Pebble Beach, here it comes...eventuallyWhen walking the lawn of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance any given August, one thinks about what makes each car there so special as to earn itself a spot there among the world's greatest automobiles. Usually, it's not too far beneath the surface: they're historically significant; they're often the very first or very last of their breeds; and with precious few exceptions, they're always beautiful. And if you're ever lucky enough drive a car that fits that bill, you never forget it. This is true whether or not you're in an old car.So that just happened.
The 2017 Aston Martin DB11, and particularly the Frosted Blue example we drove at the U.S. media preview in Southern California—complete with ground up glass shards in the paint—is one of those cars. As an Aston Martin, it's historic by birthright. It is one of the very first of its kind, an early production unit that will be sold through a dealer once its service as a press vehicle is finished. And yes, it is utterly, spectacularly, unexpectedly gorgeous.
At least in person. Admittedly, try as your author did, it's hard to capture this car's beauty in photos. The DB11 really doesn't photograph as well as it looks in the metal. Whereas its predecessor, the DB9, boasted purity of line and form such that few cars in history will ever match, this car has many different elements both cohesive and disparate, resulting in a car that looks like many pieces put together, some fused to the next, others visually floating. But what wonderful pieces they all are, whether they are all rendered in the same color and material or if certain bits, such as the roof rails, roof panel, or rear valance, wear a contrasting color, black, or unpainted carbon fiber. Some of the more interesting elements include L-shaped headlamp assemblies with quad cross-shaped LED primary lighting units, four slim hood vents, a fender vent trailing off each front wheel arch, a protuberant front splitter jutting out from the chin, and in back, taillamps that wrap around the upper surface of the rear decklid. The design is decidedly futuristic and purposefully complex, and makes the beautiful DB9, a car we previously considered timeless, look simple and dare we say old.
Lovely as the DB9 was to behold, there's little love lost for its interior, which was lovingly hand-crafted but an ergonomic disaster. The DB11's beautiful new cabin rights most of that car's wrongs, using more upscale switchgear that is no longer sourced from the Ford or Volvo parts bin but rather from Mercedes-Benz, including the center, dial-type controller for the eight-inch infotainment screen that is fixed in place and—praise the Lord!—no longer faces downward. The foot-wide instrument cluster is now of the electronic variety, and like most contemporary supercars and GTs, changes style and color scheme depending on drive mode.
â€¨Craftsmanship was never anything we've complained about with Aston Martin, but the fitments inside the DB11 are truly next level, as evidenced by the acres of white and blue leather of impossible softness in our test car —seriously, this is unholy stuff. We didn't take a tape measure to the stitchwork on the seats, doors, dashboard and ceiling—yes, even the ceiling was stitched—but it could well have been measured in miles. The leather itself wrapped nearly everything one could touch, and what wasn't covered in cowhide in our press car, anyway, was suede, metal, or pressed carbon fiber. Running down the center of the ceiling and seats was a line of "celestial" perforations through which a glint of red peeked through the blue primary color. Very dramatic. And of course, the assembly quality had just enough perfect imperfections to remind you that it was all put together by humans—humans that are really good at their job, but who are proudly not robots.
No imperfections would be tolerated underhood, however. That's where what Aston Martin describes as a "characterful," twin-turbocharged, 5.2-liter V-12 is tucked under a massive X-brace, churning out 600 silken horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. All that grunt is directed to the rear axle and reduced as needed via an eight-speed transmission with elegantly sculpted paddle shifters mounted to the column, as has become Aston Martin tradition. The powertrain's responsiveness ranges from benign to high-alert, depending on which of three settings have been selected via a toggle sprouting from the right steering wheel post. In no setting does the DB11 feel slow or lazy, and but nor does it match the explosive acceleration of, say, the Porsche 911 Turbo or the Ferrari California T. Aston's 0-60 mph claim time of 3.6 seconds is an entirely believable claim, based on the seats of our pants impression. There is some turbo lag that, despite standard brake-based torque vectoring, can unsettle the car a bit if the all of that power is allowed to rush at once, say, mid-corner, but be judicious with the throttle in such settings and it's easy to catapult away from an apex with the urgency of a British special agent in hot pursuit of the bad guys. And all the while, it sounds as sonorous as two conjoined inline-6s working in perfect harmony invariably do. And when we say sonorous, we mean that literally: we even spent a few miles on an open road matching the V-12's sound to those of an opera on the satellite radio station that playing when we got in.
Separate from the engine control toggle are three settings for suspension firmness, selectable via a toggle on the left steering wheel post. In the softest setting, there is definitely a fair amount of wheel travel, which results in a touch of body lean upon turn-in and squat upon full throttle (exaggerated by the fact that passengers are basically sitting a couple of feet from the rear axle), but the payoff is a creamy ride befitting of the DB11's gentlemanly purpose. The steering—now electric for the first time—is a touch heavy, but it's also chock full of feel. Aston is proud of its reputation for having some of the most feel-rich steering in its class, and we expect it to lose exactly zero ground to its competitors with the DB11. Tightening things up in the car's Sport or Sport+ settings adds weight to the steering and texture to the ride, allowing the car to bite just a touch harder when turning in and/or braking. We found the best balance of ride and handling to be the Sport setting, but in no setting does the DB11 become inordinately twitchy or harsh. The DB11, as with the DB9, remains an eminently gentlemanly ride. It's heavy, yet fast. A full-bodied experience. Clearly, Aston is leaving room for a replacement for the current Vanquish, something we expect to see appear within a year brandishing much more than 600 hp.
When a car has a base price of $214,820, including applicable destination fees, one should expect few bones to pick. And indeed, other than the lack of an available sunroof and rear seats that are a total joke—just as they are in the 911 and California T, to be fair—there really aren't many. For those who really need to see the sun, it's worth noting that a Volante model—that's "convertible" in Aston-speak—will become available in Spring of 2018. Deliveries of the DB11 have already commenced, so we should start seeing other lovely DB11-based creations in creative color and trim combinations on the road soon. As for this one, we know we'll be seeing it again in 25 or 30 years.
Photos by Steve Siler.