Drive: Munich to Cortina in the Aston Martin DB11 AMR

The marque’s most ‘drivable’ vehicle to date is a game-changer: not least for what connects the car to the road

In choosing ‘AMR’ – which, for those late in the room, stands for Aston Martin Racing – as the suffix for the latest iteration of its DB11 model, Aston didn’t so much throw down the proverbial gauntlet as hurl it onto the high-performance GT arena’s heavily scuffed Tarmac and bare its teeth to competitors.

Could the new flagship of the DB11 range, replacing its predecessor after just two years, live up to the British marque’s claims that it would offer “a new dimension of race-inspired dynamism and performance to the family”? Eager to find out, Robb Report, accompanied by a wide-eyed band of other motoring enthusiasts, climbed behind the leather-clad, multiple paddle-flanked steering wheel of the vehicle in question at Munich Airport. Our destination? Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, about 100 miles north of Venice, to take in Ladies final at the FIS Ski World Cup.

By the time, half-way through the drive, the company gathered for lunch in a cosy Alpine restaurant on the outskirts of Innsbruck, a consensus was already clear: the DB11 AMR offers a holy trinity for most demanding of supercar enthusiasts. And more: not only is it more powerful, faster and noisier than any other vehicle in the company’s canon – it’s also a looker, with cosmetic additions including a beefed-up grille, smoked lights, new carbon-fibre embellishments on that long, clamshell bonnet and – in the case of the 100 Signature Editions – the possibly controversial bold, contrasting central lime stripe. The AMR-embossed seats and Alcantara upholstery inside impress, too.

It’s no slouch on the technological front either, and not just when it comes to the impressively stark contrasts between the vehicle’s dynamic behaviour when switching from GT to Sport to Sport Plus mode. The intelligent cylinder bank activation, which essentially eliminates redundant cylinder activity, has worked wonders for fuel efficiency, and the new satellite navigation and audio system are now far more user-friendly (optional upgrades to Aston Martin Premium Audio and Bang & Olufsen’s Beo Sound system are seriously recommended to audiophiles).

But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the vehicle is just how driver-focussed it is: so much so, it excels as a grand tourer, despite the defiance of the “Racing” aspect of its moniker. The gearshifts are snappier than the car’s AM brethren’s; the engine mounts have been tweaked to work in harmony with the rear; the extra traction, precision and most of all stability become more discernible with every brow, dip and sharp turn.

It devours the 200 or so mile distance we’re covering today and, as we begin winding down the craggy Alpine passes that lead into Cortina, the relevance of Aston Martin’s collaboration with a tyre firm founded in 1931 in Fukuoka, Japan – sponsors of the ski competition we’re about to witness – becomes more apparent as the road surfaces become icier.

Tyres are the unsung heroes of supercar appreciation. It’s easy to forget that, with such a driver focussed vehicle as this, those inflated bands of rubber are the conduit between the vehicle’s capabilities and the road.  Obviously, we’re talking about the car’s sheer whoomph factor here – that 630bhp and 3.7-second climb from 0-62mph proffered by the DB11 AMR’s 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12 – but we’re also talking about the handling afforded by its more rigid suspension bushes (one of the major improvements on this vehicle’s predecessors, from a driving point of view); the revalved dampers; the forged wheels that make it 3.5kg lighter in each corner….

None of this would make such a huge impact on the driving experience without the two years of tireless R&D that have gone into the Bridgestone Blizzak LM001 – a tyre specially created for cold conditions. For those uninitiated in the rather unsexy realities of tyre technology, Winter tyres typically are fashioned from a softer compound rubber, and have sharper and more aggressive tread patterns than the summer tyres. If that doesn’t mean a great deal to you now, it most certainly will if you ever get to propel a DB11 AMR through the around the black ice-coated corkscrew thoroughfares of a wintry Alpine wonderland.

It’s impossible to over-estimate how diminished the DB11 AMR winter driving experience would be without superior braking and cornering on snow and ice, and there’s certainly poetic justice in the fact that such technology has helped ensure that the DB11 AMR,  figuratively and literally speaking, sees Aston Martin turn a sharp corner with imperious confidence.

They promised new levels of dynamism and performance – and, as it turns out, are as good as their word.

From £147,900 (astonmartin.com/ bridgestone.com)

Photos by Max Earey

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