Aston Martin adds a new german-sourced V8 to its DB11. Does it sully the lineage of this fine British GT?
Why would one opt for Aston Martin’s DB11 with a V8 engine when it can be had with a perfectly useful V12? It’s a quandry most mortals will never have to face but for the few there’s now a choice of powerplants for the achingly beautiful DB11. So the new V8 is $50k less expensive than the V12 but that’s unlikely to be of concern for those with the ability to drop $300k on a set of wheels.
There are valid reasons for the car’s existence, however. Along with lowering the entry point price for the DB11, where here it starts at $295,000 before you add the spend-up on options, in countries where car tax is based on engine capacity, the 4.0-litre V8 attracts less of a hit than the 5.2-litre V12. The levy is said to be particularly steep in China, a big market for the Aston. So this, it seems, is the chief reason for the new model but it also allows Aston Martin to introduce its new AMG-sourced V8 in its premium GT, prior to it powering the new Vantage. It’s a nice way of warming us up to the idea of German motivation for prime British sportsters.
The V8 in question powers various AMGs, including a potential rival for the DB11 in the AMG GT. The unique bits for the DB11 include an Aston Martin-engineered air intake, exhaust system and a wet sump lubrication system. The Brits also fiddle with the ECU to further modify the engine’s character for use in the DB11.
With the V8 programme, Aston also took the opportunity ‘to explore the more dynamic side of the DB11’s character’. So the V8 version comes with revisions to the handling hardware; the spring and damper characteristics are firmer, bushings stiffer, the front end geometry more aggressive and the sway bars more rigid to hone more of a sporting character. We reckoned the V12 was a fine GT, but those seeking a sporty drive would be best to wait for the new Vantage. This DB11 is more to our liking however; still a GT in nature but one with a more sporting flavour.
The V8 offers less power than the V12 with 375kW massaged from its 4.0-litre capacity whereas 447kW oozes forth from the V12. Like the bigger engine, the V8 employs a pair of turbos which bolsters the torque banks, the 4.0-litre able to muster 675Nm of pull, which is just 25 units shy of the V12’s output. Though down on power, the V8 brings with it a handy weight saving. We weighed the DB11 V12 at 1886kg whereas the V8 came in at 1776kg, a verified 110kg advantage. With the V8 nestled almost entirely aft of the front axle, it blesses the DB11 with a slightly better weight split, and there’s much less mass burdening those front wheels. We even managed to eke a slightly quicker sprint time from the V8 too, this test unit squeaking to 100 in 4.2sec vs the 4.3sec we recorded in the original DB11. The V12 was 0.1sec ahead on the 80-120km/h time but the numbers show the V8 to be every bit as quick as the V12.
On style, the V8 buyer is not short changed either, this model no less desirable on the opulence scale. For the anoraks, the V8 has its own alloy wheel finish, dark headlamp bezels and a pair of bonnet vents whereas the V12 features four.
There’s not a bad angle to view this coupe from, the proportions just so, the shape evocative while the icing are those elegant aero solutions. There’s the ‘Curlicue’ which allows the pressure to escape from the wheel arches via the vented side strakes to help lessen the effect of front end lift. At the rear, the air pressure is curtailed with the AeroBlade, the flow channelled through the rear haunches to vents in the boot lid. Opening the clamshell bonnet reveals the engine buried deep inside the chassis and while the finishing is a little mass market, the open wheel housing and the big alloy chassis rails lend an air of the exotic.
V8 buyers are also treated to the same interior outfitting as those who opt for the V12, and the cabin is just as desirable as the exterior, with a crafted feel to the detailing and finish. There are a few bits from Merc’s parts bin and the air vents are oddly plain but the rest is fitting for a highbrow GT. You’ll need to pay more for convenience and active safety features that are now commonplace on a $50k SUV, while some simply aren’t even offered but that’s all an expected part of the ultra-luxury experience it seems.
Still, this is something you could readily drive every day with a smooth shifting auto, easily accessible drive modes and damper settings via wheel mounted buttons, and good all-round vision. Cabin storage is even acceptable by coupe standards and while the boot is half useful, the rear seats aren’t, good for small kids only. The urban ride is neither plush nor harsh, and alludes to the fact that the V8 is more up for the bends than the V12.
It’s in the curves that the DB11 V8 exhibits its more overtly sporting character. The steering is light but has a keen awareness of the front wheels and, with less mass to manage, the nose turns into bends with a sharper response. This DB11 is a more enthusiastic partner than the V12, zealously latching on to a cornering line and attacking the apex, yet it also displays the same solidly planted feeling as the larger engined car. The delectable chassis balance is backed by a welcoming degree of traction on the exit too. It’s still a GT at heart and so there’s valuable compliancy to the suspension. But there’s too much leeway in the damper’s GT mode so Sport is better. However, it’s the Sport Plus setting that best delivers the control to keep up with the pace of the action. And yet the DB11 can still conduct itself well over the bumps, as all good British engineered cars seem to do.
While the V8 lacks the ultimate in cylinder count, it doesn’t want for a voice. There’s not a bum note from its racy idle to the roaring redline. The delivery is strong, with the response and thrust best above 3000rpm in the Sport Plus drive mode. And the V8 is still delivering the goods as it closes in on 7000rpm, digesting straights and slow pokes without trouble. The eight-speed auto can be left to sort itself, but the paddles ensure ultimate control of the gear selection. While the brakes have an initially soft feel, to aid everyday smoothness, push harder and they bite well. And once the fun is done, the DB11 reverts back to a fast cruiser in the finest GT nature.
We think only ego would stop you buying this model DB11, or simply a desire for maxiumum cylinder count under your Aston’s bonnet. But this V8 is more our cup of Earl Grey; it’s still a complete luxo GT but one with a good dose of dynamism about it.
|Model||Aston Martin DB11 V8|
|Engine||3982cc, V8, T,DI, 375kW/675Nm|
|Drivetrain||8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive|