Many people like Aston Martins. And what’s more, people like people who drive them. They’re seen as cool and intelligent and refined. They know not to have a cocktail with their meal and are familiar with the Latin name for every single fish in the sea.
Astons are driven by people who find Ferraris and Porsches a bit flashy, a bit John Terry. A bit disgusting. I get that, but there’s always been a problem. Aston Martins have never been much good.
The DB5, trumpeted by many as the best, most iconic Aston Martin of them all, feels pretty much like a Seddon Atkinson dustbin lorry to drive. The Bond films helped this car ten-fold due to its blazing success, at least that’s all I can think of because I would rather drive my own mothers motorised coffin.
Later Aston Martin made a car called the Vantage It had a supercharged V8 and excellent headrests. But to drive, it felt almost identical to Ford’s pick-up. I loved the Vantage, make no mistake, but it handled and braked and gripped like your feet were made of lead not flesh
To make matters worse, Astons back then were made by hand, which is another way of saying that nothing fitted or worked properly. And they were never really tested before they went on sale.
This sort of thing was still going on when the company came up with the DB7. I forget now exactly what was still wrong with it when it went on sale but I’m pretty sure a tendency to fall to pieces was at the top of a long list.
The DB9 was far more sorted when it came along. You sensed it had been properly developed and well thought out. But you also sensed that behind the achingly pretty face beat a fairly ordinary heart. It was as ground breaking as a duck. And that’s been the story ever since, really. Beautiful and fairly well-made cars that under the skin were just that: cars.
Ferrari and Porsche, with big money backing from wealthy parents, could afford to develop new technology and new ways of doing things. Aston Martin was far too poor. It would change the styling and the names of the cars but underneath they were all broadly the same and they were using tech that was starting to look as old-fashioned as a beige wingback chair.
So, I wasn’t really expecting all that much from the new DB11. I figured that it would be beautiful, which it is, achingly so, but that it would be no match mechanically for what the rest could offer. I was wrong.
The old V12, which sounded magnificent but which we always knew at the back of our minds had been made by nailing two Ford Mondeo engines together is now gone. And in its stead the DB11 is powered by an all-new 5.2-litre V12 that is fitted with two turbochargers.
When I heard that Aston Martin had developed this engine itself, I thought: “With what? Some loose change they found down the back of the sofa or in their friends arse crack?” I figured it would be a bit old-school with lag and a lot of “That’ll do … tea?” Brummie tech. It isn’t. It comes with cylinder deactivation and one turbo and intercooler per bank and all the latest tech. Also, the engine’s made in Germany so it won’t explode after a week
Better still, there’s been a tie-up with Mercedes-Benz so the DB11 has a Mercedes sat nav (current Aston Martin owners will rejoice at that news). And Mercedes electronics. And the Mercedes Command infotainment system.
This car is great not because of its looks, performance or comfort, which are all magnificent. No, it’s the fact that no one truly could have ever predicted it.