If Aston is to be believed, this AMR is the epitome of the DB11; a cake and eat it GT. By combining the twin-turbo V12 with the chassis upgrades from the V8, this should be the car in its finest form. After all, we drove the now-defunct DB11 V12 and liked it, we drove the V8 and also rather enjoyed it; therefore the car that results from combining the two has a lot to prove...
Why has it arrived so soon? It can't have escaped the collective attention that original DB11 drives were less than two years ago; given the significance of that car in ushering in Aston's Second Century, plus the typically glacial pace of Aston development, its arrival looks hasty to see the least. Well, there are a few fairly simple reasons. The first is Aston's promise to introduce an AMR product every year; in 2017 it was the Vantage, and presumably next year will see the Rapide, so 2018 is for the DB11. Second was the desire to get the V8 chassis improvements into a V12 car. Finally, the new Bentley Continental GT was seen as a key rival when AMR discussions first began last year; hence the arrival of this car just a fortnight after the Bentley's debut. The extra 4hp and 1mph over the Bentley isn't a coincidence, either...
The power is arguably of least importance to the AMR overhaul, though, coming as it does through what's described as an "easy" turning up of the wick for the V12 (what on earth does that mean for the DBS then?). More interesting are the chassis changes: those sexy new wheels save 3.5kg per corner, the DSC has been recalibrated to be more lenient (and less strict when it does intervene), the dampers have been revalved (but the spring rate remains unchanged) and the front anti-roll bar is stiffer, albeit just 0.5mm thicker. That's in addition to the shorter final drive ratio from the Vantage, the exhaust tweaks and the fiercer calibration for the ZF automatic - "upping the sporting content", Aston calls it, without threatening the GT credentials. Tyres, if you're interested, are exactly the same as the V12: Bridgestone S007s, 255/40 ZR20s at the front, 295/35 ZR20s at the back.
Truth be told - and this will do nothing for a journalist's delicate ego - the DB11 AMR is a little intimidating to start with. It's still not the easiest car to see out of, it's still of course pretty flippin massive and it's now faster and louder than ever. Automatic and approachable it may well be, but 640hp is still quite a lot. So is its howling and growling rather prominently away while you're trying desperately not to prang it during a three-point turn. Because the Merc nav has you lost again. Actually, that's probably user error. Moving on...
It's worth discussing that engine and its changes in a bit more detail though, because it's a real triumph. With torque unchanged and the power gain pretty modest, performance is largely as you were - stonkingly rapid, in other words, with 208mph feeling eminently achievable - but the noticeable change is in character. There's purpose and aggression to the noise now, angry like the old 5.9-litre V12 and with seemingly even less hint of forced induction than ever. Its ferocity is matched with the increased urgency of the automatic box, the balance between supercar intensity and GT comfort perfectly judged. With the appropriate mode selected - Sport is probably the best everyday compromise, as it was before - there's never a point where the AMR powertrain feels too muted for a fast drive or too overt for a more relaxed one. You can have as much or as little V12 fury as the drive dictates. You'll probably want a lot.
In fact, that theme of balance and fitness for purpose is runs through the entire car. Because, while Astons of the past could seem to be stepping on the toes of each other (remember the DB9, Virage and DBS all being on sale at the same time?), the AMR has a clearly defined niche: despite the modifications it isn't as focused as a Vantage (or, you would assume, a DBS), while offering the appeal of 12 cylinders over the DB11 V8. There's supercar performance without the supercar drama, and GT comfort without the fuzzy, softer edge. Compromise is often a dirty word in fast cars, but here it feels just about perfect. The desirable GT bits, combined with the desirable supercar bits, and seemingly none of the drawbacks.
The AMR serves to highlights flaws previously unnoticed in the V12: there's more weight to the steering and a more immediate response to it, meaning greater confidence in the front end as soon as a corner begins. There's less lean and pitch once in the bend, presumably thanks to damper work, meaning you'll chase the throttle sooner on corner exit. Despite the same tyres, traction feels improved from before and, should you breach that, the intervention from the systems is more natural and less intrusive. Throughout a corner, throughout any drive actually, the AMR is a more positive, more confidence inspiring, and more satisfying sports car.
It's not that the DB11 was bad; not at all. It's simply that the AMR is tangibly, markedly, meaningfully better. Everywhere. Crucially, however, it hasn't lost sight of the DB11 bits that needed no improvement - it still feels sumptuously refined, gorgeously appointed and extremely comfortable. Yet now there's an edge to the DB11, some precision, attitude and focus brought to the package, and that's made it more enjoyable to drive. What more could you ask for?
On the roads around the Nurburgring where it was launched, the DB11 AMR is a superb fit. The relaxed, almost languid feel of before has gone, the big Aston now urgent and eager to accelerate, turn in, grip and slip (if you want it to), all without abandoning its GT remit - it can calm down as soon as you need to, those mode switches for damper and powertrain feeling absolutely worthwhile.
The car the DB11 should always have been feels like a forced cliché, though it's difficult to avoid. It's easy to understand why the AMR replaces that standard V12, because there would be no reason to buy that car after any time in the AMR - there's apparently no penalty for the increased potency, ability and enjoyment. More than that it slots into the range well, not aggressive enough to jeopardise a DBS while also still serene enough to feel distinct from a Vantage. It feels as significant to the base product as the 'S' models did - Vanquish, V8 Vantage - to the First Century Astons, only here it's taken about a third as long to arrive. Whether the AMR is preferable to the V8 DB11 is a question to answer another time, though it would surely be hard to deny the allure of that magnificent V12 with a more focused dynamic balance. As for the Bentley - indeed any feasible rival at this price point - the DB11 AMR proffers a compellingly complete package. Emotive, exciting, finely honed and immensely desirable, it's everything you would want from a V12 Aston flagship. Really the only bad news seems to be for those who already have a V12 - you might have to change your car...
ASTON MARTIN DB11 AMR - SPECIFICATION
Engine: 5,204cc V12, turbocharged
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 639@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 516@1,500-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.9 seconds
Top speed: 208mph
Weight: 1,765kg (dry), 1,870kg EU kerbweight
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