Making something feel innately familiar while also breathtakingly new is a clever trick. Given time, skill and sophisticated design language, it’s possible to build on the past without having to look back. That approach is effectively demonstrated in Aston Martin’s new DB11, a car tasked with both continuing a long-running dynasty and setting a new technological and performance benchmark with which to take the company forward after a long period of relative inactivity. The DB line can be traced all the way back to David Brown’s DB2 of 1950, moving up through the DB2/4, DB4, DB5, DB6, then after a long hiatus, the DB7, DB9 and now DB11 (DB10 being assigned to a client called Sam Mendes for a certain film project in 2015).
The DB11 is sufficiently different to mark a sharp break from Aston’s recent past. It shares the same basic proportions as its forebears, chiefly because AM is so well versed in the mathematical dissection of beauty – the vivaciousness of a curve, the seduction of a surface and the innate rightness of the golden section. Yet apart from that, everything – bar a switch or two – is entirely new. The DB11 is the first physical manifestation of Aston Martin's new generation, the synthesis of essential proportions with new, more angular and expressive forms, rather than just the flowing curves of old.
There’s no place for hard or soft options in this fiercely contested market sector, where your choice of car is bolstered as much by your buy-in to the brand and the image you’d like to project. Aston owners see themselves as a singular breed, and the company has evolved to cater for every taste, while simultaneously holding a steady tiller for a timeless evocation of the best of British design and technology. So you can spec your DB11 through AM’s bespoke ‘Q’ Division, or chose between five special launch editions, each of which has been put together by Marek Reichman’s design department to emphasise different aspects of the car.
The mix of tradition and technology is a balancing act that few others achieve. Yet as well as being light years ahead of its predecessors in terms of interior technology, ergonomics and general sophistication, the DB11 delivers innovation without sacrificing the tactile delights of leather and Alcantara, the feel of hand-machined metal and the overall ambience of tailor-made perfection.
Get behind that wheel and you’re rewarded with excellent visibility, the glorious – but not overly intrusive – sound of that 5.2l V12 and steering that helps hustle this sizeable car along with confidence and poise. Having driven practically every Aston in the modern era, there’s a comforting familiarity but also a more sophisticated, less bruising approach to power delivery. Like all the best GTs, the DB11 can flick between all-out sports car to smooth-riding cruiser depending on your mood and the surroundings and the much-improved tech runs to an all-new entertainment system and gadgets like self-parking. This is classic elegance without compromise.
Over time, a Volante droptop will be launched, as will other variants. But just like the DB9 before it, there’s much to cherish in the simple purity of the DB11 as it is at launch. A noble lineage continues, and the DB badge will take Aston far into the future.