Aston Martin scored an own-goal with the DB11 V8. Launched a year after the flagship DB11 V12, this first AMG-powered Aston had 98 fewer horses, but a 115kg weight saving meant it was just 0.1sec slower to 62mph. It also looked identical, was more agile to drive and cost £13,000 less. At a stroke, the DB11 V12 looked redundant.
Enter the DB11 AMR: a reworked V12 that replaces the standard car outright. With more power, a sharper chassis and cosmetic tweaks, it’s the latest offering from Aston’s sportier sub-brand – following in the tyre tracks of the Vantage AMR and Rapide AMR. Headline stats are 639hp (a 31hp gain), 0-62mph in 3.7sec (0.2 sec quicker) and a ‘continent-crushing’ 208mph top speed. No wonder it has a go-faster stripe.
Prices for the AMR start at £174,995 – a hefty £30,000 more than the DB11 V8. Can it carve a much-needed niche for this V12-engined super-coupe? A visit to Aston Martin’s Nürburgring test centre will reveal all…
First, a couple of clarifications. No, I didn’t actually drive on the Nordschleife, but the surrounding Rhineland roads are among Germany’s finest and, frankly, a better real-world test. And no, you’re not obliged to have the stripe. It’s a delete-option on the first 100 ‘Signature Edition’ launch cars.
Stripe or no stripe, the DB11 is still a near-flawless piece of design: clearly indebted to its DB9 and DB7 forebears, yet markedly more muscular and modern. The most beautiful new car on sale? I reckon so.
Thankfully, AMR hasn’t gilded the lily elsewhere either; this makeover is mild, not wild. The front grille, splitter, sills and roof are now finished in gloss black, with slashes of naked carbon fibre in the air intakes. All brightwork has been binned, while dark headlight surrounds and smoked taillight lenses add an air of mild-mannered menace.
Aston Martin DB11 AMR in Signature Edition spec (limited to 100 cars).
V12-engined AMR hits 62mph in 3.7sec and 208mph. pic.twitter.com/lbkYcOeoO3
— Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) May 15, 2018
The DB11 AMR rides on new 20-inch forged alloys, saving 3.5kg of unsprung weight per corner. And the exhaust has been retuned, too. Chief Engineer Matt Becker promises a soundtrack with added “spirit and sport”.
Our test car was a £201,995 Signature Edition and thus boasted copious carbon fibre inside and out, plus a Stirling Green and lime colour scheme inspired by Aston’s GT3 and WEC racers. As with any car of this calibre, though, you can always add more. Notable options include a carbon fibre engine cover and carbon pop-up rear spoiler.
The dark theme continues inside, with black chrome trim and monotone upholstery. Even in AMR spec, the DB11 is “still very much a GT”, insists Paul Barritt, Vehicle Line Director, and devoid of showy, supercar-style gimmicks. Comfort remains the watchword here.
But wait, what’s this? ANOTHER lime green stripe: this time in leather, arcing across the roof lining from windscreen to rear window. Perhaps the Aston is ready to unleash its inner supercar after all.
There are other – more subtle – reminders of AMR-ness, such as logos on the door sills and embossed onto the headrests. Plus the DB11 inherits the new Vantage’s squared-off steering wheel, which looks odd but soon becomes second-nature.
Surfaces are trimmed in beautiful, handbag-quality leather and Alcantara, and the shapely, hip-hugging seats offer plenty of electric adjustment. Lest we forget, there are also two rear chairs, albeit too cramped for anyone aged into double figures.
The dashboard – a mix of old-fashioned buttons and hidden, touch-sensitive switches and sliders – is a bit of a mish-mash, while the digital instrument cluster already looks dated. On the plus side, the the Mercedes-supplied ‘Comand’ infotainment system is intuitive to use, complete with an eight-inch screen and 360-degree parking cameras.
As Aston Martin’s PR team was eager to point out, AMR fettling means the DB11 V12 outguns the new, W12-engined Bentley Continental GT. On closer analysis, its advantage is just 4hp, but 639hp is still a lot of power. The Ferrari Portofino proffers a paltry 600hp.
The extra snap, crackle and pop from the exhausts is welcome, but the twin-turbo V12 never blasts your eardrums into submission like the AMG V8. It’s more cultured, less brutish, the turbine-like wail at high revs oddly reminiscent of a supercharger.
On the road, the overriding impression is of effortless thrust: any gear, any time. Power progression is wonderfully linear and scything past slower traffic (those pesky Portofinos, for example) is hilariously easy. Smooth yet savagely quick, it feels omnipotent.
There’s no escaping the DB11’s sheer size (at 1,940mm, it’s wider than a BMW X5) or its 1,870kg kerb weight. Nonetheless, chassis maestro Becker – who perfected his craft during 26 years at Lotus – has honed the handling without sacrificing compliance or comfort. Spring rates remain the same, but the car’s rear end feels, in Becker’s own words, “more connected and honest”.
On fast-flowing B-roads the AMR corners with precision: reassuringly planted, if not overtly playful. There are three drive modes, GT, Sport and Sport Plus. It feels most at home in GT, which is probably as it should be. Sport is a big step up, with much jerkier throttle response and gearshifts – although using the paddles to swop cogs manually alleviates this. Sport Plus, meanwhile, is best suited to track driving.
Aside from gearbox calibration, the DB11’s other minor weakness is its steering. Direct and accurate, it lacks the effusive feedback of the best electric systems, notably those of Porsche – or indeed the new Vantage.
Aston Martin has turned a corner. After years of churning out endless near-identical iterations of the DB9, this illustrious British brand will launch five new models by 2023, plus AMR-tuned versions of each. The new Vantage, in particular, is fantastic, and the DBX SUV arrives later this year.
And the DB11 AMR? It has flaws, certainly, but also deep reserves of raw talent and winsome charm. It has also given the DB11 V12 renewed reason to exist, which is something to be thankful for. I’d choose one over a Continental GT in a heartbeat.
Bentley Continental GT
Engine: V12, front-mounted, 5,204cc
Transmission: 8-speed semi-auto, rear-wheel drive
Chassis: Aluminium monocoque, steel panels
Suspension: Double wishbones front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 20in alloy
Tyres: 255/40 ZR20 front, 295/35 ZR20 rear
Brakes: Steel discs – 400mm front, 360mm rear
Torque: 516lb ft@1,500rpm
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Top speed: 208mph
Fuel economy: 24.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 265g/km