Drive Time

BY STEVE SILER

The 2017 Aston Martin DB11

Pebble Beach, Here It Comes—Eventually.

When walking the lawn of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance any given August, one thinks about what makes each car there so special as to earn its place among the world’s greatest automobiles. Usually, it’s not too far beneath the surface: they’re historically significant, they’re often the very first or very last of their breeds, and with precious few exceptions, they’re always beautiful. And if you’re ever lucky enough drive a car that fits that bill, you never forget it.

So that just happened.

Only this time, it was not a car that was on a concours lawn, it was a car that will be: the 2017 Aston Martin DB11, specifically the Frosted Blue example I drove at the US media preview in Southern California—complete with ground-up glass shards in the paint. As an Aston Martin, the DB11 historic by birthright. This one is among the first ones built, and will be sold through a dealer once its tenure as a press vehicle is over. And yes, it was utterly, spectacularly gorgeous.

Admittedly, try as I did, it was hard to capture this car’s beauty in photos. Photographs don’t do the DB11 the justice it deserves, given how it looks in the metal. Unlike its predecessor, the classic, relatively simple DB9, the DB11 is futuristic and purposefully complex—some elements fused to the next, others visually floating. But what wonderful pieces they all are, whether everything is rendered in body color or if the roof rails, roof panel, or rear valance take a contrasting color, black or unpainted carbon fiber. The details include L-shaped headlamps with quad cross-shaped LED bulb assemblies, slim hood vents and fender vents, a protuberant splitter jutting forth from the chin and taillamps that curl around the upper corners of the “boot.”

The DB11’s beautiful new cabin uses upscale switchgear no longer sourced from the Ford parts bin. Rather its borrows its center, dial-type controller for the eight-inch infotainment screen from Mercedes-Benz. The foot-wide instrument cluster has gone fully electronic, and like most contemporary supercars and GTs, it changes style and color scheme depending on drive mode.

Craftsmanship, always an Aston Martin forte, is truly next level with the DB11. White and blue leather of impossible softness covered most furnishings inside in our test car—seriously, this is unholy stuff—and the stitchwork on the seats, doors, dashboard and ceiling could well have been measured in miles. “Celestial” perforations allowed a glint of red to peek through primary colors, and what wasn’t covered in cowhide was suede, metal or pressed carbon fiber. And of course, sufficient “perfect imperfections” are there to remind you that this all was assembled by humans—humans that are really good at their job.

No such imperfections exist underhood, however, where Aston Martin’s “characterful” twin-turbocharged, 5.2-liter V-12 churns out 600 silken horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Aided and abetted by an eight-speed transmission, the powertrain’s responsiveness ranges from benign to high-alert, depending on which of its three settings have been selected by the driver. This is a gentleman’s supercar: while it’s hardly lazy, with a 0-60 time of 3.6 seconds, the DB11 doesn’t feel as explosive as, say, the Porsche 911 Turbo or the Ferrari California T. There’s a whiff of turbo lag that can unsettle the car a bit if the all that power rushes in mid-corner, but a judicious right foot in such settings can catapult the slinky supercoupe away from a curve with the urgency of special agent Bond in an action sequence. And all the while, it sounds simply glorious.

Generous wheel travel results in a touch of body lean upon turn-in and squat upon full throttle, but the payoff is a creamy ride befitting the DB11’s mannerly purpose. The steering—now electric for the first time—is a touch heavy, but it’s also chock full of feel. Tightening things up in the Sport or Sport+ settings adds even more weight to the steering and texture to the ride, allowing the car to bite harder in corners and/or braking, with the best balance of ride and handling in Sport. It’s heavy, yet fast—a full-bodied experience.

When a car’s base price is $214,820, including applicable destination fees, there ought to be few bones to pick, and indeed, the lack of an available sunroof and hilariously small rear seats are the only ones we could find. For those who really need sun on their noggins, the DB11 Volante—that’s “convertible” in Aston-speak—will become available in Spring of 2018.

Deliveries of the DB11 have already commenced, so you’ll start seeing DB11s in creative color and trim combinations on our roads soon if you haven’t already. As for this one, we know we’ll be seeing it again in 25 or 30 years.

2017 Aston Martin DB11
• Base Price: $214,820
• Body Style: 2-door, 2+2-passenger coupe
• Power: 600-hp 6.0-liter V-12
• Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters
• Drive wheels: Rear
• Fuel Economy (city/highway): 15/21 mpg

 

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