I leave the rain behind in Dubai and set off to Jebel Hafeet to give the DB 11 muscles a proper work out, up and down the mountain. Besides a taste of the brands new DBS Superleggera, it also gave me a ‘Vantage’ view of power!
Change has been sweeping the Aston Martin citadel since the turn of the century – the brand’s second century to be clearer. In their second century plan there is space for 7 cars in 7 years, which will see a whole new line up, almost unrecognizable to the brand’s last century fans! The old line up is being replaced systematically. Vanquish and DB9 have all vanished. The first of the seven is the DB 11. The Vantage featuring the new 4.0 V8 AMG engine is here, and we await more news on a new Vanquish. The next in line is the DBX, Aston Martin’s own idea of an SUV. Then there is the first ever mid-engine sports car from the British racing brand that is whispered to be here next year, and bringing up the rear are two models from the Lagonda. That laid out, now is my chance to meet the DB11 family.
Actually, I am not a stranger to the DB11 family. The V8 and I have been out on a date – not once but twice. (We even made a video together, watch it here.) But I never got to meet the V12 – ‘I didn’t miss much’ is what the spec sheet tells me. The V8 had a torque output of 675 Nm, while the V12 hid behind 25 more. It definitely must have been a more emphatic drive because all the horsepower the V8 could hand me was 504 while the V12 could produce a whole 600. Still, Aston Martin must have thought the V12 proposition isn’t strong enough to challenge its own V8 sibling (brother from another mother actually, as the V8 is an AMG engine!) to pre-eminence. So, Gaydon must have decided not to risk its homebred flagship being described as ‘somewhat better than the V8’ and decided to widen the gap noticeably. And that’s how the Aston Martin DB11 V12 AMR joined the fleet we were driving that day to Al Ain and 1200 m up the Jebel Hafeet.
AMR stands for Aston Martin Racing and the badge is immediately claimed by a performance that underlines 30 extra horsepower when compared with the V12 that disappeared before I got a chance to drive it. The torque remains the same at 700 Nm – not that there was any reason to add to it. The race credential is built in the double-flat steering, the tweaked suspensions and the black and lemon yellow livery that instantly grabbed by attention, and sent my hand up when it was time to choose my first drive.
I’m glad I did that because that meant on the way back I would be driving the DBS Superleggera which had been recently added to the fleet. Now, after having our muscles nicely worked out (the cars and mine) I was ready for an easy cruise on the way back, and the DBS proved why it was called the Super GT. That machine knows how to contain its 715 horses and 900 Nm torque when it wears the cape of a grand tourer. Yes, that is what the machine is capable of now – bumped up by 115 hp and 200 Nm compared with the original V12!
As I arrived at Jebel Hafeet and tested the three models – I got to give my DB11 V8 memories a refresh too – it was obvious why automakers always leave scope for improvement, and yet it sometimes takes a back-to-back drive to bring out the invisible shortcomings and the relative edge of one model against another. Jebel Hafeet set a scale for them to be placed on a grid of competence. There was enough ‘squeeze’ in that transmission to get the juice out from those mean machines. And yet there was enough space from perfection to make me feel good about my hand on the wheel.
WATCH VIDEO REVIEW OF ASTON MARTIN DB11 V8 on ONE MINUTE DRIVE
What makes the DB11 family more family friendly?
The new DB11 is more of a Grand Tourer than the previous DB models, if only because it can fix two child seats, and can make space for a couple of bags and a golf bag at once! The door apertures are larger than previous DB models, front seat occupants enjoy 10 mm of extra headroom, while rearwards, a 54 mm increase in headroom and 87 mm more legroom mean DB11 is a true 2+2. The electronic command system and the navigation come from Mercedes and the Press worldwide has celebrated it as the best ever found in an Aston Martin.
The sporty and the sportier
A great music is nothing to shy away from being thankful for; coz that isn’t what makes an Aston what it is – exhaust notes are to some extent. So it was worth noting that the AMR in its Sport + mode had a raspy sharpness as it moved from sonic pleasure to sonic ecstasy. On my way back, the DBS sounded more like a the concept of a future machine gun battering air.
A top speed of 335 kmph (208mph) makes the DB11 AMR one of the world’s swiftest GT cars and the fastest model in Aston Martin’s current series production range. At its heart is a twin-turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 that now delivers 630bhp and a 0-100kmph time of 3.7sec.
The DB11 at the pinnacle
DBS Superleggera sits at the pinnacle of the Aston Martin production range. It is both a shining light expressing the most beautiful automotive art and, at the same time, a dark and menacing shadow of brutal, unequivocal strength. It is this fine blend of seemingly opposing traits that makes the DBS Superleggera the absolute Aston Martin. That is how the Aston Martin website describes the DBS.
Cool and control the machine could be the purpose, but every design element that has been added to the DBS bodywork is sheer art. If the beauty is embodied in the gaping grille and its dotted detail, the stable stance can be gauged with a track that is fairly wider than the DB11 – 10 mm wider in front and 20mm at the rear. The top speed of the DBS is 340 kmph while the 100 kmph flashes by in 3.4 seconds. The power output is 715 hp and an eye-popping 900 Nm of torque. The gearbox is a rear mid-mounted ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. The DBS uses ventilated carbon ceramic brake discs 410 mm dia. The DBS rolls on 21” wheels and gives it an ethereal stance.
Watch the video of me driving the DBS down the mountains.
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage
The new Aston Martin Vantage wears its inspiration by the special edition Vulcan on its sleeves – and is perhaps the only surviving on road memory of the mission-built DB10. The interiors look like a nerd’s bedroom with button-cluttered console and dash as against the intuitively set out controls in DB11, the refined Grand Tourer. However, the Vantage shares its bonded-aluminium platform with the DB11 though 70% of its components are said to be unique to it. The sportier car pushes the engine as far back on the chassis, achieving a 50:50 weight distribution, and even foregoes a glove compartment for the sake of staying light. The Vantage is also the first Aston Martin production car to feature an electronically controlled differential with torque vectoring. The Vantage too uses the Mercedes-AMG engine as the DB11. The 4.0L twin turbo V8 develops 503 hp and 685 Nm, which is 10 extra bits in the torque department, while the transfer happens through a rear mounted 8-speed ZF gearbox. The new Vantage can touch a top speed of 314 kmph and gallop to 100 kmph in 3.6 seconds.
My experience of the Vantage happened between the AMR and the DBS – perfectly slotted to feel how raw the DB11 actually could be and how much further things could be pushed. Achieving near highway top speeds while exiting corners in a mountain is not the sort of thing you do with any sporty car, and that is why the Vantage is the tear-apart-the-niceness-and-get-to-business sort of car – it can leave your heart pounding.
I don’t have the Vantage on video but you can watch all three DB11 cars I got to ride during the Jebel Jais outing. All the images used in this feature are shot by Dean Smith. They are so beautiful, I decided to overlook my efforts entirely. Below is an image of the DBS. The three above are of the Vantage. Three above those are of teh DBS Superleggera and the trio at the very top is of the Aston Martin DB11 V12 AMR.
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