2017 Aston Martin DB11 first drive review

Aston Martin turned out garage rock and roll for decades.

Of course, the small British carbuilder got some big help from deep-pocketed benefactors who tried every way to Sunday to turn a profit. They failed.

But the sound from the factory at Gaydon has always been raw, reckless, and—excuse the metaphor—a little low budget.

The way we hear it, the 2017 Aston Martin DB11 is the automaker’s big-budget record.

The DB11 exists right now because Aston Martin needs a fingerhold to climb the mountain of profitability. It’s the first up in a four-car plan that’ll eventually include a crossover, a new sports car, a Lagonda sedan, and probably another exotic. The business case for the hyper-exotics—like the Vulcan and soon-to-be-named-something-else AM-RB 001—is plain, straightforward, and wildly profitable. Crossovers sell themselves. This new grand-touring DB11 had better be good—the guys in accounting are planning on it.

MORE: Read seven reasons why the 2017 Aston Martin DB11 is still a Bond car you can buy

Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer told us in Italy last month that this car—and the next three for Aston Martin—are already paid for and that they are the most important in the brand’s 107-year history. Investors have cut a check for the automaker’s next four cars. Even if profitability isn’t in the company’s history, at least it has a future.

In that way, the DB11 reads like an album filled with singles: a new 5.2-liter twin-turbocharged V-12, new body and frame, beautifully crafted interior, active aerodynamics, and a sound to die for.

All the hits are here.

There’s beauty …

Like any supercar, the DB11 is a statement of style first, but its classic proportions are almost immediately lost in the newly creased bodywork.

Compared to the outgoing DB9 that it replaces, the DB11 is more sculpted; a defined character line circumnavigates the car from one front wheel arch, over the rear haunches, around its tail and back up to the opposite front wheel. Aston Martin chief designer Marek Reichmann planned it that way—that beltline is two-thirds of the car’s overall height, and punctuates the golden proportion used throughout the car. That subtlety is hard to spot, but too beautiful to ignore.

Its differences are more acute from the rear. LED taillights boomerang around the trunk, and take eyes away from the matte black twin tailpipes machine-gunning the DB11’s soundtrack into the rolling hills of Tuscany. We’re not complaining about either.

Its signature styling element may get lost on most who see the car for the first time too; the DB11’s hood is one of the single largest pieces of rolled aluminum ever produced. Reichmann said the car company searched for a supplier for seven months, then worked many months more to craft the hood in a way that would eliminate shunt lines and unnecessary angles. It’s breathtaking in execution—even more so when the clamshell raises to reveal the massive engine underneath. (I haven’t looked at a hood in the same way since.)

Put the old and the new side-by-side and it’s clear: The exterior of the DB9 is classic, the exterior of the DB11 is futuristic. Choose wisely.

(In a land full of Ferraris and Lamborghinis blasting the autostrada, the DB11 turns heads. That’s saying something.)

There is function in the DB11’s form. Up front, the low hood line and chin keep the car lower to the ground, but a larger grille than on the DB9 directs cooling for the engine, which is firmly planted behind the front wheels this time. 

Strakes from the front wheel help deflect high pressure from the tires—they’re not just cool-looking design elements—and those deep inlets around the rear windows? Those are functional too. They help direct air into the DB11’s AeroBlade, which ports that air up through the decklid to create a “virtual spoiler” (it’s actually closer to a Kammback) to efficiently move air from off the tail.

The DB11’s style is completely self-serving. And for that, it’s definitively art.

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