There’s been a lot of change over at Aston Martin in the last couple of years – and the biggest one has to be the new relationship with Mercedes-AMG and the use of the German engines in the new models like the DB11 and the new Vantage. So what does mean for the cars themselves?
The old DB9 was a stunner of a car which turned heads from day 1 right up to its retirement in 2016, but it was far from perfect. Over the years I’ve played with a few and also spoken to many owners who all had pretty much the same to say about them. “Beautiful cars to look at but a nightmare to maintain and run”. This was mainly due to dodgy electronics in the now-aged interior and also the crazy running costs of that big, thirsty 6.0 V12 engine we’ve all grown to love.
In 2016 the new DB11 was launched and it was well received with its new bold styling and up to date, German produced electronics. Originally offered with a new twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12 powerplant producing 600hp and 516lb-ft of torque. 0-62mph took just 3.8 seconds and it would go all the way to 200mph. It was beautiful to look at and brilliant to drive and the new V12 kept the party going all the way up the revs. Unfortunately for the purists, Aston Martin decided to release the Volante in 2018 without this engine, instead they opted for the smaller and lighter AMG-produced twin-turbo 4.0 litre V8. The same unit they introduced as an option for the coupe in the summer of 2017.
The smaller V8 may not be the choice of the old-school AM purists, but it suits the new DB11 perfectly. AMG may well have built the engine, but the people at Gaydon have done their thing with the manifolds and exhaust to make sure it still sounds like a proper Aston. They have also done the tuning meaning that even though there is a 97hp deficit, 0-62mph is only 0.3 seconds slower.
Looks-wise, I have always thought an Aston Martin looks its best with the roof removed and this is no exception. Due to some clever new designs in the roof mechanism, it now stows away into a smaller compartment meaning the overall silhouette of the car has not been compromised and there is even a decent sized boot now. I love the large rear hips and the aggressive front grill and the side profile is only improved when that soft top is stowed away.
Inside it’s very similar, you have these wonderfully comfortable hand-stitched seats with wood veneer backs, creating this perfect seated environment you expect from a GT car of this calibre. Despite the steering wheel being square, it sits in the perfect position and big aluminium paddles make flicking through the gears of the 8-speed ZF box a smooth and simple task. One area I am still not 100% on is the centre console. Where I welcome the addition of Mercedes-AMGs in-car technology and infotainment set up, I do feel that they could have tried a bit harder to make it feel a bit more “Aston Martin”. Unfortunately, it’s still very Mercedes and that’s great if you had just bought a nice C or E Class but with a starting price of £157,900 one would expect it to feel a bit more special. On the plus side, it all works and will keep working long after you’ve driven it off the forecourt, so I suppose that’s something – we all have to compromise somewhere, I guess…
On the road, the DB11 is the perfect Grand Tourer and it’s only improved with that feeling of the warm wind in your hair in the Volante. Despite this being the big GT of the Aston range, it feels a lot lighter and more nimble than its predecessors. There has been a lot of development into the ride quality of the DB11 meaning the car has great handling and is very well balanced. Obviously, by chopping the roof off there will always need to be alterations to the geometry of the car through extra strengthening and that’s the same story here. The weight distribution goes from 49%-51% (front to rear) to 47%-53% and even though that doesn’t sound like much, it can make a huge difference to the way the car performs. Fortunately, the car still feels stiff and, due to the modifications made to the front shock tower structure, front-end rigidity is massively improved and the steering feels even more direct than that of the coupe.
Power delivery from the Bi-turbo V8 is wonderfully linear with the sheer torque of the car making up for slightly weak throttle response and it still feels fast, very fast actually. With the Volante feeling lighter and more agile than Aston GT cars of the past, it almost doesn’t feel like a GT car at all on those everyday drives, it boarders sportscar territory but has that ace up its sleeve that means you thread it through twisty B-roads on Sunday but then blast down to the South Coast on Monday in pure comfort.
All in all, I do think that the DB11 Volante is a great step forward for Aston Martin and it really is a great drive and if you want one, by all means, get one. However, I still feel that the interior needs work as the centre console is too Mercedes and there are also a few choice materials on some interior parts which would have passed a few years ago but when you look at the interior of the new Bentley Continental GT, the DB11 isn’t quite there.
You can now spec your own DB11 Volante HERE.