2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8 First Drive | Edmunds

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8 First Drive

No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Drive

Before we get into the details on the new 2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8, indulge us in a quick passage to distinguish grand touring (GT) cars from sports cars. GT vehicles are intended to cover a lot of ground at relatively high speeds in style and comfort. Sports cars are designed to perform at higher levels, with comfort following as a secondary concern. Still with us? Great. On to the show.

Aston Martin has been known for its seductive and refined style, powerful engines and, of course, as the car of choice for James Bond. Those who have had firsthand experience with previous Astons would likely note that the interiors left much to be desired, with blatant parts-sharing from lesser brands, substandard build quality, and technology that was well behind the times. That all changes with the DB11.

The Aston Martin DB11 debuted last year as the follow-up to the DB9, which spent a dozen years in production. The DB11 adopts a sharper interpretation of its predecessor while keeping much of its core character. Under the hood of the standard model is a twin-turbocharged 5.2-liter V12 engine producing 600 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, channeled through an eight-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels. Our time behind the wheel was spent in the newly introduced DB11 V8 model that gives up a little horsepower in the name of less weight.

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8

Is Less More?
The new Aston Martin DB11 V8 uses a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 sourced from Mercedes-Benz. It churns out 503 hp and 498 lb-ft of torque and is capable of propelling the DB11 from 0 to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds on its way to a top speed of 187 mph, according to Aston Martin. The V12 has a claimed 0-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds with a top speed of 200 mph. Considering the scarcity of opportunities to explore those top speeds and near-identical acceleration, those extra four cylinders begin to lose their appeal.

Then there's the weight difference. The V8 model weighs 253 pounds less than the V12 version. More importantly, that weight is taken off the front of the car, which gives it a much-improved front-to-rear weight bias. Even if it's not a true sports car, moving more of the weight rearward helps sharpen up the handling without sacrificing any comfort.

The DB11 V8 also costs about $16,000 less than the V12, but it's still around $200,000 to start. It's unlikely that $16,000 will break the bank at that level, and the feature content is identical. For that money, you get items such as 20-inch wheels, LED exterior lights, a virtual instrument panel, a surround-view camera system, navigation and an 8-inch infotainment display. In addition to all of the exterior and interior color and trim options, you can also add premium audio upgrades, a glass key fob, powered seat bolsters, ventilated seats, a touchpad controller, a power-retracting armrest bin,  blind-spot monitoring and an automated parking system.

Visually, the differences between the V8 and V12 models are slight. The most easily identifiable design cue is the number of hood vents. The V8 has two, while the V12 has four. More likely than not, the real difference will arise when it comes to one-upmanship. "Oh, you went with the V8. How quaint."

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8

Don't Bother Going to 11
Tap the pulsing red start button, and the V8 rumbles to life. There's a distinct V8 growl, but it's not as brash as the Jaguar F-Type's, reinforcing the fact that the DB11 is a grand tourer, not a sports car. Flanking the start button are gear selector buttons that are made of a glass/crystal material and that look and feel substantial. Acceleration is graceful if you're driving sensibly, with hints of eagerness from the building engine and exhaust noises. As a stylish commuter, it's easy and pleasant to drive. Yawn.

As you'd expect, when you give the pedal more pressure, the excitement builds significantly. The sounds get your pulse quickening, as does the sensation of your back being pressed into the seat. A press of the S sport button on the right of the steering wheel livens up the response a bit and keeps the engine revs higher. It also allows for a few tasty crackles out the back of the exhaust when you let off the throttle.

On the left side of the wheel is a separate selector for the suspension that mirrors the sport modes. The most aggressive setting for both adjustments is the Sport+ mode that gives the DB11 a sharper and stiffer attitude yet doesn't fundamentally change its character. The pops and crackles on throttle overrun do get delightfully louder and more frequent.

It doesn't take any effort to get the DB11 moving at a considerable rate, and the accompanying theater serves as encouragement to drive harder. At a certain point, however, the desire to push closer to its limit wanes. The 3,880-pound curb weight might have something to do with it since some of its more lively competitors weigh a few hundred pounds less. We're more inclined to think that the DB11 is better at spirited driving that remains well short of its ultimate limits. Don't get us wrong: This car is capable of stellar performance in talented hands; it just doesn't match its grand touring personality.

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8

Inside Job
The DB11 V8 drives much like its predecessors, with subtle improvements here and there. The most significant difference is on the inside, and we consider it a game changer for Aston Martin. Gone are the shared Ford and Volvo parts that would immediately remove you from your secret agent fantasy. Now, those parts come from Mercedes-Benz, and the Aston is better for it. The dial and trace pad used for the technology interface are a perfect example — they're right where your inboard hand comes to rest. Many controls on the dash are embedded in the attractive glossy black center stack, but the lack of tactile buttons means you'll need to look down in order to use them. It's not ideal, but it is a huge step in the right direction. Plus, many of the systems can be operated from the dial instead.

Materials quality throughout the cabin is also improved, with rich leather and wood trim adorning almost every surface, including the headliner. The seats, door panels and headliner can be specified with brogued leather detailing that is reminiscent of a fine wingtip shoe. The front seats are firm but well-shaped for comfortable long-distance touring. There is adequate side bolstering to keep you firmly planted when cornering, but not so much as to squeeze your ribcage. In 100-plus-degree conditions, the optional ventilated seats proved their worth.

The rear seats seem to exist more for luggage overflow than for passengers, even if those passengers were very small. With the rear-mounted transmission occupying a good amount of space that would otherwise be reserved for the trunk, cargo space is limited. It's likely that a golf bag will fit back there, but not much else. But there's certainly enough room for a weekend's worth of luggage.

On the highway, the DB11 is suitably quiet for a sporty grand touring coupe. You hear plenty of the engine and exhaust, with some lingering road and wind noise that can easily drowned out with the available Bang & Olufsen sound system.

Decisions, Decisions
The Aston Martin DB11 will sell on looks alone, just as the DB9 did before it. Thankfully, the interior and technology now meet expectations, making the DB11 worthy of competing against the best the world has to offer. That limited list includes the Porsche 911 Turbo, which may come up a bit short in terms of styling, or the Audi R8 V10 Plus, which is just as comfortable yet even more proficient at mind-bending performance. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupes put greater emphasis on luxury and straight-line speed, but they are no less desirable. Finally, a new Bentley Continental GT is on its way, with the potential to redefine grand touring.

We consider the 2018 Aston Martin DB11 worth the small fortune needed to acquire any of these fine automobiles. Choosing between the V12 or the V8 may be a tougher question. Yes, there's a certain allure to having the V12, but a virtual drag race to highway speeds may put the $16,000 expenditure in question. Truth be told, there is no clear winner, so this could be one of those moments where your ego's decision-making ability can be relied upon.

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