Having the AM-RB 003 and Vanquish Concept laid out nicely on these pages makes it clear how significant they were as far as Geneva debuts went. But things weren’t as obvious within the walls of the Palexpo convention centre that hosted the big show.
It took me a moment to realise that the AM-RB 003 and Vanquish Concept were different cars at first in an exhibit sprawling with journalists and their bulky photography equipment. And this was after I realised they were actually new to begin with, and not just iterations of the Valkyrie dressed up in new colour swatches and styling options.
Aston Martin has always been attuned to the art of subtlety in even its most majestic creations. All of its cars possess an intrinsic allure that slowly wins you over the closer you inspect it. A tight schedule prevented me from doing this as much as I wished in Geneva. But the opportunity presented itself again a couple of months later in the form of the seasoned DB11 in ‘entry’ V8 format.
My experience with the front-engined British GT was an adventure which started before I even set eyes on it. Some logistical changes on Aston Martin Kuala Lumpur’s end meant I had to make the long trip to their service centre in a place called Lingui Industrial Park. It’s in a gritty corner of Sungai Buloh in case you were wondering. And the bumpy journey there made me wonder how Aston Martin owners felt about having to traverse such rugged roads for a routine oil change.
“They probably don’t even take it here themselves,” I confidently thought, only to be told otherwise upon reaching the quaint facility tucked away in the back of a surprisingly grand Honda dealership. Before you connect the inexistent dots, this has got nothing to do with Honda supplying F1 engines to the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team. We’re told there are some common interests higher up, which explains why Bentley also has a facility right next door.
The cars being serviced in Crewe’s corner are typically transported over after being dropped off by their owners (or chauffeurs) at the more glamorous showroom in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. But Aston Martin customers are supposedly more enthusiastic drivers who are naturally more possessive of their cars. After finally seeing the DB11 prepped just for me for the day, I can fully understand why
As is the case with Gaydon’s Geneva showstoppers, there is an understated elegance in the way the Aston Martin DB11 presents itself, especially in its Ultramarine Black coat accessorised with equally sharp gloss black trim pieces and smoked taillights. That the V8 lacks the V12’s hood vents and the DBS Superleggera’s provocative grille works in favour of its gracefully British aesthetic – you wouldn’t pair a tailor-made suit with studded bracelets and a pair of Yeezys, would you?
I would have stood in my cut-price sneakers and admired the DB11’s incognito splendour for a bit longer had the sun’s rays not pierce through the clouds and expose the blue undertones of the exterior’s deep sheen. It was a timely nudge for me to hop into the Aston’s welcoming cabin, which, in the case of this tester, was enveloped in a matching Aurora Blue upholstery. It’s oddly reminiscent of the first-generation Proton Saga’s interior, but in a significantly upmarket fashion of course.
Also surprisingly car-like in a way Proton-driving civilians like myself can relate to is how incredibly easy the DB11 is to manoeuvre for a full-blown GT with an engine bay big enough to swallow a 5.2-litre V12 and a couple of turbochargers. It’s an impressive trait in this segment which I discovered after only driving the AMG-powered V8 for about 30 meters – I had to make a tight U-turn within the dealership compound right after to retrieve the necessary trade plates we conveniently left behind.
If the sight of an Aston Martin going in circles at a snail’s pace while its exhaust blared wasn’t embarrassing enough, my second attempt to unleash the DB11 V8 onto public roads saw me put RM1.9mil worth of metal precariously on the wrong side of the road instead. As I’ve said before, the roads here weren’t great. But the convoy of fellow motoring journalists who just had to drive past the same junction as I was repositioning the car, easily I might add, couldn’t possibly have noticed that the lines were faded. Colleague and web chief Ahmad Zulizwan confirmed he witnessed every cringe-worthy second as he was on that fateful Toyota Yaris media drive (see page 149) as well.
After shrugging off the incident, I took to the scarred tarmac I drove on earlier in the opposite direction to discover yet another one of the DB11’s star qualities: its ride. Despite being all sporty and hunkered down, the DB11 is silky and confident in the way it glides over less-than-perfect roads. Comfort mode wasn’t even engaged. Correction, Comfort mode doesn’t even exist! The default drive setting in the DB11 is ‘GT’ – a reminder that there are a pair of seats behind you, not that you’d be able to fit an adult passenger in the back who won’t be groaning in discomfort 10 minutes into the journey.
Aston has basically taken an AMG engine used for such vulgar purposes in cars like the C63 and E63, and stuffed it in a Savile Row tuxedo
The DB11 is still a proper GT in the truest sense of the term, even if this one is propelled by a four-litre engine sourced from Affalterbach. It feels posh on the move, and NVH levels from inside are expertly controlled as well. Sure, there is always going to be some V8 chatter in the background getting in the way of your whispers – you’d probably file a complaint if there wasn’t. But the cabin of the DB11 is still a more comfortable setting to have a heart-to-heart conversation in than your local Starbucks. And when you want the car to do the talking instead, it happily obliges.
At the disposal of the DB11 V8’s rear axle are 503bhp and 675Nm of torque. It’s a heady output which propels the 1.8-tonne GT to 100kph from a standstill in four seconds flat, just past the 300kph mark at full speed. These are numbers that won’t look out of place in a track-ready sports car – the heftier V12 is only marginally quicker. But a slick-shifting eight-speed auto ensures fluid power delivery which smoothens the resulting speed. The end product is a car that’s powerful but unaggressive, fast but unhurried. Aston has basically taken an AMG engine used for such vulgar purposes in cars like the C63 and E63, and stuffed it in a Savile Row tuxedo.
That the DB11 isn’t as jumpy as other V8 supercars because of their overly saturated mid-range makes it all the more enjoyable, especially around the beautiful bends of Kuala Kubu Bharu. A tauter chassis and a wheelbase that’s 65mm longer than the DB9 imbue the DB11 with the dynamic flair to match its fine-tuned powertrain as you rally it through the corners. There’s a surprising amount of traction as well given how uncluttered the exterior is – clever aero frees Aston Martin from the need to spoil the DB11’s exterior with a, er… spoiler.
Speaking of spoilers, there are a couple of things about the DB11 I wasn’t too fond of. There’s the infotainment, which also comes from the Mercedes parts bin, for one. Aston has hooked it up to a neat 12-inch TFT LCD display with nicer graphics, but the Comand control panel is still a frustrating piece of tech that needs to go. And then there’s the boot, which is shockingly functional for two-door car with such sleek proportions. But there’s no switch or lever to open it from the outside with, which can be annoying when the key isn’t with you.
Then again, even the most iconic cars have their quirks. And all things considered, I’ve honestly never felt happier or more comfortable behind the wheel of a car costing close to RM2mil. Presence, power and panache... the DB11 delivers on all fronts for slightly less than that. Even if money were no object, I wouldn’t consider topping up for the V12 or the DBS Superleggera. They may be more competent supercars, but the DB11 V8 is absolute GT perfection.
|Engine||3,982cc, bi-turbo V8, 503bhp, 675Nm|
|Transmission||8-spd auto, RWD|
|Performance||0-100kph in 4.0 secs, 301kph|
|Economy||9.9L/100km, 230g,km CO2|