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2017 Aston Martin DB11: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Michael Harley May 2017

When a car company claims to launch the most significant new car in its entire history, automotive enthusiasts raise an eyebrow. When the manufacturer is Aston Martin, the celebrated British automaker, and the new arrival is the most powerful 'DB' model to ever emerge from its famous British workshop, automotive enthusiasts drop whatever they're doing and pay attention.

Artfully sculpted, immensely powerful, luxuriously appointed and impeccably engineered -- we just spent a day driving the all-new 2017 Aston Martin DB11 through the mountains and deserts of Southern California, and the experience completely transformed the way we look at the iconic automaker.

A Completely New Chassis and Fresh Styling Spotlight Aston's New Direction

The Aston Martin DB11 is the successor to the DB9, but the two coupes couldn't be more different. (The "missing" DB10 was produced in very limited numbers for the James Bond film "Spectre," but never offered in open production to the public). As a refresher, the DB9 was built on the company's VH platform, which was showing its age after more than a decade in production. The DB11 uses an all-new platform, with lightweight bonded aluminum that provides a stiffer and stronger platform with more interior space. The new chassis, which is modern and innovative, allows Aston Martin to finally be competitive in this segment (the investment was crucial, as the platform will underpin most of the automaker's future models).

Instantly identifiable as an Aston Martin, the DB11 coupe's styling leads with the easy-to-recognize slatted grill. Its horizontal lines are complemented by new LED headlights, aggressive side strakes that sweep back from the wheel wells, and dramatic roof pillars that can be finished in contrasting colors or brushed alloy. The hood is an impressive one-piece clamshell of aluminum, a process that is painstakingly difficult to master in production.

Aston Martin has also hidden a few aerodynamic tricks within the DB11. There are vents tucked into each front-wheel lining to help reduce lift in the nose, and the thin line running across the trailing edge of the decklid is a brilliantly engineered Aeroblade -- wind is directed out the vents to disrupt the linear flow and act like a spoiler (a physical spoiler is automatically raised at higher speeds). The look is clean and classy, absent of obnoxious boy-racer aspirations.

An Opulent, Innovative and Aromatic Passenger Cabin

Passengers within the DB11 are coddled inside one of the world's most sumptuous cockpits, lined with natural hides that smell every bit as good as they look. The attention to detail -- including mesmerizing stitching patterns on the seats and doors -- is a testament to how hard the Brits worked to elevate the new vehicle over its predecessor.

And Aston Martin hasn't just turned up the dial with regard to the DB11's controls and interfaces, it's twisted the knobs right off -- literally. A full-color 12-inch TFT display replaces traditional analog gauges in the primary instrument cluster, and a second 8-in TFT display resides above the center console (controlled by an intuitive rotary dial). Audio and climate control panels are all touch-sensitive and flush, giving the overall impression of sleekness and speed.

The front seats are roomy and supportive, with plenty of legroom for driver and passenger (that couldn't be said about the DB9). Outward vision is good, but it does take some time to get used to the long hood and low seating position. It's also important to note the DB11 is a "2+2," with minuscule jump seats in the rear. Adults shouldn't attempt to climb back into them, as they aren't even suitable for children. Along that note, the trunk holds much more that your eyes would lead you to believe -- two sets of golf clubs, says the automaker.

No-compromise Powertrain Delivers Impressive Performance

The outgoing DB9 was fitted with Aston Martin's amazing 5.9-liter V12, which was rated at 510 horsepower. While that power plant was a real jewel, it's all but forgotten after experiencing the all-new twin-turbocharged 5.2-liter V12 in the DB11. The new engine is rated at 600 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, making it much more potent than its naturally aspirated predecessor. When mated to the standard 8-speed automatic, the rear-wheel-drive coupe rockets to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds, and it doesn't run out of steam until it has touched 200 mph.

Mash the throttle and the 2017 Aston Martin DB11 explodes off the line as both rear tires -- working through a torque-vectoring limited-slip differential -- struggle for grip. An independent suspension, adaptive dampers (with GT, Sport and Sport+ settings) and a quick-ratio electric power-assisted steering system deliver driving dynamics that will please everyone -- this is the first Aston Martin that I would comfortably drive across the country.

The Brits engineered the DB11 as a Gran Turismo (GT) coupe, but it won't have any difficulty challenging dedicated sports cars on the road. Handling is admirable, with an intuitive and precise steering system. Throttle response is immediate, accompanied by a signature Aston Martin growl that is a bit more muted than it was on the DB9 (turbochargers mask exhaust notes), but every bit as exciting. The DB11 is very quick off the line, though its passing speeds (the ability to blast from 50 to 90 mph on a moment's notice) are nothing short of phenomenal.

Finally, an Aston Martin That's as Thrilling to Drive as It Is to Look at

The DB-range of Aston Martin vehicles have always been beautiful to look at and impeccably crafted with some of the world's finest materials, but they've consistently fallen a bit short in terms of driving dynamics -- they've been very good GTs, but never the segment's best.

Everything we know about Aston Martin changes for the better with the DB11 -- the all-new vehicle raises the bar higher than the automaker has ever reached. The interior is vastly more luxurious, the ergonomics are more intuitive, the powertrain is superior, and the driving dynamics are world-class.

After a full day behind the wheel, we can emphatically declare the new British coupe is an absolute joy to drive. It's easily the best Aston Martin we've ever driven, letting the new DB11 mark the moment in time when Aston Martin put its competition on notice.

 To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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2017 Aston Martin DB11: First Drive Review - Autotrader