The Aston Martin DB11 V8 is proof that good things do indeed come in smaller packages.
Not that you would call a twin-turbocharged V8 small, but when you compare it to the 5.2-litre biturbo V12 that’s also used in the DB11 coupé, the old mantra shines brightly.
Regardless of engine, the DB11 is a huge improvement over the older generation of Aston Martins, being lighter, stiffer and more spacious inside.
But it wasn’t until I was mid-hustle, wrestling the V8 through some nice back roads in Spain, listening to that V8 burble and pop and feeling its fingertip light response, that I started to wonder if it was worth paying another Dhs210,000 ($57,000) for the V12 on top of the Dhs840,000 ($229,000) for this V8?
After 300kms of driving, I found the baby in the range is, for me, the better option.
The DB11 V8 is a watershed car for Aston Martin as it’s the first of many which will come to market showing the new collaboration between Aston and its five per cent owner, Daimler.
Not only are the electrics and in-car entertainment taken from the Mercedes-AMG range but so to is its 4-litre V8 turbo engine that you would recognise under the hood of the ‘63’ range of AMG products as well as the AMG GT coupé.
Not only is the AMG motor 115kg lighter than the V12, but it also sits back behind the front axle making it a front, mid-mounted car for better weight distribution.
Conveniently, the weight percentage figures have swapped around with the V8 now having a 51:49 per cent ratio rear to front as opposed to the V12 that carries 51 per cent of its weight in the nose.
Another benefit of the lighter front end is that Aston Martin’s engineers could go easier on the brakes and suspension by softening the front springs a touch as well as going for smaller front brake calipers and pistons.
This cuts down on the crucial unsprung weight that is essential to offering a more direct feel through the steering as well as reducing the necessary pedal travel.
The knock-on effect is that this allowed the engineers to develop a slightly quicker steering rack which made the tighter parts of our mountain drive a whole lot more fun.
It made it easier to measure the grip from the front tyres, which gave me more confidence to push on through corners knowing I could read the front end’s intentions nicely when near the limit.
Aston claims the DB11 V8 will accelerate from 0–100kmh in less than 4.0 seconds and has a top speed of 300kmh, so I doubt you’d feel the effects of having 97 fewer horses and 24 less newton metres under the hood compared to the V12.
I think in anyone’s book, 503bhp and 675Nm of torque, which is still about the same as Mercedes-AMG GT S coupe, is enough for most.
Aston has done a great job in personalising the AMG engine and giving it a distinctive note that’s very different from the overly bassy tones used in the Mercedes cars.
While not sounding like the old Vantage either which had a raucous NASCAR-type resonance at high rpm, the DB11 V8 has its own charm helped by new induction and exhaust systems compared to the Mercedes.
It also gets bespoke Bosch ECU programming and a wet sump instead of the dry sump used on the Mercedes-AMG GT.
The eight-speed ZF transmission and final drive ratio is straight from the V12 but the paddles have 50 per cent shorter travel which, when you’re talking milliseconds, speeds up the gear shifting process.
Aside from the obviously missing V12 badge on the side, the V8 loses two bonnet vents and it gets smoked headlamp bezels and different alloy wheels, while inside, it’s identical to the V12.
The only real tell-tale signs of Aston’s AMG assistance are from the infotainment system with its Mercedes mouse pad in the centre and a display screen.
The DB11 V8 is probably the most driver focussed car in its class with the exception perhaps of the AMG GT for obvious reasons but otherwise, it’s the most rewarding big dollar GT currently on the road.