Being an anonymous middle-aged man, it’s not often that a squeal of teenage girls reacts to me with literal slack-jawed adulation. But, if you want to know what it feels like to be Justin Bieber, without the pain of having to actually be Justin Bieber, buy Aston Martin’s new DB11 while there aren’t many on the streets.
I’m self-aware enough to know it wasn’t me, even if, at the time, I was wearing the famous person’s disguise of choice – a pair of sunglasses and baseball cap. And while the grille – designer Marek Reichman’s favourite part of the car – nods to the legendary DB5 of James Bond fame, I’m pretty sure this bunch would more likely think Goldfinger was an exotic ailment before they’d be quoting Blofeld.
And yet, there they were as I parked up, looking my motor up and down and literally mouthing, in slow motion, “Oh. My. God.” As Reichman puts it, even he has not known reactions of the like inspired by the DB11. “It’s a frenzy,” he says. Or, as my pizza delivery guy noted: “Now that is beautiful”. And he wasn’t talking about his deep pan crust.
It is not easy to say why the DB11 achieves such instant adulation any more than any other Aston Martin – a company known for privileging proportion even over engineering necessity, resulting in uncommonly elegant machines. But it looks to be that way. Finding myself down a narrow road and head to head with an orange Lamborghini – stylistically the polar opposite of an Aston – even its driver nodded approval, letting me through first. Anyone who has seen the recent remake of The Magnificent Seven – in which one scene riffs on the western movie trope of the music stopping when the badass walks into the saloon – will experience its automotive equivalent.
It’s not just the 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 that announces the DB11’s arrival. That would feel like cheating, even if Aston Martin says it has put a lot more into giving it a distinctive sonic identity, right down to the chime of warnings and the click of buttons. No, it’s the lines. The DB11’s profile falls and rises like a wave. This Aston Martin is nipped in at the waist, unlike most Aston Martin drivers. The bonnet rakes, the side vents, the wheels’ retro-futuristic spokes, the stylish scoop under the C pillar, all suggest forward motion. This looks to be a beefier Aston Martin – not a muscle car perhaps, but an extremely “cut” car maybe. Sadly, for anyone not inside a DB11, all this is lost on them.
The DB11 represents a sea change in design language for Aston Martin precisely because, more than ever before, here form does follow function.
Perhaps Aston Martin buyers are in love with the heritage, or the cinematic associations. How many connect with the brand for its holistic technology? Yet the DB11 deserves some kind of leather-bound swing tag explaining just why it looks the way it looks, and what went into that, because the wonder of the car is all the more enhanced for the knowing.
Take the roof strake, for example, flowing in an unbroken line from A to C pillar thanks to a process of extruding – then stretching, pressing, laser cutting, polishing and anodising. Or the clamshell bonnet. It’s made, with equal effort and ingenuity, from pressed aluminium, allowing for a minimum of interrupting breaks to its lines while also having energy absorbency properties that make it better for anyone who ends up an accidental hood ornament. There’s the re-engineered fuel tank, which leaves more room in the boot for the pram – and I suggest this, or rather Aston does, because this is the company’s first 2+2 with Isofix. Maybe Bond is about to settle down.
Most striking is that sculptural scoop by the C pillar. Aston Martin is calling this the AeroBlade and it’s an idea the company has not been slow to patent. It takes in air here, moves it through ducts that pass within the body of the car, churns them up and lets them out at the back. While anyone without a doctorate in aerodynamics is mooning over the look of the thing, it’s reducing rear lift. In other words, it’s a spoiler, without the need of the kind of actual physical spoiler that turns beauty into boy racer.
The DB11 is not all perfect. If you had to complain – really had to – one might be tempted to note that the restraint of the exterior is not matched by the interior. As Aston Martin notes proudly, inside you can find quilting, perforation, contrast stitching – everything except ruching and a pie crust collar. There’s even some brogueing, which may be Aston Martin overplaying its Britishness a tad too far. But then it’s roomier than most comparable Aston Martins and easier to get in or out of – another nod perhaps to the fact that its customers may not be as limber as the car they’re trying to get in or out of. And its centre console pad, by which you can “write” the destination address into satnav, feels like a useful safety feature. It’s one more way you can keep your eyes on the road. And with acceleration like this, you really want to keep your eyes on the road.
“We’re lost,” one lucky if frankly snidey passenger said to me when the navigation system appeared to have sent us somewhat round the houses. But, as I told her, you can’t get lost in a car like this. It doesn’t really matter where you’re going or how long it takes to get there. It’s just a pleasure to be in one, even if people think you are Justin Bieber.