Building a beast: How Aston Martin produces the astonishing DB11

From CNET Magazine: See how skilled workers and advanced robotics come together to produce the stunning, new high-performance supercar from the iconic British brand.

Andrew Lanxon
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
Andrew Lanxon
1 of 28 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Meet the Aston Martin DB11.

It's the latest supercar from the iconic British motoring brand, and it's an absolute monster of a car. At its heart is a meaty V12 engine, which propels it from zero to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds, and then on to a top speed of 200 mph -- all while looking heart-achingly beautiful.

Not bad for $212,000.

It takes over 600 Aston Martin engineers a total of 220 hours between them to produce just one car, and at full capacity, the factory can complete 15 shiny new DB11s in one day.

The DB11 build process takes place inside Aston Martin's 754,000-square-foot facility in Warwickshire, just outside Birmingham, England. I went inside this facility to see how skilled human workers, highly precise robots and an exacting eye for detail come together to produce these amazing machines.

This story appears in the spring 2017 edition of CNET Magazine. For other magazine stories, click here.

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The build process takes place here: inside Aston Martin's 754,000-square foot (70,000 square metres) facility in Warwickshire.

Here, you can see a variety of car bodywork panels, painted and ready for fitting on top of the chassis.

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The car begins its life as a bare aluminium chassis, welded together by both human technicians and robots. Automated robotic arms apply superstrong adhesives used to strengthen the joins in the chassis panels.

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The adhesive is incredibly strong but very lightweight -- it's toxic stuff though, so I had to wear protective gear while inside this part of the factory.

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Next, this robot "vice" pushes the parts together and holds them tight while they're secured in place with the adhesive.

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Multiple automated sewing machines create the attractive quilted effect on the real leather used on the DB11's seats. Each machine has four stitching heads so it can produce the effect on multiple batches of leather at once -- each one perfectly identical to the others.

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While much of the stitching and leather perforation is done by machines, the smaller, trickier sections are done by hand to ensure the best finish possible.

It takes around 7 hours to do all the stitching for just one DB11.

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The seats start out as these wire frames, which are quickly filled with the electronics needed to move them into your preferred driving position, as well as to heat them, and of course the all-important padding before being expertly wrapped in leather.

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Workers assemble the centre console of the car by hand, too. Here, a firm fist is all that's needed to properly seal the joins of the console panels.

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Numerous boxes full of spare parts are scattered all over the facility.

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Before the dashboard is put in place, all the correct wiring must be threaded throughout the vehicle. An astonishing 1.6 miles of wiring goes into every car, connecting numerous components including the lights, the stereo and the internal heating. The center console, which includes the instrument panels and touchscreen entertainment and GPS unit, is assembled by hand separately and simply slots into place.

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With the leather trim around the dashboard in place, the interior is starting to take shape.

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The bare metal body panels of the car are sanded by hand ahead of painting. Sanding the metal makes the surface rougher, which helps the base coat of paint adhere more easily.

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The bodywork is painted by a nimble robot spraying arm that can reach all angles of the car quickly and, more importantly, give a very even coat of paint. Aston Martin uses 3 gallons of paint on each DB11 for the base color and the clear coats of gloss that are applied on top.

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The paintwork is then given an extremely thorough check under special lights that will show even the smallest of imperfections -- when you're paying this much for a car, you obviously want every bit to be absolutely perfect.

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Any imperfections that are found are sanded down by hand to ensure that a smooth coat of paint can be reapplied.

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The doors are prepared on a separate construction line. Once painted, the glass windows, along with the electronics required to control them are inserted into each one before the doors are attached to the finished car.

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It's time for critical internal components like the exhaust unit to be put in place.

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The V12 engine looks absolutely huge when you see it outside of the car.

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The drivetrain is also built separately from the car, before being moved into position later. It includes parts such as the engine, the radiator, the axles and the brakes -- essentially, all the bits that make the car actually go forward.

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The car is hoisted in the air to allow the drivetrain to be secured into place, along with components like the fuel tank, and all the piping needed to connect them all together.

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A lovely big box of exhaust parts, all stacked up ready to be used.

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Now that the panels have been painted and the drivetrain is in place, the car is beginning to look like a finished machine.

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The wheels -- with the extrawide racing tires for grip -- are among the last pieces to be put in place, before the finished vehicle is moved through to a quality inspection.

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The 20-inch wheels look awesome.

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The cars are close to rolling off the production line now.

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Each car is checked for any imperfections in the paintwork or the overall build quality. Technicians use measuring tools to check that the tiny gaps between the car's panels are all even across the car to the company's exacting standards -- if they're not, they're simply sent back to be redone.

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After the DB11 has passed its quality inspection, it's time for the most important finishing touch: fixing in place the famous Aston Martin wings badge.

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