2019 Aston Martin DB11 AMR Review: the Car Aston Should Have Made in the First Place
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Aston Martin kicked off its Second Century Plan with what it expected to be a rather gorgeous bang. The DB11 V12 arrived at the end of 2016 and delivered 90 percent of the driving experience I’d hoped it would. There were problems though, which is why Aston Martin have already crafted a replacement. It’s called the DB11 AMR and it’s here to address any middling concerns I may have had with the outgoing version.
Dr. Andy Palmer, Aston Martin President and CEO, believes the V12 needed to let its freak flag fly a bit more: “With the exceptional V8 Coupe and Volante I felt the V12 could reveal more of its sporting potential while remaining the consummate GT. By applying a suite of carefully considered performance and styling enhancements the DB11 AMR is both faster and more precise.”
The Good: An increase in power coupled with more responsive handling and a greater aural presence pairs perfectly with the untouched style and grace of an all-time Aston Martin great. Tweaks to the 5.2-liter twin-turbocharged V12 result in a 30 horsepower rise, which brings the total output to 630 horsepower. The top speed of the car is now 208 mph, and a dash from 0-62 mph will be dispatched in just 3.7 seconds. When you’re out hot footing it, a smile develops as the exhaust pipes bark a melody much more in tune with how you’d expect a V12 engine to sound.
Who It’s For: The person who can afford first-class travel yet hates to fly, or simply loves the act of driving that much more. The DB11 AMR is for those who understand that faster options exist but none are quite as lovely and enjoyable. This is Grand Touring, with a capital G and T… and the owner will arrive at a hotel that knows to have a cold G&T waiting at the bar, as soon as the song of 12 cylinders marks his arrival.
Watch Out For: The DB11 V8 is still the car for those with greater sporting pretensions. It has less weight over the nose, better sound and greater responsiveness. There’s a surprising deadness to the brakes upon initial application of the pedal. You’re likely to get used to it, and the 15.7-inch front/14.1-inch rear rotors are more than adequate at hauling in speed. But that initial press into nothingness introduces a bit of fear before the calipers clamp down and do their friction dance.
Alternatives: Bentley has a hot new Continental that looks to reign supreme as true grand tourer. Mercedes-Benz makes a sinister S65 AMG coupe. Both are slightly slower and a touch less powerful. If you’re spending well over $200k, can you live with that?
Review: Aston Martin created something quite good with the launch of the DB11 V12. The problem is that “quite good” doesn’t cut it when you’re playing in the $200,000+ Grand Touring space. The automaker admits that this all-new platform presents a learning curve, and the lessons are flying fast and furious thanks to the team addition of former Lotus chassis guru Matt Becker. To put it simply, the bones of the car are solid but room for improvement paves a clear path to the DB11 AMR.
Aston Martin designers have taken steps to help distinguish the car from the first go-around variant. Here the brightwork has been darkened. You can always opt for shiny stuff, but it just feels right to see carbon in place of chrome or blackened elements instead of reflective ones. It all adds up to further the feeling that this is a far more focused V12-packing DB11.
It should be no surprise though, as any Aston Martin bearing the AMR initials heralds “extra.” Be it extra power, performance, or style, an AMR Aston is something special. This one starts at $241,000 but Aston Martin are creating 100 Signature Edition examples bearing the Sterling Green and Lime color scheme found on a handful of its racing vehicles. That’s 100 total units for the globe, and each one starts around $270,000.
An increase of power is great but it’s the updates to the chassis that help bring the DB11 into a new light. Just five millimeters of increased roll bar thickness is all that Becker deemed necessary for a more responsive front end. Out back, pumped up damping support results in less rear roll. Yet there’s been no loss to in-cabin comfort.
Thanks to Becker’s efforts, we have a DB11 flagship that is as eager to turn in as its V8 sibling. Grab the flat-bottomed carbon fiber and Alcantara-clad steering wheel, dial in your direction and throttle on through the corner. Aston Martin have reworked the traction control system for smoother intervention should you fat foot it.
The upgrades to the AMR go beyond some chassis tweaks. On the prior DB11 V12, the actual throw of the paddle shifter seemed longer than necessary. That’s been altered here, as it already had been on the V8. Additionally, the gearbox itself is recalibrated to present a more dynamic spread of shift responsiveness between the various driving modes.
Pointing the nose of the DB11 AMR towards some of Germany’s B-roads reveals the full extent of Aston Martin’s upgrades. This feels very much like the DB11 V12 I’d hoped for when the car was originally launched. While not as exuberant of an exhaust trumpet as the older 6.0-liter V12, this updated 5.2-liter produces far more noise and visceral appeal. Shifts fire off far more quickly. The action, when you want it, is greatly improved. And when you want to relax, you can do that as well.
Like say, when going 250 kph on an unrestricted stretch of German autobahn — there’s no drama when doing so. Save for the flourish of trucks and vans relegated to the far right lanes.
As with any Aston Martin though, it’s never perfect. Left to its own devices, the transmission sometimes gets confused during spirited sections. It will hold gears nicely and downshift for corners, but there are brief occasions when an out-of-place shift arises. Furthermore, the brakes have an initial feeling of emptiness upon the initial pedal press. It’s only for the first quarter-inch of travel or so, but it’s there and it’s at times unnerving. The transmission issue is solved by using the paddles when the road gets frisky. For the brakes, I imagine you’d get used to the dead spot but I can’t say for certain.
It’s clear that Aston Martin paid close attention to all of the criticisms and concerns levied with the arrival of the DB11 V12. A car that delivered 90 percent of the desired experience has been reworked into one that now feels far more rewarding and enjoyable to drive. If you’re in the market for a luxurious cruise missile disguised as a grand tourer, the DB11 AMR is good bet. And if you feel it’s not quite focused or sporting enough, there’s always the new Vantage.
Verdict: This is the DB11 V12 that Aston Martin needed from the beginning. Noise and nimbleness have been prior hallmarks for the brand, even on top-flight models. Now the current flagship of the DB11 family possesses the traits you’d expect of it.
Key Specs: 2019 Aston Martin DB11 AMR
Engine: 5.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V12
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Horsepower: 630 horsepower
Torque: 516 ft-lbs
Weight: 4,134 lbs
0-62: 3.7 seconds
Top Speed: 208 mph
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