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India Exclusive : Aston Martin DB11

Driven November 2017

India Exclusive : Aston Martin DB11

Wow. This is the Aston Martin Daniel Craig drove in Spectre
No. That’s not this. That’s the DB10. This is the DB11.

So what happened to the DB10?
That’s a one-off hammered together with old some old Aston Martins for the movie. This, the DB11 is the real deal. And it’s an all new Aston in a very long time.

But haven’t there been new Astons before?
Yes. But they have all used the same platform, the same architecture and that same 6-litre V12 since the time Sachin Tendulkar got a tennis elbow.

Sachin Tendulkar played tennis, too?
I am sorry I brought that up. Let’s just say Aston Martin has been using the same stuff since the turn of the century.

Let me guess, now this DB11 has a turbo-charged V6 instead of a V12?
You are close. The engine is turbo-charged, but it’s still a V12.

Wow. So I am looking at an 800bhp Aston, then…
No. a 600bhp one. The Aston Martin DB11 has an all-new 5.2-litre turbo V12. We get you. Four-litre V8s make 550-600bhp these days. So a 5.2-litre V12 should make way more right?

Right. So why the short-changing?
Well, Aston Martin is being conservative with the tuning. The DB11 is only the replacement for the DB9. There will be the all-new DBS/Vanquish above it. And Aston Martins are like Bollywood female stars. As they age, they play better more mature characters. So even the DB11 would get an S or some such variant with more power. So 600bhp and 700Nm is what you get, for now.

Doesn’t that make it slow?
Er, is 3.9 seconds to a 100kph and a top whack of 322kph fast enough for you?

Woo. It sure is.
Driving the DB11, the last thing you will feel short-changed about is power. It’s got plenty. And for what clearly has grand touring aspirations, this Aston is an agile car. Around sharp corners there’s barely any roll or lean and the steering is quick and direct.

The steering in the DB11 is the same as before?
Not quite. It’s no longer hydraulic. It’s fully electric powered. It’s not bad in terms of feel or responsiveness. But older Astons tended to have that grooved, textured feel around corners. The kind you’d feel if your car had lane-departure warning and the steering vibrated. The new electric steering doesn’t have that, but it’s effective, quick, well-weighted and communicative.

Where did you drive it?
Along the empty and crowded roads of Mumbai. There’s the express stuff like the Freeway and the Sea-link. And also the stop-go stuff with potholes, speedbumps, loose tiles and the works.

Did the DB11 tackle speedbumps?
This Aston, like any other Aston, is a low car, but it’s wheelbase is rather short, so it does tackle them without scrapping over any. At least, quite a few we did go over.

And how does the Aston ride?
Rather well. Previously, Aston would go about as far as offering a sport mode at the most. But the DB11 has three different settings each for the drivetrain and the suspension – GT, Sport and Sport+ -- with GT being more for comfort. We somehow liked the suspension in GT and the drivetrain in Sport+. The engine becomes louder, the gearbox doesn’t shift to higher gears in a hurry. And at the same time, the suspension in GT mode does a decent job absorbing bumps. The DB11 rides way better than any AMG for sure.

Why would you compare the DB11 to an AMG?
Oh. Sorry. I forgot to tell you about that. So, Mercedes has a five percent stake in Aston Martin, and the Germans have had a hand in some of the new architecture, platform, engine, steering and all that…

So is that good?
Well, Aston has definitely caught up with the times. But not being up to the times does have it advantages. Like naturally-aspirated engines, hydraulic steering, and the benefit of not being exactly like competition.

Has modernisation affected the Aston DB11?
It doesn’t make it inferior than before for sure. But there’s something to naturally aspirated engines and a hydraulic steering that turbo-charging or an electric steering can’t match. Aston have done a brilliant job implementing them both. But we guess it’s unfair to expect them to keep up with modern norms and offer the exact feel and sensations from before.

Are there any other Merc bits in the Aston?
Annoyingly, there are. But thankfully, they are all inside the car. The cabin has let go of all the ergonomic quirks. For instance, some Astons would have their door unlock handles designed so flush with the door itself, you’d struggle to find it. The speedo and tacho had needles set clockwise and anti-clockwise that took some getting used to. The instrument console itself was beautiful to look at and seemed carved out of a single slab of metal. But they’d be difficult to read under certain light.

So Merc has eliminated all the quirks inside the cabin?
Yes, it has. The interiors are still very Aston Martin without the quirks, but that has lead to some annoying borrowing from Merc’s parts bin. The indicator stalks are all Mercedes, and so is the screen of the media interface. Even the control and graphics are the same. The all new instrument console is all digital and easy to read, but not as beautiful as before. So you see, there’s a bit of trade off inside. Ergonomics and usability over beauty and quirks.
The DB11 does look beautiful, though
It sure does. Despite the dull brown that Aston calls Quantum Silver, the DB11 is muscular and taut like the Jag F-Type, but has beauty, grace and elegance, unlike the F-Type.

