-acceptable 270 litres.
New easily-read instrumentation, high quality controls and wonderfully lush Bridge of Weir or Caithness leathers all contributed to a noticeable lift in ambience relative to the DB9, although not every piece of trim was a perfect fit, the Mercedes-sourced infotainment didn't feel ultra-modern (although the rotary control could be supplemented by a touchpad), and some Aston traditionalists might have frowned at the binning of the physical fly-off handbrake. Not everyone was a massive fan of the squared-off steering wheel either.
Desirable options included a 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system, ventilated seats and soft luggage in the same leather as your car’s interior. Undesirable problems have been known to afflict the satnav, aircon and alarm systems. Starting difficulties have been reported too. These could be down to any number of causes, but dead batteries – either the main one or the one in the keyfob – are the most usual suspects. Spare keys became known for not working.
The DB11 was very much a new vehicle with a lot of new systems. Electrics generally needed watching on early cars. One PHer had the passenger window fail in the first few weeks of ownership, requiring a new module. The same person also had a ‘bonnet open’ warning light come on during a motorway trip, caused by a faulty bonnet latch, plus more than one random alarm malfunction. Creditably, Andy Palmer made himself personally available to any DB11 owners experiencing issues.
The DB11 is a rare beast in every sense. A hugely appealing gentleman-racer alternative to more in-your-face supercars and to statelier propositions such as the similarly priced Bentley Continental GT or a used Rolls-Royce Wraith, it brought a long-overdue element of genuine modernity to the marque.
Viewed dispassionately, a V8 would seem to be the obvious DB11 pick. The drivetrain is both proven and highly capable, and the extra agility conferred on the DB11’s chassis by the lower weight means that its power shortfall never translates into an inferior driving experience.
The thing is, it’s hard to view any DB11 dispassionately. For cars like these, humdrum topics like boot space and fuel consumption simply don’t figure in the conversation. They’re bought because they are exciting, viscerally as well as visually. On that score – not that you can score it – the V12 has a special magic that, for a committed Aston Martin enthusiast at any rate, can easily tip what would be a very pleasant buying process in its favour.
If you did want to bring value into that process, the DB11 stood up impressively with an £80,000 smaller price tag than Ferrari’s F12 – but what sort of value is available now on used DB11s? Well, at the low end how about this year-one V12 in Magnetic Silver with black leather, 24,000 miles done and £14,500 of factory options fitted, all for a number beginning with a 7? For around £4,000 more you can be into this 2018 V8 with 26,000 miles, while the most affordable 630hp AMR model on offer was this 6,000-mile 2019 car in silver at £123,000. Volante convertibles are quite thin on the ground. The cheapest one on PH Classifieds at the time of writing was a 2018 V8 in black on black at a fiver under £115,000.
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