Driving the 2017 Aston Martin DB11 in Siena, Italy

A quantum leap for the marque, the DB11 is a mechanical and technological wunderkind…

The rolling hills of Tuscany could not be a more fitting place to experience the 2017 Aston Martin DB11 (starting at about $212,000). It’s not the delightful roads or the colorful culture—there’s certainly that. On a more elemental level, the region’s stunning natural beauty seems to sync effortlessly with the new DB11’s charismatic personality, making the two a natural pair of dance partners.

The DB11 is more than merely a replacement for the late DB9, the model that heralded the manufacturer’s modern age. The new car is, in the words of CEO Andy Palmer, the most important car in the company’s history, marking a clean break that will make or break Aston Martin’s next era.

Muscular and menacing but lithe and elegantly proportioned, the DB11’s first (and arguably most crucial) metric is achieved with brio. Of course drivability, comfort, and luxury matter hugely in this rarified realm. But Aston Martins have always exuded exceptional beauty, and to defy that tradition would signal a fundamental failure for the brand.

The DB11 doesn’t break the spell: Inside and out, the DB11 evokes its Aston Martin DNA while signaling a timeless look, thanks in part to the fact that key design proportions were informed by the Golden Mean—the ancient Greek beauty ideal that uses an aspect ratio of 1:618. In contrast to the visual elements clearly informed by Aston Martin’s design language, the powertrain and chassis are radically changed, most notably with the debut of the brand’s first-ever turbocharged engine. The 5.2-liter V-12 is no slouch, producing 600 hp—the most of any DB model in history. A brand new interior treatment also delights, with exquisite accents like brogue details that recall handmade British men’s shoes, and unusual finishes like crushed carbon fiber. A Daimler-sourced multimedia interface is a welcome (and long overdue) update to the brand’s late, not-so-great system.

The DB11’s dynamics prove composed over Tuscany’s undulating hills, with intense acceleration that races from zero to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds and sharp handling that makes the generously proportioned coupe feel smaller than it actually is. Though there were some high-speed handling quirks that Aston engineers say will be addressed before the car reaches production (the first deliveries are scheduled for the end of this year), the vast majority of the car’s behavior represents dramatic improvements in both ride quality and agility over the outgoing model. The car accelerates with smooth insistence and rotates its mass through corners quite effectively—thanks in part to Aston Martin’s first use of torque vectoring, which slows down the rear inside wheel to help the car turn. Aficionados of naturally aspirated engines may miss the raspy exhaust note (which has been replaced with a silky smooth but more subdued sound), but they can rest assured that the new mill produces considerably more power. This is a true 200 mph car. The 8-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly without delay, exemplifying a sense of easy alacrity that typifies the grand touring ideal.

With the DB11, Aston Martin has managed to evolve the brand’s legendary styling while advancing its mechanical and technological hardware by light years. It’s no wonder the nomenclature climbs from DB9 by not one, but two steps. This is a car that represents a quantum leap for Aston Martin, one that all but ensures a bright future for the brand. (db11.astonmartin.com)

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