Empire Strikes Back

Words: Anand Mohan Photography: Kunal Khadse 

The exhaust was up for a howl and silence was broken in several neighborhoods

Britain’s sexy grand tourer, the Aston Martin DB11 tours an erstwhile colony, this time just for pleasure

South Mumbai is stunning early in the morning. Before the sun glows upon the colonial architecture that so many properties in town boast of, the night lights romance these structures all through the city’s graveyard shift. We wake up to that beautiful old world charm and drive straight to a closed garage under a flyover. The shutters open, I walk in, and I’m handed the keys to James Bond’s new car, the all new DB11, but with a warning. ‘Don’t crash it, you are only the second journalist in India to drive it.’ Duly noted, but the DB11 was mine for the next few hours, I was driving it before Mr Bond, and I had to hurry. The plan was to take a quick tour of Mumbai before rush hour madness begins and restricts my right foot exercise. And I was in the mood for a workout. Under my right foot was control to a V12. So I pressed the Drive button on the centre console and gently rolled out of the garage, put the engine and gearbox in Sport Plus, and left the suspension in GT mode.

I restrained my urge to open the taps till we found an open patch a few hundred metres ahead and punched pedal to the metal soon as I did. No one prepares you for your first Aston Martin experience. Aston Martins are so rare in India that the dealerships in India are still on double digital customer lists. I could count the number of people I know of driving an Aston Martin in India on my fingers. It’s so rare that I just would not want to crash it in my wildest dreams, but there’s a V12 up front and 600bhp of power and 700Nm of torque could prove to be a handful on Mumbai’s less than perfect roads. Hence I waited for a straight road. Anyway, the exhaust was up for a howl and silence was broken in several neighbourhoods but nothing besides that, no fish-tailing derriere, no tyre squealing, and crucially no wet trousers on that very expensive leather.

The engine smoothly picked up pace and in a matter of seconds, I already found myself on the verge of flirting with the speed limits. Just like south Mumbai’s old world charm, there’s that classic British charm to this thoroughly modern grand tourer. It’s unhurried in a way only V12s can get away with without seeming lazy, there’s elegance in its lines and when you see the car in the metal, you will be in awe of her sexiness. The DB11 feels like that unattainable woman you want so badly in your life.

You’d want to woo her with your skills and seduce her with your suave. All Aston Martins have a restrained masculinity oozing out of them, but this one’s also got these crucial feminine curves to it that is aimed to appeal to a wider audience. New Aston Martins in this century, says the company, will attract a lot more female customers too, and I can see that universal sex appeal in the DB11’s design. It’s gorgeous from every angle, maybe not as much in  pictures, but when you add that third dimension, the drool just won’t stop. That achingly beautiful exterior is followed up by very impressive British craftsmanship on the inside. What takes the cake is beautiful leather-on-leather stitching called brogue detailing.

It is everywhere from the seats to the doors, armrest and the roof, makes the DB11 cabin feel a lot richer and for a fleeting second, you will forget that some Mercedes bits have crossed the English channel into Gaydon. Daimler has taken a 5 percent stake in Aston Martin and part of the deal is the supply of electronics for all new Aston Martin cars and the V8 engine from the AMG GT. In the DB11, you get the control pad and the infotainment system from Mercedes, and electricals that will finally last a lifetime.

If anything, the fact that you see the same system in a C-Class might be a downer but it just works so well, I don’t find any reason to complain. What this allows Aston Martin to do, is simply focus on making great cars. The DB11 straight off the bat, comes across as such a friendly car to drive around in town, despite its Rs 4.5 crore, ex-showroom price tag. It handles uneven surfaces well, clears the biggest of speed breakers without a fuss and rides so well, you could actually tour the country with it. I remember a cross country run I did in a Mustang GT a couple of years ago, and you know what, the DB11 will do this drive as easily as the Mustang. All you need is a tanker full of 97 Octane following you.

Instead of the naturally aspirated 6-litre V12s of the past is a modern,5.2-litre V12 behind the front axle. It comes with two turbos bolted on, that collectively make 700Nm of torque, all available at just 1500rpm. So there’s a noticeable surge of torque in the DB11’s midrange and speed builds up quickly, but also surprisingly, in a very unhurried manner. It’s a GT, not a sportscar, so this manner of power delivery works well for it. Between intake and exhaust notes is a fine turbo whistle that’s loud enough to flirt with all the girls in town.

That balance though i very endearing, of managing to give enough boost to make the DB11 quick but restricting a V12’s vast reserves to make it a relaxing touring car. The weight in the throttle pedal, the feel of textured metal in the paddle shifters as yo call upon the shifts yourself, or the feedback from the suspension through the seat of your pants, the Aston talks to you in every way possible besides the electric steering, and even if the steering won’t give you much feedback, it’s still direct and quick direction changes feel very natural for a car that weighs almost 1.9 tonnes. I reckon the DB11 should be fun on a race track too if you crave for a track day, but it is rather suited to that long winding open road.

The beauty is in the craftsmanship as much as it is in its design

With that beautiful suit and V12 rumble, the DB11 does everything right. It’s typically British so you won’t find a bright colour on the car except for its red brake callipers. Even the red and orange hues you can spec the Aston in are so under the radar, you will tone down the flamboyance in your life to a more elegant lifestyle once you drive a DB11. It’s a sculpture on wheels and there’s nothing on its skin that will break your gaze. The aerodynamics complements the design to channel air beautifully around the car from the fins on its sides to the aero blades. A pop up slab in the bootlid works as an air brake and tucks right in when it’s not needed and there’s no blinding chrome anywhere except for the face of the alloy wheels. If I had to put it simply, the DB11 is for someone who has great taste in cars as much as it is for a noob with a bank for a bank balance.

You just can’t hate anything about this car. It is mobile art, a very special British icon, and driving it around iconic buildings like the Asiatic library and inside Ballard estate, followed up by our modern engineering marvel – the sea link, makes me ponder on how the old and the new so seamlessly merge to form this beautifully chaotic city. The DB11’s evolutionary design uses signature Aston Martin elements with its modern design, and just works so well to stand out and blend in, all at the same time, that it feels much at home even on the streets on Mumbai as it would somewhere in Central London.


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