Aston Martin DB11 AMR long-term test: some fresh opinions

Published: 21 December 2020

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

In the course of making the cover story for our 700th issue, the Aston spent time with CAR’s James Taylor and discerning enthusiast Peter Bullard. It left one as baffled as the other was lovestruck…

Peter Bullard, F40 owner
‘This opportunity to drive the DB11 AMR at Goodwood came almost exactly a year after I first drove a DB11, a non-AMR V12, also at Goodwood. I wasn’t impressed a year ago. The chassis rolled, it was mushy and there wasn’t much by way of tactility. The AMR’s undoubtedly a better car. It feels noticeably tighter, the steering is usefully weightier and the car’s sharper generally. But I still don’t really understand who – or what – it’s for. The interior’s claustrophobic, particularly given it is not a small car. It also isn’t much of an event – you don’t climb in and feel your pulse quicken as you do in, say, a Porsche 911 GT3 or a McLaren 720S.

‘I’m fortunate enough to own several cars and quite a few motorcycles but they all tick a box. The AMR doesn’t sparkle enough dynamically to make you want to take it on track or get up early on a Sunday morning for a drive, but it’d also be too irritating and compromised to really make sense on a long tour or used day-to-day.’

James Taylor, CAR’s features guru and handy racer
‘After two days I was unimpressed. But after two weeks I’d really fallen in love with it.

‘The big issues are the interior, particularly the quality. The motorised cubbyhole lid feels like it’s on its last legs and the infotainment’s poor, particularly the nav. But it’s a beautiful car to look at and to drive – particularly at speed. Around town the ride struggles but, with some speed and space to work with, the Aston really comes alive. The steering’s fast and the chassis really impressive with the dampers and traction control in their middling settings. The faster you go, the more the car makes sense.’

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), 18.6mpg (tested)
Energy cost 24.8p per mile
Miles this month 139
Total miles 6791

Month 7 living with an Aston Martin DB11: drowning in Astons


The postman always double-takes when he passes the end of our drive, and makes no attempt to hide his disgust if the value of the test car berthed there isn't at least two-thirds that of my house – or home to an engine with at least eight pistons. So imagine his delight when one morning the DB11 AMR he loves so dearly – and he really does; his tongue hangs out – was joined by a DBX.

While the DBX is more affordable on paper, with options both cars breach £200k. You'd expect the DBX to be more spacious, relaxing and all-weather capable. But more agile and quicker across country, too? Believe it. All the DBX needs now is a V12...

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), 18.6mpg (tested)
Energy cost 24.8p per mile
Miles this month 601
Total miles 6652

Month 6 living with an Aston Martin DB11: Brit rivalry

This month, we compared our Aston with our Bentley Continental GT V8, visiting the Goodwood race circuit.

Read more here

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), 18.6mpg (tested)
Energy cost 24.8p per mile
Miles this month 1434
Total miles 6051

Month 5 living with an Aston Martin DB11 AMR: fancy yours...

DB11 Mclaren

Much has changed since the innocent days of February; almost everything has changed, in fact. And one tiny change has been the way in which the test cars we book find their way into our expert, if slightly clammy, hands. Previously, we sat back and awaited a call from reception to say the car had arrived, either on a truck or through the kind assistance of a delivery driver. How spoiled we were.

For myriad reasons, not all of them interesting, we now tend to go and collect test cars from press offices. And this creates some interesting comparisons, in that we're now inadvertently testing two cars back-to-back, on the same day and probably on the same route; the one you drove down to swap, and the unfathomably clean test car you swap into.

This month, because I must have been basically Mother Teresa, Gandhi and Bob Geldof rolled into one in a previously life, the universe rewarded me with a day in which I drove the DB11 to McLaren's HQ at Woking and returned in a Silica White 720S.

The Aston lapped up the drive, proving entirely undemanding and most pleasant as we ticked off the two-hour journey. But while it may seem unfair to compare them, on price the Aston and the McLaren might – in some parallel universe of significant disposable income – be rivals for your affection.

In truth it's difficult to ignore the 720S, arguably the best car McLaren's yet built. Its mid-engined layout precludes rear seats, of course, and while the Aston's are virtually unusable, they do at least exist. Weirdly, luggage capacity isn't an easy win for the AMR – the DB11 has 280 litres to the McLaren's 208. And predictably the 720S is faster, more exhilarating (as you would expect of a supercar versus a GT) and somehow just as long-legged and pliant when you just want to get home, fast.

Perhaps, then, rather than being anathema, Aston Martin's mid-engined Vanquish will be just the ticket.

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), 18.6mpg (tested)
Energy cost 24.8p per mile
Miles this month 564
Total miles 4617

Month 4 living with an Aston Martin DB11 AMR: wanna be adored?

DB11 LTT railway

'Mate, sorry to bother you. Just wondered if I could take a picture of the car? Would that be okay? Honestly, it looks amazing.'

That was the postman, but when you drive a DB11 AMR in a spec as stride-haltingly beautiful as ours it happens wherever you go, and on a metronomically regular basis. This is a truly beautiful car – as it should be. The great Astons of the last century were also beautiful, and despite everything stacked against him and his team – regulations, production realities, cost control – with the DB11, Aston design boss Marek Reichman delivered a modern GT that is both contemporary and timeless. A car with the aesthetic chops to go toe-to-toe with a DB5 or DBR1.

Here, from a conversation I had with Reichman at Aston's Gaydon HQ, is some of the thinking that went into the DB11's knockout design – and what those flourishes means for you, the driver, when you're actually using the thing as a car, not just gazing at it like some kind of V12-engined objet d'art.

The never-ending bonnet
The theory: The vast shutline-free clamshell bonnet is one of the largest single aluminium panels in production. Somehow the V12 sits underneath. 'It's tight under there,' says Reichman. So tight the heads are recessed to take the struts of the under-bonnet cross-brace... In practice: You're very glad of the front parking sensors in tight spots but generally, somehow, Matt Becker's chassis tune makes for tight, agile handling that never feels hamstrung by the enormous V12 ahead of you.

DB11 LTT front

Hips don't lie (but do get stone-chipped...)
The theory: 'There's a real muscularity to the car,' says Reichman. 'The body has a pronounced Coke-bottle shape, with a dramatic flare out to the rear wheels – it's beyond the One-77, even.'In practice: Yes, it's a wide car (1940mm), but the DB11 never feels anything like as intimidating as, say, a big SUV such as the Bentley Bentayga (1998mm). Indeed, it's somehow easier to place than the Vantage (1942mm). But despite protective film, stones thrown up by the front tyres have made a mess of the rear wheelarches, where the aluminium flares out to the rear wheels aft of the doors.

A perfect silhouette
The theory: The DB11's fundamentally right proportions mean Reichman was able to resist the temptation to throw creases and features at it. 'The fashion is to have a lot of visual excitement cut into the surfaces – but that quickly dates. On the DB11, the visual excitement comes from the restrained embellishment of the proportions.' The big exception is the option to pick out the roof strakes in gloss silver or black on the V8 DB11. On the AMR you're restricted to black or nearly-black carbonfibre, and for good reason: it looks better. In practice: Legroom in the rear seats is abysmal for a car more than 4.7 metres long, as is a 270-litre boot (same as Alfa's Mito). But who cares?

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), 18.7mpg (tested)
Energy cost 27p per mile
Miles this month 231
Total miles 4053

Month 3 living with an Aston Martin DB11 AMR: swings and fast roundabouts

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