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2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8 First Drive

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 9/26/2017 Motor Trend Staff
2018-Aston-Martin-DB11-V8-front-01.jpg 2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8 First Drive

Compared with the V-12-powered car that launched the all-new DB11 range last year, the 2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8 has four fewer cylinders, develops 97 hp less, and its torque output falls short by 18 lb-ft. And it's the better car for it.

The DB11 V8 looks virtually identical to its gorgeous V12 powered sibling. But under that thrusting hood is one of our favorite engines—the thundering 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 developed by AMG, whose parent company, Daimler, owns a 5 percent stake in Aston Martin. Codenamed M178, this engine is a versatile yet charismatic workhorse, powering all versions of the AMG GT coupe, as well as the 63-series AMG versions of Mercedes sedans, coupes, wagons, and SUVs, with outputs ranging from 469 hp to more than 600 hp.

In DB11 trim the engine makes 503 hp and 498 lb-ft of torque, about the same output it delivers when fitted in the Mercedes-AMG GT S coupe. Changes made by Aston engineers include a new intake system, new engine mounts, a new slim-line wet sump, unique engine mapping, and a new exhaust system. Aston claims the DB11 V8 will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4.0 seconds and has a top speed of 187 mph.

OK, the DB11 V8 is a tenth or two slower to 60 than its 12-cylinder sibling, and it won't hit 200 mph. And none of that matters because for the overwhelming majority of DB11 owners, those are utterly abstract numbers. What does matter is the M178 reduces the weight over the DB11's front axle by 253 pounds when compared with Aston's own 5.2-liter twin-turbo V-12. It matters because you can feel it every day.

© Motor Trend Staff

From the very first corner you notice the steering seems more responsive than in the DB11 V12. Less weight over the front axle helps, but the 2 percent rearward shift in weight distribution means the yaw center of the car—the vertical axis about which it turns—is more rearward, closer to where you sit, enabling you to better feel what the rear axle is doing. And it's subtle changes to the rear suspension that really make the difference to the way the DB11 V8 drives.

The rear shock rates have been stiffened, along with the bushes for the rear subframe and the rear camber link, improving both lateral and vertical support. The result, says Aston vehicle dynamics chief Matt Becker, is about a 10 percent increase in lateral stiffness at the tire contact patch. "You can work the front of the car a lot harder as a consequence," he says, "because the rear is just much more honest."

When pushed, the DB11 V8 definitely feels grippier on corner entry than the 12-cylinder car, and it's more composed through turns. The more linear power delivery of the 4.0-liter V-8 helps; there's none of the massive surge of torque midturn that gets the traction control light strobing in the V12 and can make the car feel unsettled. Instead, you can be more precise with the throttle, feeding in just the power you want, when you want it. Although it fundamentally retains the relaxed gran turismo demeanor of the V12, the DB11 V8 seems much more agile and chuckable; it shrinks around you on a winding road.

© Motor Trend Staff

The DB11 V8 also sounds different from the V12—gruffer, more guttural. Critically, it also sounds different from anything with an AMG badge. Aston engineers spent a lot of time tuning the exhaust system to reduce bass frequencies at low rpm and add more mid- and high-frequency noise. There's some burble on the overrun, but it's more like the rumble of a distant thunderstorm than the crack-bang-pop artillery barrage beloved by AMG.

The DB11 V8 shares its transmission and final drive ratios with the V12, but the paddle shifters have 50 percent shorter travel to deliver a more precise shift feel (V12 cars will get the new shifters as well), and there's noticeably less shift shock from the eight-speed ZF transmission. That's because the engine's rotating masses are lighter, and the revised engine mounts and stiffer rear suspension bushes better soak up unwanted motions through the powertrain.

The DB11 V8's rear brake system is common with the V12's, but the front brakes have different calipers with smaller pistons because of the weight distribution change, and the pedal travel is shorter as a result. Aston engineers retuned the booster, as well, to give it a much more consistent pedal feel.

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8 front three quarter in motion 02 close crop© Motor Trend Staff 2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8 front three quarter in motion 02 close crop

Sharp-eyed Aston aficionados will notice the unique alloy wheel finish, dark headlamp bezels, and that the hood only has two vents instead of four. But that's about all that visually separates the $201,820 DB11 V8 from the more powerful and marginally faster V12, which costs $17,500 more.

The DB11 V8 boasts the same level of standard equipment as the V12, and buyers can choose from the same extensive options menu and the same color and trim palette.

Unless you really must have 12-cylinder bragging rights at the country club, the lighter, more agile, more-entertaining-to-drive V8 is the more desirable of the two Aston Martin DB11s. That it's also the less expensive of the two makes it an even more compelling choice.

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