Does the DB11 have any other options?
One, actually. You can get it with a 4-litre V8.

Hmm. Why does that sound familiar?
Because it’s the same engine that powers the AMG GT family.

What? A Mercedes engine in an Aston?
Well, it’s optional. And while it doesn’t sound appealing, it might have an ace up its sleeve.

What would that be?
That engine makes the DB11 lighter by 115kgs. Will that make the DB11 more agile? Will it make this Aston the DB11 to have? We haven’t driven it, yet. But we wouldn’t count ourselves out of liking the V8. Merc engine or not.

What’s the DB11’s competition?
Everything from the Porsche 911, Ferrari GTC4Lusso, the Maserati Granturismo and the Bentley Continental. There’s also the Merc AMG S65 coupe.

How does the DB11 stack up to them all?
In price, only the Ferrari is more expensive than the DB11.

What? How expensive is the DB11?
Aston wants a cool Rs 4.07 crore.

That is steeeeeep.
It sure is. For about Rs 4.2 you will get the Ferrari GTC4Lusso.

Ah hah. And that has four seats too,
True. But that has the V8 turbo engine. If you want the naturally-aspirated V12 Ferrari it’s slightly over a crore more.

That makes the Aston a bargain then?
In a way. Besides, for all of the Ferrari’s superiority in terms of ride, handling and the manners of its quick dual clutch in stop-go traffic and on track, it isn’t…

…As beautiful as the Aston?

What about the Bentley and Merc?
Out of the two, the Merc is the more spacious with proper seating for two adults in the rear. The Bentley does have rear seats, but not as spacious as the Merc’s. But it’s more spacious than the DB11’s.

What? But the DB11 does have rear seats...
It does. But they are pointless. The only way any adult would fit in is if the front seats are empty and pushed forward to the maximum.

Which will leave you with a stationary Aston Martin.
Exactly. However, the DB11 has the heavier Bentley licked for handling, feel and driving pleasure.

The 911?
Like the Aston it has pointless rear-seats and even stuff like the GT3 can be had for half the price of the Aston. As a pure driving instrument, a GT3 would be unmatched. But even it can’t beat the elegance, grace and beauty of the Aston. Sure, the DB11 ticks a few boxes less than the 911 when it comes to pure driving, but it ticks many more than the Porsche.

And the Maserati Granturismo?
That -- just like Aston was until before the DB11 – has ancient roots. It still does. Which comes with its own pitfalls. But also has its advantages. Naturally aspirated engine, hydraulic steering, no buffet of driving and suspension modes. Until recently, the Maser had an ancient in-cabin interface and no modern options like a reversing cam. But with a recent end-of-life update, Maserati have brought in those, too. Besides, it can properly seat two adults in the back. And is a timeless beauty and belies its weight and size, just like the Aston. This should be a close fight.

But the Maser doesn’t have a V12.
True. Which is where I think Aston missed a few tricks with the DB11 V12.

Which is?
The DB11 is improved in every way over older Astons, but we do wonder if Aston could have retained hydraulic steering and natural aspiration in the V12 DB11 and kept the turbos and electric steering for the V8 version. Just like Ferrari have the V8 turbo and V12 non-turbo for the GTC4Lusso. Besides, we are really curious to drive the lighter V8, even if it’s a Merc engine.

You liked the Aston DB11, then?
Very much. You could always argue the 911 is better for drivers or the Maserati offers more for less. But the DB11, despite its first attempt at the new era with turbos and electric steering, has done a brilliant job with a comfortable GT that’s agile, sporty and quick. Besides, being exquisite and beautiful are not really traits you’d spot in track charts and dealership brochures. The fact that you get all that not at the cost of handling and fun is precisely what you are paying for.

For: Looks, handling, noise, speed-bump negotiating capabilities
Against: Stuff from Merc’s parts bin, textured grooved steering feel no more, expensive
Bottomline: The most beautiful, agile, modern comfortable sportscar. Expensive, but exquisite.

Price: Rs 4.07 crore

Engine: 5204cc V12 turbopetrol
Power: 600bhp at 6500rpm
Torque: 700Nm at 1500-5000rpm
Transmission: 8A, RWD
Weight: 1770kgs
Fuel capacity: 78 litres
0-100kph: 3.9 secs
Top speed: 322kph

Wow. This is the Aston Martin Daniel Craig drove in Spectre

No. That’s not this. That’s the DB10. This is the DB11.

Sriram Narayanan

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