Surely Aston Martin’s DB11 V8 supercar can’t hold a candle to its big V12 brother? You bet it can, says Simon de Burton...
While “less is more” is a little-heard phrase in the world of superyachts, it’s certainly one that’s being used more often when it comes to the engines that lurk beneath the bonnets of supercars. Bentley can claim to have started it all back in 2013 when it announced that a V8 version of its Continental GT would be offered alongside the existing W12 while, more recently, four-cylinder engine options have become available for the Ford Mustang, Jaguar F-Type and Porsche Cayman, to name but three sporting models.
It’s all part of a push towards “engine optimisation” that means smaller capacity motors are becoming more powerful, more economical and cleaner. And the latest marque to offer a downsized engine is Aston Martin, with the arrival of a V8 version of the gorgeous DB11 that broke cover last year as a V12.
The V12 is interesting in its own right as it represents the first use of turbocharging in a production Aston, a feature that helped the DB11 earn praise for its super-smooth and effortless performance. It remains a highly desirable option, but I reckon the addition of the new, four litre V8 makes the DB11 noticeably nimbler and lends it an edgier character that sets it apart from its more grand touring-orientated, bigger-engined brother.
Many Aston Martin enthusiasts will appreciate the historical significance of their favourite cars packing V8 engines, since it was the marque’s erstwhile engineer, Tadek Marek, who transformed the original, six-cylinder DBS of the 1960s by creating the now legendary, 5.3 litre V8 that went on to be used in numerous Astons from 1969 until 2000.
But the DB11’s V8 comes from an altogether different source, being the first fruit of a collaboration with Mercedes-AMG that was originally mooted in 2013. It is Aston’s powertrain experts, however, who tweak and tune the basic engine to give it the right sort of “feel”, sound and power delivery – and they’ve done a brilliant job, because the car is entirely docile at low speeds, but entirely thrilling when you want it to be. The fact that the V8 is also lighter than the V12 gives the new version almost perfect 50:50 front-to-rear balance, making the handling sharper, more predictable and more forgiving, too.
The DB11 V8 also gets a slightly more understated look, with fewer bonnet vents, darker headlamp surrounds and a different wheel finish. But the spectacular shape penned by chief creative officer Marek Reichman remains, complete with the Aeroblade rear vents that work like a virtual spoiler, channelling wind through discreet, side-mounted intakes and out through slots at the back to form a jet of disrupted air that reduces lift.
As a true driving machine, there can’t be many that are more rewarding, there are few that are better looking, hardly any that are better sounding – and possibly none more deserving of pulling up dockside by your superyacht.