Our long-term Aston Martin DB11 AMR: swings and fast roundabouts

Published: 06 August 2020

► Yes, we're living with an Aston DB11
► Regular updates on the DB11 AMR
► Warts 'n' all daily life long-term test 

Welcome back
Well before Covid-19, my night flight from Cape Town gets into Heathrow early on a Sunday morning, sneaking in after the small-hours curfew lifts but before storm Jorge will turn crosswind landings into significant yaw events. To the Aston! (Which is squirrelled away in Business Parking.)

Heathrow Airport arrivals

Need. Coffee. Now
The M25 is never quiet but the storm's helping persuade people to stay home. I get a clear run at the fabulous slip road from T5 onto the M25 (clockwise), then neatly dispatch a roundabout or two before picking up a 24-hour Starbucks. The DB11's V12 and superbly calibrated gearbox are a joyous pairing, the only perceptible shifts coming between the lower gears when the revs are artificially high, justafter start-up.

Speed is distance over time
My brain's too addled for podcasts or music so, in the Aston's very comfortable cockpit, I daydream and cover miles at a faintly astonishing rate. It's incredible what not being held up by dawdling dual-carriageway overtakers will do for your average speed. Damping in GT mode is pliant and cosseting – almost too soft given the AMR's badging and track-ready aesthetic.

DB11 LTT motorway

Time for a detour
Why hurry home? On countless occasions over the last year or so A14 roadworks have forced me to divert, with the A1 North closed. This time I take the B660 for fun, the sun now above the horizon and the road carpeted with windblown tree debris. Fast and free, the Aston's in its element. Somehow the car silently communicates its preference for a smooth, Jenson Button-esque touch at the wheel rather than Mansellian flailings.

A new record
It's hardly surprising that a 630bhp V12 and empty roads might conspire to put a new time on the table for this oft-repeated journey. Nevertheless, it's drives like this that help forge a man/machine relationship (and have you paying above-average attention to the letters falling on the doormat for a fortnight afterwards).

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Aston Martin DB11 AMR

Price £178,495 (£209,350 as tested)
Performance 5204cc twin-turbo V12, 630bhp, 3.7sec 0-62mph, 208mph
Efficiency 24.8mpg (official), 21.6mpg (tested)
Energy cost 27.5p per mile
Miles this month 630
Total miles 3822


Month 2 living with an Aston Martin DB11: more than just an engine?

DB11 engine

The old adage that you bought a Ferrari for its engine and got the rest of the car free is equally applicable to Aston Martin, with Gaydon the Maranello of the Midlands. You can have the DB11 with a V8 in the nose, and I hear it's really rather good, but if there's even a faint chance anyone might compare your numbers with those of Ferrari's raging 812 Superfast, you're going to need all the engine you can lay your hands on.

The AMR's V12 is good for 630bhp, but for the first weeks of our time with the car the loud pedal didn't make it anywhere near the limit of its travel – there just wasn't the grip. On picking the car up from Gaydon, I spent some time talking to development engineer Matt Becker about tyres, mainly summers or winters. The latter are handy when you've one driven axle, more power than a star's incandescent core and snow on the ground, but the rest of the time they numb the experience like driving in oven gloves. So, we're on summer Pirellis. They're magnificent, but slimy roads and single-digit temperatures have meant we've spent much of our time well south of 4000rpm, working the 5.2's torque.

It's at these revs that we find a clash of philosophies between Aston and Ferrari. Maranello isn't a big fan of torque. The 812 doesn't have any, relatively speaking, and even Ferrari's V8s are torque-limited at lower revs, to try to make the F8 Tributo's turbo motor feel as rev-hungry and exciting as the old non-turbo 458's.

DB11 LTT bonnet open

Not Aston. 'Why turbos? Mainly, pressure-charging brings you a lot more torque a lot lower in the rev range,' former Aston CTO Ian Minards told me of the DB11's development. 'People buy power and drive torque, and the DB11's twin-turbo V12 had to drive like an Aston Martin engine; like there's a hand behind the car thrusting you forward.'

That is a good account of how it feels. In the winter's friction-free slime the Aston executed countless stealth overtakes using just a fraction of its might, the revs barely off tickover but the clean traction, equally clean throttle response and the engine's sheer grunt enough to glide effortlessly past slower traffic.

But who wants to use a fraction of a V12's might? The hours last summer when I merrily tucked into all that the then-new DBS Superleggera Volante's engine could give on hot, dry Spanish roads were beginning to feel like a long, long time ago.

