2017 Aston Martin DB11: Life in the Fast Lane

Strong points
  • Powerful and fast
  • Attractive new styling
  • Refined and comfortable ride
Weak points
  • Complex infotainment system
  • Symbolic rear seats
  • Awkward gearbox buttons
Full report

We often hear that we must live in the present moment. A wise saying that can inspire us both in our work and in our personal lives. On a sunny Wednesday morning, I got to do it and combine both.

It was June 14. At 12:30, a train would be departing Montreal, bringing me to Ottawa for the official start of the 2017 AJAC EcoRun. Heavily involved in the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, it was out of the question that I miss the event.

The problem is that late Monday evening, on June 12, Decarie Motors contacted me to plan a test drive of the all-new 2017 Aston Martin DB11. The car in which Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen—F1 drivers, obviously—parked their behinds during the week of the Montreal Grand Prix. The DB11 was put to the disposal of a few automotive journalists, for a few hours each, spread over a few days. First come, first served. After that, the DB11 would disappear forever, and the next opportunity I’d get to drive one would be after I won the lottery.

I confirmed my time slot for Wednesday morning, from 9:30 to noon. Would I have enough time to sufficiently drive the DB11, take some pictures, showboat a little downtown, bring the car back to the dealer and arrive on time at the train station?

No problem. The 2017 Aston Martin DB11 boasts a twin-turbo, 5.2-litre V12, a marvel of an engine that develops 600 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, exploited by an eight-speed automatic transmission. According to the manufacturer, the car can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds.

Photo: Michel Deslauriers

My dad, retired and car enthusiast, agreed to give me a lift to the train station once the DB11 would be returned to the dealer. I was happy. If I was to spend time with this lavish automobile, I might as well live in the present moment with the person who shared his passion for cars with me, the person who would enjoy these few hours the most.

As I pulled up in front of my dad’s house, he was already waiting outside. “I heard you arrive around the corner,” he said. He was proudly wearing his Aston Martin cap, the one I gave him a couple of years ago.

“Don’t you think it’s a little tacky to wear that?” It’s the first thing that crossed my mind. His answer was “Do you want me to wear my Toyota cap instead?” Well, no.

We walked around the DB11 which, in all its glory, wasn’t attracting too much attention so far with its metallic grey paint. “Do you want a coffee before we leave?” asked my dad. “Even better, we’ll go get one somewhere more fitting. After all, we’re driving an Aston Martin, right?” I just realised that I insulted both my father’s house and his Maxwell House coffee. The arrogance of being rich—or simulating being rich—was already sinking in.

We hop aboard the 2017 Aston Martin DB11 and after firing up the engine, I see my dad in the passenger seat who’s looking at me with a wide smile on his face. “You’re happy to get a ride in an Aston?” I ask him. “Actually, I just saw the rear seats. What a joke! Seriously, will anyone even try to sit back there?”

We pull up to the, uh, most fashionable café that’s near my dad’s house. It’s a Starbucks. We step inside to order, but the waitress (sorry, the barista) doesn’t seem to understand what we’d like to have. “I want a coffee. Just a regular coffee, not a birthday cake in a mug!” says my dad. I’m told a medium-sized coffee doesn’t exist at Starbucks. I didn’t take long to find someone more arrogant than me.

Anyway, we walk out of Starbucks with a coffee that cost too much. My dad and I are probably too old-fashioned to understand the fascination of a “premium” coffee, but we least we’re the ones rolling in a DB11, not the other customers.

Photo: Michel Deslauriers

While we’re sipping our coffee-flavoured deserts, we took the time to observe the car in detail. The DB11 flaunts a new styling philosophy for the brand, inspired more by the company’s recent concept vehicles than its current model line-up, which is honestly getting up there in age. We like the overall profile of the coupe, its aggressive front fascia, its slim taillights and its small greenhouse. However, it’ll take some more time to appreciate the silver-painted roof trim that contrast with the rest of the bodywork—OK, we could always choose another colour—as well as the air vents that disrupt the shape of the front wheel arches.

On the other hand, like other Aston Martin models, the DB11’s doors open at a slight upwards angle, and stay put no matter how wide we open them, a typical feature of the brand. Channels between the tip of the rear side windows and the end of the trunklid suck in air to increase downforce and stability, while a slim spoiler rises from the car’s rump to do the same with the air that flows down the roofline. A golf bag will easily fit in the trunk, maybe two with a little elbow grease.

The hood opens frontwards, sculpted in a giant piece of aluminum. According to Aston Martin, it’s actually the biggest one-piece hood in the industry, which we noted to impress curious passersby later. The V12 engine sits under a triangle-shaped brace, like a caged beast. By the way, the English brand just announced the availability of a Mercedes-AMG sourced, twin-turbo, 4.0-litre V8 that develops 503 horsepower. Since we’re already spending all this money, we’d stick with the V12.

By activating the normal driving mode and the softest damper setting, the DB11 is surprisingly docile on the road. Obviously, the Sport+ mode shifts the mood for dynamic driving, allowing the engine to full express itself both physically and aurally. It simply sounds marvellous.

Photo: Michel Deslauriers

The driver instrument pod is entirely digital, straightforward and clearly legible. On the other hand, the infotainment system is borrowed from Mercedes-Benz, fussy to use while driving. At least it’s much more modern than what’s found in other Aston products. We’re not big fans of the transmission buttons either, mounted high up on the centre stack. Their operation is a little clumsy.

In short, the 2017 Aston Martin DB11 is more of a grand touring coupe than a pure sports car, but it can easily play both roles as needed. After returning to the dealership after a jaunt on the highway, including a fairly stressful moment in lunch-hour traffic—after all, it’s not my car and it costs more than $300,000 after selecting but a few options—our experience behind the wheel of the car was too short. My dad then brought me to the train station, and I spent the next two days eco-driving a bunch of small, fuel-efficient, hybrid cars and EVs. Quite a change of pace.

Is it the best Aston currently available? While being sportier, the Vantage is getting really old, and should be replaced very soon. The Vanquish’s higher price is difficult to justify, and the Rapide is more versatile with four doors and four real seats. However, the DB11 rounds up many elements of its sisters, and ends up being a car that’s extremely fast, but comfortable as a daily driver. So the answer is yes.

If I’d win the lottery, would I be ready to adopt a rich person’s lifestyle, driving ultra-powerful luxury cars? In other words, living in the fast lane? I’m not sure. At least during one sunny morning, I lived in the present moment with my dad and made him happy, even if he complained that his coffee was too expensive.

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