Everyone has at least one car they would love to own, or at least find themselves behind the wheel of. I have about 100 cars I would like to own, and the 2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8 is one of those vehicles. The DB11 is not practical, economical and certainly not inexpensive. This car drips chic and distinction. Driving this car turned out to be one of my road-going highlights of the past 12 months. The performance and grand touring road experience make this coupe a very livable exotic piece.
The experience began with a call to come out to sunny San Diego to the Rancho Valencia Resort to be immersed in a luxury experience. While we were there we sampled the amenities at Rancho Valencia and had a special craft beer presentation by the brew masters from Ballast Point on their latest offerings.
During the media presentation we learned about the hundreds of human hours put into each car. The leather selection process, the careful hand stitched pieces, construction and meticulous body and paint finishing process. Only a single robot is employed (one weld) to build the car, making the 2018 DB11 a true hand-built luxury grand tourer.
Upon first glance my eyes were drawn to its shape like when you follow a drip of water flowing down a wall or an icicle. My test car was a creamy off-white/black top DB11 V8. The only exterior difference between the V8 and V12 models is that the V8 has different wheels, dark headlamp bezels and two hood vents instead of four.
The latest DB11 powertrain is a result an alliance with Mercedes-Benz. Under the sloping hood is a version of the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 that powers the Mercedes-AMG C63 S. The first M-B designed engine in an Aston Martin, but it does include some Austin enhancements. You’ll like these enhancements as well as the sweet exhaust note that engineers spent some serious time on to hit just the right notes when you step on the gas. The new mechanicals added by Aston to the M-B V-8 include air intake, exhaust, and wet sump oil pan. The ECU has also been reprogrammed from the stock MB set up. The actual internals are the same, but Aston’s powertrain engineers worked to establish more “character” (their assessment), out of the engine for the DB11. In DB11 tune drivers (and passengers) enjoy 503 hp. and 498 lb.-ft. of torque, close to the power in the Mercedes-AMG GT S coupe. Backing the 4.0L engine is an eight-speed paddle shifted, ZF transmission that works with, and not against, the engine’s power and torque.
The cockpit is utterly decadent and inviting to look at as you open the door. The presentation of the leather, integration of the materials and modern lux design compels you to slide inside. The intricately stitched pattern of the seats, their adjustments and bolstering helped to make the hours behind the wheel an enjoyable experience. The interior has four seatbelts, and you wont run out of seat track as the front buckets glide back to accommodate tall drivers. The seats hug the floor so there’s plenty of room to keep your melon from rubbing the Alcantara headliner. The light ash open-pore wood trim, leather trimmed wheel, padded interior pieces and “take your shoes off” carpeting were especially nice. Surprisingly there is storage, with numerous cubbyholes and areas to keep your portable tech close by and charged up. As for in-car tech Aston tapped M-B once again for a version of the COMAND infotainment system w/ eight-inch display, so there’s a modern navi system, stereo controls, and iPod/iPhone connectivity, A2DP Bluetooth audio and phone streaming to keep the car current.
The performance of this car more than matches the promise the exterior suggests. The DB11 V8 has three driving modes (GT, Sport, and Sport+) and I recommend the Sport+ as it differentiates the car’s drive personality the most. The eight-speed transmission paddle shifters really add to the enjoyment as you blip through the gears and back down as needed. Aston engineers claim the DB11 V8 will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just under 4.0 seconds, and it has a top speed of 187 mph. The car was flawless up to 140 mph and there was definitely more speed to had. This car just ripped it from the first press of the pedal, but in a smooth, quick linear manner.
Besides offering a robust V8, the M-B engine takes 253 pounds off the front axle versus the V12 model. That makes a huge difference on everyday driving, and aggressive driving as the car responds quickly and directly without any sluggishness. From the very first corner you notice how responsive the steering is and during aggressive cornering and switchbacks there is no sense of “plowing through a turn.
At the rear, Aston engineers adjusted with the suspension settings to enhance handling further over the previous model. Engineers also shifted a small amount of weight to the rear and this helps you get a strong bead on what the rear end is communicating during performance driving. While we did not get to take the car on track we were able to execute some aggressive maneuvers on some backroads and deserted stretches of valley roads.
The grippy, 20-inch Bridgestone 255/40 ZR20 and 255/35 ZR20 rear tires put down a large contact patch that helped to keep this car grounded and glued to the pavement. Like the rear suspension, the brakes are also robust featuring six piston calipers up front and four piston rears, Dynamic Stability Control, Hydraulic Brake Assist, Positive Torque Control, Dynamic Torque Vectoring and Launch Control are also part of our test car’s goodies.
So, get a V8 or the V12? The V8 model is a lighter almost as fast version of the $215,000 DB11 V12. The differences are the 503 horsepower for the V8 versus 600 horsepower in the V12. The V8 has better road carving and a more responsive feeling, along with a slightly lower $198,995 price tag. If you bought the DB11 V8 you would give up negligible amounts of acceleration and gain an all around better driving and better feeling exotic sports car. However, nothing sounds like a V12 and it is slightly faster.
Aston Martin indicated the 2018 DB11 V8 appeals to buyers drawn to a refined and comfortable GT with a more sporting bias. I say it appeals to anyone with a pulse.