2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8 first drive: Lighter is always better
By lopping off the front four cylinders and the 243 pounds they weighed, Aston Martin has lowered the DB11’s curb weight to 3,880 pounds, shifted the car’s balance rearward to 49/51 front/rear and brought the DB11 further from its luxury grand tourer roots and closer to the realm of the sports car.
Astons have always been beautiful to look at and comfortable to drive. Those with the V12s were also a little faster, more so in a straight line than around a corner. But I’ve always secretly preferred the V8s over the V12s. They’re lighter and more agile and who really needs all 12 cylinders?
Granted, you get to 62 mph a tenth of a second faster with the V12, and top speed is listed at 200 mph with the 12 versus a mere 187 with the eight. But come on.
As another great English sportscar maker allegedly said, “Add lightness.” Exactly how much lightness seems to be a matter for discussion. Look at 20 references and you’ll get 20 answers for what, exactly, the curb weight is for these two cars, as if Aston Martin execs were sort of making up curb weights each time they spoke to someone. I was told, and the official press release claims, that the V8 weighs 3880 pounds. An Aston engineer said that was “wet” curb weight, too, with all the oil, 90 percent of the gas and every drop of windshield washer fluid. Some Italian supercar makers list “dry” curb weights, which is like weighing in at the fat club after dehydrating yourself for a week in a sauna. The official press release says the V8 weighs 254 pounds less than the V12. But our engineer said it was 243 pounds less. I did not bring the scales with me when I drove it. Regardless, the V8 weighs about an eighth of a ton less.
The 503-hp V8 moves the balance rearward by two percent and lightens the DB11 by 243 pounds while giving up 97 hp to the V12.
The new engine is not simply an eight-cylinder version of the V12, either. Five percent of Aston Martin is owned by “technical partner” Mercedes-Benz. So the V8 is AMG’s mighty and venerable twin-turbo 4.0-liter. It starts as a powerplant shared with the base-model AMG GT and many products with “63” in their titles. Aston Martin then adds its own intake, exhaust and air/fuel algorithm to it so that it makes 503 horsepower and 498 lb-ft of torque.
The transmission is the same as the one attached to the Aston Martin V12, a paddle-shifted ZF eight-speed, and the final drive is the same, too. Outside, the only way to tell the two apart is by counting the hood vents –- four on the 12, two on the eight.
So how does it feel behind the wheel?
Senior dynamics engineer Ian Hartley was asked which he’d take if he had both V12 and V8 DB11s in his garage.
“If I was just going to the shops I’d take the V12, because you can really use the greater low-end torque, but if I was out for a sporty drive on good roads I’d take the V8.”
Sadly, there were no shops on the day of our drive. Luckily, there were many good roads. The only drawback was that Aston had us pair up for the drive, and the co-pilot I wound up with, a dear friend we’re always glad to see, might have more than canceled out the 243-or-so pounds of weight savings. This was a bit odd, considering the whole point of the drive was to show how much better the V8 is with 243 fewer pounds and then they add about that much in passenger. How am I supposed to know?
So let’s look at the math: a 3880-pound car with 503 hp has a ratio of 7.7 pounds per hp. Assuming the V12 weighs 4123 pounds and has 600 hp, the number is 6.9. So the V12 should be better, right?
Not necessarily. This may have been purely hallucinatory, but I swear the V8 DB11 felt lighter right away, passenger or no. Not just the throw-weight of the car, but the fact that it’s just a little better balanced. With the weight off the nose, the steering is lighter and feels quicker. Start cranking the wheel and the front end swings into line just a bit more rapidly than the V12 I had driven only weeks before (thank you, Aston Martin).
It’s a great way to ride off into the sunset…
After tiptoeing my way past many bicyclists, to whom I always give at least 3 feet and try to give more, I was on an empty road with nothing on it and had a chance to fling the V8 about. I tried all three Dynamic modes available: GT, sport and sport plus. These adjustments “…progressively intensify the response of the engine, transmission, electric power steering, torque vectoring by braking, and firmness of the adaptive damping.” As is often the case, it only felt right in GT mode. Cranking it up to sport or sport plus just made everything feel overboosted and touchy. This is particularly so on AMGs, in my opinion, but is often the case with other cars. I say set it up right one time and leave it alone.
In a straight line, acceleration is impressive. With only a tenth of a second separating the Vs 8 and 12, you may not need those extra four cylinders for most stoplight drag racing situations. I didn’t notice as much turbo lag as some have complained about. And the sound is delightful without being intrusive, much better than the higher-pitched cracking exhaust of this engine in an AMG.
So which to choose? I would agree with Engineer Hartley and chose the V8. The DB11 V8 is still in the category of luxury GT, but it fills that role very well. And it costs $17,500 less than its V12 sibling, as if that matters to anyone at this upper end of the stratosphere.
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $202,081
Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8; 8-speed automatic, RWD
Output: 503 hp, 498 lb-ft torque
Curb Weight: 3880 (mfg.)
0-60 MPH: less than 4.0 (mfg.)
Pros: Gorgeous to look at, lighter than the V12
Cons: May not impress the country club set as much as its heavier sibling