Road car news

Aston unveils DB11

Crucial newcomer gets 600bhp turbo V12 | by Andrew Frankel

Aston Martin has unveiled the new DB11, by some margin its most important new car in more than a dozen years. Indeed you might argue it is the company’s first genuinely all-new car since the launch of the DB9 in 2003. 

Featuring a new structure – albeit still using sections of bonded extruded aluminium – dramatic looks, a recently developed engine and, at last, state-of-the-art telematics, the DB11 breaks fresh ground for Aston Martin in almost every area.

Most notably it is the first turbocharged Aston Martin in the company’s history, though supercharging was used for both the DB7 and Virage-based Vantage. The V12 motor is believed to owe its origins to the 5.9-litre engine used in the DB7 and DB9 and all other 12-cylinder Astons, but it has been completely redesigned and its capacity reduced to 5.2 litres. 

Even with modest turbo boost, its output is a genuine 600bhp, a figure matched in Aston history only by the Vantage 600 of 1998 and beaten by the One-77 hypercar alone. It provides a chunky 90bhp leap in power over the outgoing DB9, not to mention far more torque at a fraction of the revs. This is enough to reduce the 0-62mph time from 4.6sec to 3.9sec, one scant tenth of a second slower than the current flagship Vanquish. Top speed leaps from a gearbox-limited 183mph to a proper 200mph. These power, acceleration and top speed figures all trump those offered by its most obvious immediate rival, the W12-powered Bentley Continental GT.

To go with such potential, Aston Martin claims to have completely redesigned the suspension and steering, employing the latest adaptive damping and torque vectoring limited-slip differential to ensure the DB11 has far broader ride and handling capabilities than its forebears. The dynamic sign-off was done by Matt Becker, recently recruited from Lotus where he earned a stellar reputation for chassis tuning. The DB11 is also the first Aston to use electric power steering, none of which from any manufacturer has yet proven able to improve upon the feel of hydraulics.

Inside, the DB11 continues the theme of the exterior by offering distinctly avant-garde styling but within a reassuringly traditional setting. So the car remains a two-plus-two, but with far superior claimed rear head and legroom, slathered in high-quality leather but with information presented on funky TFT screens with telematics provided as the first fruits of Aston’s technical association with Mercedes-Benz. Although some styling cues remain from older Astons, such as the line of primary push buttons across the dash, the impression is that of a car leaping not just one but at least two generations in both technology and the way it is displayed. Refinements include a touchpad allowing character recognition, automatic parking and a 360-degree view. In these regards and many more, the DB11 makes all previous Astons appear distinctly stone-aged.

At the time of writing details are still to emerge: we don’t know its kerb weight but its dry 1770kg suggests it may be up to 100kg heavier than a DB9, and there is no news as yet of the Volante version to come. But it is clear that the new 5.2-litre engine is in a very gentle state of tune and that outputs above the 700bhp now needed for access to the supercar premiership are well within its grasp.

The new Aston Martin DB11 goes on sale in the autumn, at a basic price of £154,900, a leap of some £20,000 over the outgoing DB9. A huge rise, yes, but if the car proves to be as good as its massively enhanced specification suggests, one that is entirely justified.


Bentley revises Mulsanne

Aston Martin is not the only premium manufacturer to have been hard at work. Up in Crewe, Bentley has given its Mulsanne flagship the most comprehensive update of its life to date.

Easily spotted by its all-new frontal styling, the Mulsanne is now a range of cars featuring the standard offering, the 530bhp Mulsanne Speed and an Extended Wheelbase version with a 250mm stretch to provide additional rear legroom. A new back seat has extendable rests for what is claimed to be first-class airline-style comfort.

Bentley claims the Extended Wheelbase Mulsanne to be “the most generously proportioned pinnacle luxury limousine in the world”, suggesting somewhat bullishly that it is also, “by far the most comfortable way to travel on four wheels”. That claim is likely to be contested by Rolls-Royce, among others.

Other modifications common to all Mulsannes include new seats, door-trims and armrests, a new touchscreen information and entertainment centre and glass switchgear. First deliveries of the new Mulsanne range begin in the summer at prices yet to be announced.

At the same time Bentley will also put on sale an S version of the extant Flying Spur V8, complete with a 20bhp upgrade to the hitherto 500bhp V8 Spur, reducing the 0-62mph time from 5.2 to 4.6sec and raising the top speed from 183mph to 190mph. Firmer suspension settings and enhanced styling, such as a black radiator grille and rear diffuser, complete the picture.


Alpine brand relaunched

More than 20 years since the name was last used, Renault has relaunched the Alpine brand with an all-new concept car called Alpine Vision. This is claimed by its creators to be “very close” to the production car that will be revealed at this autumn’s Paris Motor Show, in time to go on sale next year.

The Alpine Vision is a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive coupé, strikingly similar in appearance to the gorgeous A110 that established the reputation of the Alpine brand in the 1960s. Details of the new car’s mechanical specification are unavailable, but it is believed to be powered by a transverse 2-litre four-cylinder engine, turbocharged to provide between 250-300bhp. More significantly, Alpine has hinted it will weigh about 1100kg, so it seems clear that the car will have the raw performance to justify its illustrious name.

The car is likely to come with a paddle-shift semi-automatic gearbox and a price tag of about £40,000, allowing it to undercut its most obvious rival, Alfa Romeo’s beautiful but seriously flawed 4C.

But for Alpine this is just the start. Renault regards the launch as that of a new marque and has hinted that other cars will bear the Alpine name in future. Most likely and obvious is a roadster version, but talk of even an Alpine SUV has not been denied.

Alpine’s history started in the mid-1950s, but it was the A110 – and its triumph in the inaugural World Rally Championship in 1973 – that really brought the name to prominence. However, the latest chapter of the Alpine story snapped shut in 1995, when it stopped producing the excellent A610. That car’s failure owed everything to the public’s unwillingness to pay junior supercar money for a plastic Renault and nothing about the car’s immense talent and genuine charm. 


New Ferrari, old labels

Ferrari has exhumed not one but two of the names in its archive to describe the comprehensively facelifted FF 2+2 coupé. Now known as the 365GTC4 Lusso, it evokes the memory of both the gorgeous but underrated 365 GTC/4 and also, of course, the original Lusso, the last of the 250GT line before it was replaced by the 275GTB in 1964.

The new Lusso uses slightly softened lines compared to the FF it replaces, but has been upgraded in all important areas. The power of the 6.3-litre V12 goes from 651bhp to 680bhp, its 0-62mph time of 3.4sec now 0.3sec faster than before, though its 208mph top speed remains both unchanged and sufficient.

Perhaps more significantly, the Lusso also now features four-wheel steering, like that already found in cars such as the Porsche 911 Turbo. In theory at least the system improves agility at low speeds, by turning the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts and effectively shortening the wheelbase, and high-speed stability by turning in the same direction.

Visually there are new, more contemporary headlights at the front and a pair of smaller lamps either side at the rear, in place of the FF’s single units.

There is as yet no news on pricing, but is inevitably going to be at least a little more expensive than the £226,000 asked for the FF. Given that £25,000 is actually quite a modest option spend by typical V12 Ferrari customer standards, most transactions will take place north of £250,000.