2019 Aston Martin DB11 AMR first drive review: Going past 11

The new Aston Martin DB11 is so freshly rebooted they're still a rarity on the roads, and yet that hasn't stopped the company from iterating quickly to fill the many niches its previous generation occupied. It all started with the V12, of course, then came the V8 before the drop-top Volante. Three flavors in just over a year, and now here comes the fourth. It's the new $241,000 Aston Martin DB11 AMR. This version is faster and sharper than before, but can it still fill the many needs of the grand tourer? I headed out to Germany to find out.

A delicate balance

The modern DB11 is meant to be the quintessential grand tourer. That is, a car that's big and comfortable, yet fast and unabashedly gorgeous. These cars must turn heads and excite senses yet also hoover up big miles effortlessly. Covering all those bases is an incredibly difficult task, yet it's one that the original DB11 does remarkably well. Arguably, the follow-up V8 flavor does even better.

So where do you go from there? Well, you get faster, of course, but adding speed to a car like this can't be done at the expense of any of the other pieces that make up the whole. And so, despite AMR standing for Aston Martin Racing, this is absolutely not a gutted-out, lightweight, back-breaking, race-ready version of the DB11. The changes are far more subtle than that.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it starts with the engine. Aston Martin turned up the wick (or, indeed, flipped some bits in the software) on the twin-turbo, 5.2-liter V12. Horsepower is up from 600 to 630, while the already-healthy 516 pound-feet of torque stays unchanged.

Aston Martin DB11 AMR

30 more ponies lurk here.

Max Earey/Aston Martin

This is not a huge boost by any means, but then again, anyone attempting to improve the Mona Lisa would be advised to use subtle strokes. The up-rated motor is connected to a saucier exhaust that'll burble and cough and make all the right noises you'll want when you have the car set on its most aggressive mode, S+. And, indeed, outside the car it sounds just that bit more edgy than before even at idle. But, dial the mode back down to GT and the exhaust delivers the refined blend you'd expect from a DB11.

The suspension carries many of the subtle tweaks first found in the V8, now carrying forward here, plus a front anti-roll bar thickened ever so slightly to improve body control. More significantly, the car switches from cast to forged aluminum wheels, saving about eight pounds per corner. The stability and traction control systems were also adjusted to provide quicker, more progressive response.

Beyond the above, it's mostly an appearance package, with the car's copious brightwork receiving the dark treatment, giving the DB11 AMR a more subtle look that I far prefer to the original. There's carbon fiber everywhere, starting with the interior inserts and continuing to the rear splitter and exhaust tips. And, if you really want to make a mark, you can step up to the Signature Edition, which adds even more carbon and that striking line of Lime Essence up the nose. But, move quick, as only 100 of those will be made.

Taking it to the strasse

Push the starter and the DB11's 5.2-liter, twin-turbo V12 barks to life just as before and, within a few seconds of pulling out of Aston Martin Racing's Nurburgring-side facility, it was clear the new DB11 AMR is a bit more of an eager dance partner than its predecessor. The 295/35 ZR20 Bridgestone S007 rear tires spun up quickly on the cold, German asphalt, kicking the car's tail out despite the traction control being on and me not even approaching half-throttle.

That said, beyond that initial exuberance, with the suspension and transmission set in their most comfortable modes, the car felt, as near as I could tell, exactly like the DB11. It's only when you dial up the aggression by cycling through the engine and suspension modes that the differences, though subtle, begin to come out. The eight-speed automatic transmission now shifts much aggressively, holding gears even after you've hit the rev-limiter and downshifting as you brake to enter a corner. However, it did seem to be hunting for gears when I was part-throttle through turns and, like on the base car, I still found it a bit sluggish to respond to my commands via the paddles.

Thankfully, those paddles feel far more engaging than they did on the first DB11, as the AMR has received the same tweaks I felt on the V8. The paddles still have a very long throw, but they don't feel nearly as vague as on the original V12 model. So, too, the brake feel is vastly improved over before, though a large amount of pedal travel is still required before the stopping starts.

But the steering is sweet and the handling rewarding for such a large car. It is impeccably planted and nimble, and while I'd say the V8 is probably still the swifter of the two, turning your back on that 630-horsepower V12 will not be easy -- especially when burbling away in S+.

Aston Martin DB11 AMR

Just like the original, only a little more.

Max Earey/Aston Martin

Wrap-up

At $241,000, or about over $20,000 more than the base V12 Aston Martin, the DB11 AMR is a bit of a curious proposition. Those truly wanting a distinctive, faster, more engaging car should just go buy the new Vantage, which may not feature the outright speed of the DB11, but is definitely the more driver-oriented beast. Meanwhile, the base DB11, in either V12 or V8 flavors, is lacking neither in thrust nor refinement.

The AMR, then, is for the buyer who wants a little bit more oomph and a bit more visual refinement without spoiling the overall packaging that makes the DB11 so very good.

It's still very much a DB11, just dialed up another notch.


Editors' note: Roadshow accepts multiday vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews. All scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms. However, for this feature, the manufacturer covered travel costs. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists.

The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's editorial team are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.

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