Test Drive: Aston Martin DB11, I Could’ve Had A V8!

If you saw my review of the V12 DB11, you know that I’m more than mildly obsessed with this car. It is simply one of the most extraordinary vehicles on the road today.  Aware that they’ve got a winner on their hands, Aston Martin has announced two new variants– the DB11 V8 Valante Convertible & the V8 Coupe.  Thanks to my ridiculous good fortune, I was recently invited to drive the V8 also at its global premiere here in California. And because I am dedicated to hard work and my devoted readers, I sacrificed the time and energy to wine, dine and drive on Aston Martin’s dime. Oh the horror.

photo courtesy: Aston Martin

So here’s the skinny. The V8 DB11 is unbelievably different from the V12 and that’s not bad news. Yes, it is still extraordinarily beautiful — I dare you to find a better looking new vehicle on the road (Prius Prime not withstanding of course).  With 503 bhp and 498 lb ft of torque this adorable little monster gets from 0-60 in 4 seconds, which is shorter than the average sneeze, so that’s great.  It still makes the vicious growls that the V12 makes but with slightly less ferocity. But the overall driving experience is not the same. Sure, it is roughly 250 pounds lighter than its big brother, but behind the wheel it feels like a 500 pound difference.

The 4.0L engine is made by Mercedes-AMG vs the V12 which was developed in-house. Other changes include reprogramming the engine and throttle mapping. I know you’re probably sitting there rolling your eyes thinking, ‘Big deal. Smaller engine, less power. Game over. Yawn.’ And I get that. But here’s THE THING– it truly drives like a different car.  It is far more nimble, more agile and more responsive than the V12 which for many will make it more fun.   As a daily driver, it is probably less obnoxious (sounding for sure) and less intimidating to most drivers.

The inside is the magnificently the same:

photo courtesy: Aston Martin

It’s essentially like you climbed into your wealthy aunt’s handbag– a gloriously luxurious nest of elegance and sophistication. It makes the Porsche 911 interior feel spartan and the Mercedes S-class interiors feel cheap.

In terms of price, the different is negligible.

DB11 V8 Coupe: $198,995

DB11 V12 Coupe: $216,495

People in this price range shouldn’t really care about that difference.  What will help them decide which the DB11 that suits their taste is simple: a) do they want their leather nest in a muscle car wrapped in a GT or b) a leather nest in a sports car wrapped in a GT.  Does the sound of a V12 melt your bones or would you prefer a lighter, zippier ride?

So, now that you’ve decided that you must have it, how can you tell who has what? Well, there are a few subtle design cues to help you delineate between the V8 & the V12. First the hood vents– you’ll spot two on the V8 and four on the V12. Then there are a few lovely V8 specific wheels, but we both know you’re not going to memorize those.  Also, starting with the V8 the branding on the back includes the words “Aston Martin” in addition to the logo:

What’s that? It’s too much badging for you? Are you kidding? If I could take credit for this vision of loveliness I’d have a tattoo on my forehead that read “Ask me who designed the DB11.” Also, considering most Mercedes modern logos are the size of a small toddler, I’d say this still qualifies as subtle.

Aston Martin is in a unique very exciting position right now. It is one of the few remaining independent brands, particularly in the luxury market. Like Volvo, it has very ambitious growth plans and a devoted following to either delight or disappoint in its growth. But like Volvo, every car I’ve driven is exceptional and I’m terribly excited to see what comes next. I have a feeling that the V8 DB11 is beginning of something great.

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