It’s the car marque of dreams (and Hollywood folklore): Aston Martin cars have been super-cool ever since James Bond fired up an Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger. While Britain’s top spy has also driven an Aston Martin DBS, an Aston Martin V12 Vanquish and even the Aston Martin DB10 (made specially for Spectre) he’s so far yet to drive Aston Martin’s latest super car, the DB11.
So move over JB – it was time for me to ditch my £1,000 Fiat 600 and head to South Devon for a week in what is most definitely the coolest (and most expensive) car I’ve ever driven. So what’s it actually like driving an £150,000 Aston Martin DB11?
For a start, I’d never driven a car that roared before.
‘It’s all about that sound,’ said the man from Aston Martin as he delivered the DB11. He was only half-joking. ‘People know about all the specs of a car like this and what it can do, but what what really gets them is that sound.’
With the Aston Martin DB11 coming with a starting price of £150,000, that’s a lot to pay for a roar, but when I heard it for the first time, I too was hooked. (Aston Martin itself calls it a howl, but it’s definitely a roar). The DB11 is too cool for car keys, of course, so with your foot on the brake pedal, you press the big button in the middle of the car with the Aston Martin logo on it, and the car will start. With a ROAR. There’s first a pause – which builds up the anticipation – and then it roars like a tiger. Or a jet engine. Or anything which is cool and exciting.
I did this so often on my driveway that I thought my neighbours would start complaining. Still in the driveway, I filmed the roar, hoping to turn it into my ring tone. (I haven’t yet). And then, best of all, I discovered that the engine cuts out in stationary traffic to save fuel, so when the traffic moves and you put your foot on the gas, the engine comes back to life and the car will roar again, but this time where everyone can see and hear you. Heads will turn. You start seeing the upside to bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Now, with a 4-litre V8 engine (you can also get your DB11 with a twin-turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 engine making it the most powerful DB production model in Aston Martin’s history), the DB11 wants to do far more than crawl along, which makes driving it on the motorway is both thrilling and terrifying. It’s thrilling because a car which accelerates from 0-60 mph in four seconds (it actually seems less than that) is unbelievably exciting and terrifying because you can be going at 70 mph (the top legal speed in the UK) and feel like you’ve barely got going.
Rather than going to Germany to hit the DB11’s top speed of 187mph I got my thrills from seeing cars which had been driving so close to me they were practically sitting in the Aston’s back seats suddenly become distant specks in the rear view mirror as I accelerated away from junctions or roundabouts – it was like when the Millennium Falcon jumps into light speed.
Now, while the Aston Martin DB11 is a great-looking car – all smooth lines and low-slung curves – it isn’t overly flashy in the way of other cars – and so I hadn’t expected to cause much of a stir on the roads. How wrong was I? Heads turned everywhere – and I mean everywhere we went (the Aston Martin and I were a team now). I’d go to pay for petrol and return to find a cluster of men (always men) standing round the car at a respectful distance.
‘Is this your car?’ one would venture and then they’d proceed to tell me all about how they’d dreamed of owning an Aston Martin since they were a child. People were even taking pictures of it as we drove along the motorway and just driving down the High Street you could see heads turn. At a Burns Night dinner at one hotel I sat next to a woman who said she could barely drag her husband inside as he’d spotted an Aston Martin in the car park. (I let him sit in it for pictures and he was beside himself with joy). At the end of the evening a girl nearly left in the taxi on her own as her boyfriend was unable to tear himself away from drooling over the car. If you drive this car then you will feel like a celebrity – or at least like someone who drives a celebrity car, as there’s no question who is the star here.
Once you’ve got over the alarm of driving a car which is so powerful (and so expensive), it is easy to let the Aston Martin pretty much drive itself if it’s in automatic Grand Tourer mode. However if you want to take control you can easily switch to manual and change across its eight gears with the steering wheel paddles (the car will politely hint what gear you should be in if it thinks you’ve got it wrong) and there are Sports and Sports Plus mode if you’re feeling particularly energetic.
In practical terms – and you would never buy an Aston Martin DB11 on practical terms – the boot can just about fit a suitcase in but that’s about it, the back seats are so tiny that I’m no sure who apart from children would be able to sit in them, there’s no glove compartment, limited space in the doors and not enough space to put things like keys and phones which I was always losing inside the car. But as I say, those things would be of no concern to the type of person who would buy this car.
The car is fitted with sensors all around to make sure you don’t crash into anything (the bonnet goes on forever and dips down so you can’t actually see where it ends) but these did seem a little oversensitive when it came to driving along narrow Devonshire lanes where the hedges pressed in from both sides (there was a lot of beeping).
However all the mod cons are there, from heated seats and voice-activated sat nav to hands-free calls via the entertainment system and I was delighted there was still a CD player installed – obviously there was only one choice of music…
Handing the DB11 back was a wrench – my Fiat 600 might have its own charms but after the opulence of the Aston Martin DB11 it felt as if I were driving a boxy homemade go-cart with a hairdryer for an engine. And I still miss that roar…