2017 Aston Martin DB11
The V-12 is a very old, very antiquated answer to a very old, enduring question: How do you make a lot of power smoothly with a reciprocating engine? Nowadays, with balance shafts and miniature-marvel computers, a turbo four-cylinder does a pretty good job, and more than one company makes a buttery V-8 that wouldn’t tip over a standing nickel. Add direct injection and turbos and you have V-12 power without the size, weight, and moving parts. But there’s just something about sitting behind—or in front of—two inline-sixes married at the crankshaft. The V-12 is the triple-axis tourbillon of an increasingly quartz engine world, and it delights us precisely because of its excessive parts count.
Oddly, Aston Martin considers itself a V-12 company, even though its most glorious David Brown era depended on inline-sixes. Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori won Le Mans behind one in 1959, and the straight-six served Aston well into the 1970s, when its attention turned to bulldog V-8s. The company didn’t get its first V-12 until 2001, a 5935-cc unit made by splicing together two Ford Duratec V-6s in a CAD program. Ferrari is a V-12 company; Lamborghini is a V-12 company; Jaguar is a V-12 company, though it hasn’t sold one in years. Aston Martin? Well.
But we’re willing to forgive this conceit, which issues from Aston CEO Andy Palmer, a recent refugee from the upper ranks of Nissan who has two ideal qualifications for his current position: He is an engineer, and he is British. Under Palmer, and with company ownership divided primarily among investment groups in Kuwait and Luxembourg plus Daimler AG, Aston Martin is a brand on the move. The new DB11 featured here is the first shot in a rapid-fire (for Aston, anyway) six-year product salvo intended to more than quadruple company output to 14,000 vehicles per year and put Aston on sturdy financial ground.
Leading is the middle child, the DB11, introducing an all-new riveted and adhesive-bonded aluminum platform that shifts the emphasis from extrusions to stampings to create more cockpit space. It’s due in U.S. showrooms before the end of the year with a base price of $214,820. Next year the new entry-level Vantage makes its debut with a V-8 from Mercedes-Benz, a dividend of Daimler’s 5 percent stake in Aston. A redesigned Vanquish appears in 2018 as the top-spec two-door car, the styling of both it and the Vantage intended to build greater separation between the poles of Aston’s sports-car lineup. Convertible versions of all three will follow. Read more...