Test Driven: V8-Powered 2018 Aston Martin DB11
On Oct. 24, the V8-powered 2018 Aston Martin DB11 made its American debut on a scenic road along the coast of Southern California.
Following a recent announcement of a convertible version of the DB11, Aston Martin showcased the growing family of its definitive GT by hosting a U.S. media launch of the V8-powered 2018 Aston Martin DB11 .
6SpeedOnline was there to experience the new driving dynamics and unmatched character of this new offering from Aston Martin with a tour through the mountains and deserts surrounding San Diego.
Priced starting at $198,995, the V8 DB11 produces 503 bhp and 498 lb-ft of torque from the 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged Mercedes-AMG supplied engine, continuing the technical partnership first seen on the V12-powered DB11.
You’re all probably wondering why a smaller, less powerful engine variant warrants another full-on launch event, especially when many of us already experienced the V12 version earlier this year. We thought the same thing, but our minds were quickly changed once we had a bit of seat time.
We were pleased to discover that the V8-powered DB11 is a unique car that is definitely deserving of its own debut.
Lighter Engine, Different Driving Experience
On the outside, the V8 version of DB11 looks similar to its V12 counterpart, save for a few design cues which we’ll touch upon later. But underneath the bonded aluminum body structure is a lot of fresh engineering and tuning, crafted specifically to handle the 253 lb weight-loss from the smaller engine and a 49:51 front/rear weight distribution ratio (flipped from the V12 DB11).
The Mercedes-AMG engine sits further back under the one-piece clamshell hood, and features more of a front-midship configuration. Together with all-new engine mounts and a custom wet sump system, Aston Martin engineers were able to situate the V8 as low as possible to produce an optimum center-of-gravity.
This new canvas allowed the company’s Senior Manager of Vehicle Dynamics, Ian Hartley ( pictured above, far left), and his team to further enhance DB11’s driving characteristics by making updates to the suspension geometry, anti-roll bars, springs, and dampers. Even the traction control system is less intrusive.
The overall result is a noticeably more nimble vehicle. As we cruised through the twisting canyon roads of the Palomar Mountains, DB11 displayed more effortless weight-transferring in all directions, and we could really feel the torque vectoring come into play, rotating the rear-end as we gently applied throttle through corners.
We felt our focus move away from steering the nose of the car (on the V12) to rotating the vehicle as a whole, with the driver’s seat as the pivot point. Feedback from the outside wheels as they carved through turns was much more clear and confident. The opportunity to further tune vehicle dynamics as a result of the V8 engine definitely adds an extra layer of performance prowess to an already fantastic grand-tourer.
GT, Sport, and Sport+ driving modes make their return on the V8-powered DB11, with two buttons on the steering wheel to independently control settings for the suspension and powertrain. While these modes carry the same name, they’ve been re-tuned for this model, drawing on feedback from current owners of the V12 DB11.
Cycling up through the modes for the powertrain adjusts gear shift points, throttle response, exhaust note, and steering effort – our favorite mode was Sport+ because overrun is most aggressive in this setting, offering exciting pops and burbles from the dual exhaust tips. Sport+ mode also keeps the eight-speed automatic transmission locked at six gears for optimum torque and throttle response.
On the suspension side, the driving modes control the Adaptive Damping System. We found Sport mode to be more than sufficient for spirited driving, and would reserve Sport+ for the most demanding situations on a race track.
Of course, the one element that’s consistent and needs no adjustment is the V8’s capability to accelerate DB11 from 0-62 mph in four seconds, with a top speed of 187 mph.
Spot the Difference
Aston Martin included a few clues for car enthusiasts to spot the difference between V8 and V12 versions of DB11.
The V8-powered DB11 offers a unique alloy wheel finish, dark headlamp bezels, and sports two hood vents, instead of four.
At the rear, the taillights on the V8 version feature smoked lenses instead of red – this is probably the easiest way to identify engine type with a quick glance.
Inside the luxurious cabin, standard and available equipment/colors are the same across the DB11 lineup, including the option to add Designer Specification packages or go bespoke via Q by Aston Martin.
The Big Decision: V8 or V12?
With a difference in starting price of only $17,500, choosing between the V8 and V12 might feel like deciding on a vehicle option set, relatively speaking. But according to Aston Martin, the average V12 DB11 is spec’ed to around $250,000, making the V8’s starting price of $198,995 seem significantly lower in comparison.
Price aside, the two DB11 variants offer distinguishable personalities. The V12 tends to “breathe more” as you drive because of its slightly heavier weight and need for more compliant suspension. The V8, on the other hand, carries a bias towards agility, with the trade-off being a bit less top-end acceleration.
Both are competent vehicles, and the choice between the two ultimately comes down to personal preference and most common driving scenario. Do you love the signature roar of the V12 at 7,000 RPM? Do the pops and burbles from the V8 excite you?
For us, living in Southern California with access to some of the best driving routes in the world, we’d most likely opt for the V8-powered DB11 because of its enhanced canyon-carving abilities.
The V8-powered 2018 Aston Martin DB11 is on sale now for around $198,995. Visit AstonMartin.com to see more detailed specs and configure your own dream GT.
Photos for 6SpeedOnline: Andrew Chen; Aston Martin
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