NÜRBURG, Germany – This is undoubtedly one of the most exciting periods in Aston Martin’s 105-year history. The company is not only regularly releasing new models, but doing well on the racetrack, too, clinching endurance racing wins and podiums with a fairly old car: you’ll remember the team nabbed a class win at the last 24 Hours of Le Mans. Plus, its Aston Martin Works department is on a roll restoring classic Astons and building highly sought-after continuation models in the shape of the DB4 GT. Oh, and let us not forget future vehicles such as the Lagonda SUV and limited edition Valkyrie hypercar.
This latest model represents just how quickly Aston is moving; a mere 20 months after the all-new V12 DB11 was launched, here’s its replacement. Called the DB11 AMR (an abbreviation for Aston Martin Racing), it’s no entirely new car but one that sports subtle updates throughout, The 5,2-litre, V12 twin-turbo engine delivers an additional 23 kW for a nicely round total of 470 kW (torque output of 700 N.m remains unchanged), resulting in an improved dash to 100 km/h of a claimed 3,7 seconds.
The chassis has also received attention, with technical updates initially made to the recently launched V8 DB11 carried over to the new AMR flagship. These include stiffer subframes and revised damping, although the spring balance has been maintained to offer a true GT level of ride quality. The wheels have been replaced with forged alloys, saving a notable 3,5 kg of unsprung weight per corner, and the transmission software and exhaust note have been tweaked to offer a sportier experience in sport+ mode.
There are also a number of visual enhancements, including several exposed-carbon-fibre parts and gloss-black details – the roof being one – dark headlamp surrounds, a dark front grille and tail pipes. You can also get one of 100 limited-edition Signature Edition models that feature unique colour and trim options.
One of the standout cars from Performance Shootout 2018, the DB11 is an object of beauty from any angle and the new AMR derivative does nothing to detract from that. The latest DB11 remains an elegant and fluid design, and driving behind one, the striking rear lights in conjunction with a wide, low stance certainly give the car an arresting presence.
Behind the wheel
When you open the doors, they ingeniously swivel slightly upward to clear kerbs, while the low-sited driving position and tasteful leather-upholstered seats remain a highlight. The nearly square steering wheel in our Signature Edition models was partly upholstered in Alcantara. Behind the wheel, there is definitely a sense you’re driving a proper GT, especially with the long bonnet in front of you. The cabin is spacious, with both driver and passenger enjoying ample leg-, shoulder- and headroom. From the moment you press the start button, you get that enticing burble from the two exhaust pipes.
Over the hundreds of kilometres we spent with that DB11 on Shootout, we weren’t only enamoured with its looks, but really liked the way it drives, too. The AMR simply builds on that and, even though it weighs 1 765 kg dry, the engine is brawny enough to make it feel properly quick, even with the revs kept below 4 000 r/min. Then, when the road clears you can rev it out all the way to 7 000 r/min (the limiter kicks in 200 r/min later) and revel in the V12’s response. On a short stretch of derestricted autobahn, the AMR effortlessly hit 260 km/h, although we were out of road before we had a chance to get even close to the claimed top speed of 334 km/h.
The DB11 AMR’s most impressive quality, however, is how it manages to marry true sportscar handling with genuine grand tourer capabilities. During the test drive, I left the suspension in the cossetting comfort mode and the drivetrain switched to sport+, in my opinion the best combination to enjoy the car.
Special mention must go to the eight-speed torque-converter transmission, which has a knack for always selecting the right gear. Although not offering the lightning-quick shifts that we associate with double-clutch transmissions, the gearbox swaps smoothly and quickly enough for a car of this ilk. Fortunately, there are metal steering-column paddles should you feel like selecting gears.
Aston Martin’s desire to add a distinctly sporty element to its GT is clear in the way the DB11 handles and turns in. It feel lighter on its feet and nimbler than it ought to and, on the flowing rural roads of Rhineland-Palatinate, the DB11 AMR handled fast corners with conviction (and wasn’t averse to chirping its tyres on the exit of second-gear hairpins).
The DB11 remains a compelling alternative to competitors such as the Mercedes-AMG S63/S65 and Bentley Continental GT W12. And it will become even more competitive still: the director for the DB11 programme, Paul Barritt, confirmed that this 5,2-litre V12 still has more performance to offer. We can, I’m happy to report, expect another exciting DB11 very soon…