There are few cars that evoke such emotion as that of an Aston Martin. Although others can compete, Ferrari for example, who make both beautiful and powerful cars, they don’t quite have understated class of an Aston. Although the word ‘understated’ may seem a little comical for cars which costs north of £100,000 when compared with its Italian counterparts, understated it is.
There are few cars that evoke such emotion as that of an Aston Martin
When you see an aggressively loud Lamborghini belting down Sloane Street, you often think of the driver in a terribly negative light and that’s putting it very politely. However when you see an Aston pull up, I tend to think ‘fair play’ and have somewhat healthy pangs of jealously. It is this that makes Aston the emotive brand that it is today.
Aston is a brand that has never forgotten its racing pedigree and the long heritage has seen broken records at Brooklands, numerous Gran Prix and races in both Le Mans and the Mille Miglia. The combination of this pedigree and design is recognised the world over that makes it a car brand like no other. 1947 was the year that Aston truly made its mark on design, affectionately known as the David Brown era. Owner of a tractor manufacturing business, Sir David made an unprecedented overhaul in his reign and his team gave birth to the grand touring DB series, with the most famous being the DB5, or otherwise known as James Bond’s car.
Aston is a brand that has never forgotten its racing pedigree and the long heritage has seen broken records at Brooklands, numerous Gran Prix and races in both Le Mans and the Mille Miglia
Despite the various successes through the marques history, the company has often been financially troubled and has marched through a series of different owners – including Ford who notably returned Aston back to racing in 2005. In 2007 it was acquired by a consortium of Kuwait companies and it was during this time that the brand moved to their current home at the former RAF base in Gaydon.
Although a successful era in many ways, with global dealer expansion and substantial restructuring, there was still the rising issue of declining sales. 2012 saw Italian Private Equity Fund Investindustrial buy 37.5% stake in the business and it was with this move that spurred a change in management with the appointment of CEO Andy Palmer in 2014, the former Nissan executive.
Palmer’s brief seems to have been an arguably simple one – sell more cars and make Aston profitable. Having spoken with him at length on this he is certainly bullish about the future, and in some ways he has every reason to be. Aston as a company is now well financed and with the announcement of the much talked about DB11, which you will hear more about later, things look very positive.
Palmer has realised that Aston can no longer rely on just a select number of models to ensure the brand’s success, they must diversify and grow the range. Brands such as Bentley have done this successfully with the launch of the Mulsanne and outrageously priced SUV, the Bentayga. With this in mind Palmer has put in place a five-year plan with the appearance of cars like the DBX and the Lagonda on the horizon, as well as refreshing the current Vanquish, Vantage and DB models.
With such growth, one has to ask if there is demand for such cars, especially for a marque struggling to increase its current numbers. Palmer certainly seems to think so when discussing the current market, ‘there are 16 million people in the world that we’d define as high net worth (people with at least £1million of disposable income). Two years ago that was £14 million, so it’s growing fast’. Even so, the competition has had the same thoughts, so such growth will need more than the charming James Bond to assist.
The first part of Palmer’s plan comes in the form of the DB11, Aston’s flagship model, which I was fortunate enough to drive. Letting the model loose across the beautiful Tuscan roads made me realise what a fitting choice an Italian drive location was, considering the hopes for the car to ultimately take market share from their Italian counterparts.
Pulling up to Villa Collalto – a charming private villa located near Siena – I caught my first glimpse of the new DB11 in the flesh and it’s fair to say that it was unmistakably Aston Martin. Design Director Marek Reichman has succeeded in celebrating such an iconic design while demanding attention from newer customers. Reichman and his team have balanced the design perfectly, with equal levels of subtly and innovation. Although this model has much more presence than it’s predecessor, the attention that you’ll receive is much more welcome than the effect achieved by a Ferrari or Lamborghini for example.
Unlike many sports cars the lines on this model actually aerodynamically benefit the ride. Reducing lift at the front end they have introduced a grill-like Curlicue system that releases high-pressure air from inside the wheel arch via a concealed vent within the redesigned side-strake. I wouldn’t judge you if you were overwhelmed with the technology by now but trust me when I say the aerodynamics don’t stop here. When gazing towards the back you’ll spot the impressive AeroBlade, acting as a virtual spoiler fed by discreet air intakes located at the rear of the back windows.
Inconspicuous to the untrained eye the air is ducted through the body work, before escaping as a jet of air from the rear of a deck-lid. It’s at the rear of the car where the most notable design changes are, with design hues taken from the DB10 which was specifically developed for the most recent James Bond. It not only improves the overall image but accentuates the subtle touches. I must mention as well the 10 spoke silver alloys with a diamond turned finish, the more you look at them the more alluring they become.
Aside from the stunning design of the DB series, the engines have been key in their desirability and the DB11 doesn’t disappoint. Underneath the beautiful clamshell bonnet lies the in-house designed 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine, which produces 600BHP. Yielding a top speed of 200mph and a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds, it produces a grumble that is unmistakably Aston.
But how does it drive I hear you cry? In my view, and having driven both the Vantage and the DB9, it feels like a combination of both of them. The size and road presence that you have with the DB9 grand tourer and the agility and fun that the Vantage provides, this result is be no means any easy feet. How have they done this? Well firstly the structure is much lighter and stronger then ever before, achieving an ability to harness the immense performance that comes from the new, powerful engine. This, merged with the new driver modes (including GT, Sport and Sport Plus), gives the car a whole new feel. Happily cavorting through the driver modes, you can take your pick – perhaps GT for those long drives to the Riviera or maybe Sport Plus for, well… letting out your inner child or to admire the refinement and response of the 8 Speed automatic ZF transmission. I must also make note that the trust you hold in it’s breaking ability is huge – achieving streamline moves from high speed to dead stops, in all but a few seconds, this faith ensures that the experience is all the more enjoyable.
The interior is more futuristic than ever before, which is to be expected with the technical advances, however it has managed to keep the raw driving feeling that you want with such a car. The seat positioning is perfect, holding you firmly round corners and making you feel as connected to the driving experience as possible. The interior finish is second to none, but I wouldn’t expect anything less as Aston Martin prides themselves on making as much of the car as possible by hand.
The interior finish is second to none, but I wouldn't expect anything less as Aston Martin prides themselves on making as much of the car as possible by hand
It’s hard to fault the DB11: for me it has everything that an Aston Martin should have. What you have to remember however is the importance of the car itself, a fact CEO Andy Palmer is well aware of: ‘This is not only the most important car that Aston Martin has launched in recent history, but also in its 103-year existence.’ You can’t help but think that this is it for Aston. Without this being a success Palmer’s five-year plan will struggle, however lucky for him he has opened with a DB, which is more than just an impressive feat of design and engineering, so much so that I am sure Bond will agree.
Although you’ve been able to order the DB11 since March, it won’t be on your driveway until the end of 2016. Prices start at £154,900.
This article is taken from our September/October issue. Subscribe here.