But now the roads have dried, the gritters stopped making a corrosive mess and, when I chase the dog breathlessly through the woods under the very flattering auspices of 'going for a run', the forest floor is emerald green and tangy with the smell of wild garlic. And the AMR and I have now been to the redline a couple of times, wide open: scenes of jubilation. The noise, the serene savagery; truly this engine feels every inch the rare – and growing rarer – privilege that it is.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Aston Martin DB11 AMR

Price £178,495 (£209,350 as tested)
Performance 5204cc twin-turbo V12, 630bhp, 3.7sec 0-62mph, 208mph
Efficiency 24.8mpg (official), 19.1mpg (tested)
Energy cost 31p per mile
Miles this month 615
Total miles 3192


Month 1 living with an Aston Martin DB11 AMR: hello and welcome

DB11 LTT front tracking

‘I’d rather be in Leicestershire’ is not a slogan long overdue its own T-shirt but, when it comes to roads on which to really get to know a new car, it’s a truth with few exceptions. Tuscany, California, the south of France – they greedily hoard more than their fair share of the world’s great roads. But one of the greatest can be made to link the Midlands with south Lincolnshire, and in almost everything I find myself driving the thought pops up: ‘What would it feel like there?’ Among friends it’s known, with only mild exaggeration, as The Best Road Of All Time (TBROAT). 

One of many great things about that spring Thursday was the coming together of me, a DB11 AMR and TBROAT. Rain plumed from the Aston’s perfectly formed rear end and its endless nose swung this way and that over glassy, grip-free January tarmac. The pedal by which the V12 and I conversed was treated gingerly, and spent precisely no time buried in the carpet with carefree abandon. But it was still an entirely absorbing 20 minutes, and about the best way I can conceive of for starting to get to know this extraordinary car – a car that’ll be with us (well, me, let’s be honest) until summer’s banished January’s brittle chill to a distant memory.

So, why this Aston Martin? After all, 2020 marks both the 70th anniversary of the Vantage (the name first adorned a high-performance DB2 in the ’50s, with a high-comp engine and bigger carbs) and the seismic event that is the arrival of Aston’s very promising first SUV, the DBX. Both would be worthier machines for long-term stewardship, no? Well yes in the case of the DBX, but the idea is that Aston sells every DBX its new St Athan facility in Wales can make, rather than handing them out for months on end free of charge. And the Vantage? Lovely car, but the DB11 is surely peak Aston Martin; beautiful, almost practical, effortless, understated. 

Since its introduction, with Aston’s ‘down-sized’ twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12 under the bonnet, the DB11 has become a three-car range: the V8; the drop-top Volante; and the flagship V12 AMR. (There’s a flagship beyond the flagship, the DBS, but that’s re-bodied and a discrete model.) 

The AMR owes its existence to a conversation between CEO Andy Palmer, fresh from a thoroughly enjoyable drive in the then-new V8 DB11, and Aston Martin’s chief engineer Matt Becker.  

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Our Aston Martin DB11 comes in Skyfall Silver with AMR Lime Pinstripes. Mmmm

‘The original DB11 was a long way into development when I arrived,’ Becker tells me in a rare moment of down time at Aston Martin’s Gaydon HQ. (He’s busy putting the finishing touches to the DBX, mainly calibration of the electronics.)

‘The car wasn’t quite as connected as I wanted it to be; that sense of connection you want to the rear axle. When we did the V8 DB11 we made some chassis changes, not just because of the new engine but because I also wanted another go at the chassis. We increased the stiffness of the rear subframe and camber-link bushes. This boosted lateral support, for sharper steering, and at the same time we increased the low-velocity damper control, for more vertical support. The changes gave the sense of rear-axle connection I was after. 

‘Andy drove the V8 on the launch in Spain and told me he really liked the feel of it. I told him why, and that it’d be good to have another go at the V12. Next thing I know we’re in a conference call and Andy’s proposing the V12 AMR; more power and my V8 chassis tune. A five-minute conversation with Andy turned into a new model. It happens quite often.’

Our car isn’t brand new but it’s so ridiculously clean as it sits for my delectation in Gaydon’s customer suite that it might as well be. The specification – those faintly polarising stripes aside – is fabulous. Skyfall Silver perfectly showcases the immaculate surfacing and just-so creases over which design boss Marek Reichman’s team toiled those many months. And all the details that made such an impression when I first saw the DB11, way back in February 2016 – the machined muscularity to the car’s haunches; the origami around the rear lights; the slash-like vents aft of the front wheels – have refused to date.

In Gaydon, under lights and amid myriad paint and leather samples and a tiny Valkyrie cockpit buck, the AMR felt alien, unknown and way too clean. A couple of hours later, thanks to The Best Road Of All Time, it was none of those things.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Aston Martin DB11 AMR

Price £178,495 (£209,350 as tested)
Performance 5204cc twin-turbo V12, 630bhp, 3.7sec 0-62mph, 208mph
Efficiency 24.8mpg (official), 17mpg (tested)
Energy cost 41p per mile
Miles this month 445
Total miles 2577

The last time we lived with an Aston Martin: our DB9 long-term test

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three

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