Aston nails the go-faster grand tourer recipe



ASSUMPTION SIMPLY makes an ass out of you and me, or so the saying goes. Correctly, as it turns out. The rhetoric surrounding the Aston Martin DB11 AMR suggests it will be neither fish nor fowl, the sport-ification of its luxury grand tourer like attempting to turn a Paso Fino into a Thoroughbred. In actual fact, the result is a brilliantly entertaining sports GT with a tremendous breadth of ability.

In my defence, the signs werenít good. The regular V12 DB11 fulfilled its role beautifully, its plush ride and smooth, torquey twin-turbo V12 making it a fantastic way to cover distance. Its weight and soft suspension prevented it being the sharpest of handlers, but it was refreshing to drive a car that clearly prioritised road comfort over ultimate handling precision.

Then came the DB11 V8. Lighter, stiffer and sharper, it was undoubtedly the more dynamic drive, but that lovely loping ride quality was lost resulting in a somewhat confused personality.

If you want a sporty V8 Aston, buy a Vantage. So news that Aston was infusing the V8ís character into the V12 to create the more focused AMR wasnít welcome news. Particularly as the regular V12 was to be dropped.

It quickly becomes clear, though, that whatever chassis changes have taken place - Aston doesnít provide details - have been expertly applied. The AMR is perhaps a little busier on patchy roads than the standard V12, but with the three-stage dampers set to comfort it beautifully cushions most bumps, the body gently bobbing before quickly settling. This default mode is soft enough to be unsuitable for press-on driving, resulting in the nose scuffing the tarmac through dips and enough roll for 1795kg to feel unkempt.

A quick flick to Sport improves matters, but even the stiffest Sport Plus is useable on road, retaining a level of compliance that allows the DB11 AMR to work with the road rather than fight it. The Bridgestone S007 tyres (255/40 front; 295/35 rear) need a bit of heat to give their best, but provide remarkable grip when warm. Thereís tremendous balance, the chassis providing a blank canvas for the driver to use as they see fit. Neat and tidy with gentle understeer? Easy. Lairy with the tail swinging? Happy to oblige.

The AMR can be hustled in a way the standard V12 canít yet retains its good manners. The steering - operated by the unusual square (itís not really a wheel) - isnít overly talkative but the weighting and gearing feel very natural, which is important as the DB11ís a large car and needs to be placed accurately.

Under the bonnet Aston has extracted an extra 23kW from the 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 for a total of 470kW, though torque remains at 700Nm. This drops the 0-100km/h claim to 3.7sec (-0.2sec) and ups the top speed to 335km/h (+13km/h). Youíre unlikely to notice the extra grunt, but youíll certainly notice the extra noise. A new exhaust unleashes a torrent of rich 12-cylinder music that bystanders swear has a hint of Lamborghini Aventador at high rpm.

The engine itself is beautiful: smooth, powerful and flexible with excellent response, though the initial throttle tip-in is too sharp. The eight-speed auto lacks the swift shifts of a dual-clutch, but if thatís the price for smooth dayto-day operation itís one well worth paying. Crucially, for a machine that costs $428,000 ($481,280 as-tested) it feels special. Itís little things, like the way the doors swing upwards as they open, the smell of the leather and the design of the centre console, though Aston badly needs to negotiate access to Mercedesí latest infotainment.

Like the McLaren 600LT we drove recently, the Aston Martin DB11 AMR manages the neat trick of enhancing the dynamic capabilities of the car while making only the slightest compromise to its everyday usability. Itís easy to drive slowly, engaging to drive quickly and fantastic to look at. Itís difficult to think of a better sporting grand tourer.