2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8: Where work of art meets sexy sports car [First Look]

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2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8 (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

We crouched down and looked at the hand-stitched door panel on the 2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8 Coupe.

Matthew Clarke, the general manager for marketing and communications at Aston Martin, ran his finger over the stitches in a sweeping gesture along the panel.

“I used to be much better at this,” he said as he squinted at the line of loops. “But I’d say this seamstress is right handed.”

The brogue detailing on the whiskey-colored leather was surrounded by stitches that tilted ever so slightly up and to the right.

Clarke added that plant managers would be able to look at the stitching and not only be able to tell if the person who assembled it was right or left handed but also give you the name the exact person who had done it.

Just by looking at a row of stitches.

That level of detail is hard to wrap your mind around.

But considering each vehicle is hand assembled and takes a minimum of 200 hours to create, it’s not entirely surprising.

The more an owner customizes, the longer it takes to assemble.

And if you spend any amount of time on the configurator, the amount of customization possible is mind-boggling. For example, there are three different types of leather you can choose for the seat surfaces, 18 choices for the color of the leather and 31 choices for the contrast stitching that can be used throughout the interior.

The vehicles we were driving were relatively “simple” with a monotone Copper Tan Metallic interior, stitching to match and an ivory brogue inlay. But, if you remember the interior on the V12 version I drove a few months ago, the interior can be much more color intensive.

Speaking of the V12, there was a lot of discussion about why you would opt for a V-8 engine when there’s a faster, more powerful option available. More is better, right?

Not necessarily.

Not having driven them back-to-back, it’s hard to make a good comparison between the two from memory. Sure, the roar of the engine on the V12 seemed a bit louder, and the acceleration was faster.

But in the looks department, the vehicles are nearly identical. In fact, the only visible difference is on the hood. The V12 has four vents, whereas the V8 only has 2.

Oh, and the base price for both vehicles has about a $20K difference.

Frankly, in my mind there wasn’t a huge difference between the two engine offerings. The 4.0-liter V-8 delivers 503 horsepower and 498 pound-feet of torque. In comparison, the 5.2-liter V-12 delivers 600 horsepower and 515 pound-feet of torque.

While the horsepower difference is significant, the 0-to-60-mph times aren’t, which is perhaps why it’s hard for me to see a remarkable difference in my mind’s memory.

The V8 does the 0-to-60 in 3.9 seconds, and the V12 is just 0.2 seconds faster.

Plus, what the V8 lacks in power, it gains in nimbleness.

Interestingly, the engine in the DB11 V8 is a result of a technical partnership with Mercedes-AMG. This is the same engine that appears in the Mercedes-AMG C63 S and GT but it has been specially tuned by Aston Martin to perform and sound like an Aston Martin engine.

Other elements from the Mercedes-AMG alliance pop into the DB11 as well. The most notable one is the infotainment system, which Mercedes owners will recognize as the COMAND system.

While I think Aston Martin definitely benefited by using the AMG engine, the telematics system was not one I’d put in the “win” category. The system is clunky, outdated and ugly. It’s not intuitive and requires the use of a dial to page through the various screens.

In an otherwise meticulously assembled vehicle, this system is a non sequitur – and probably the only thing I did not like about the DB11 V8 Coupe.

During our day-long drive through the mountains surrounding San Diego, I toggled through the various drive modes and suspension options. Aston Martin makes it easy for you to customize your drive experience by putting the adjustments on the steering wheel – drive mode on the right, suspension on the left. This means that you can adjust each item quickly and independently.

Want a smoother ride over rough road surfaces? Leave it in GT on the chassis side. Still want the quicker throttle response on the twisty bits? Leave the drive mode in Sport+.

You can definitely tell the difference in the drive modes as both steering response and exhaust note increase incrementally from GT to Sport to Sport+.

For my tastes, I saw no reason to pull the DB11 out of Sport+ drive mode. The engine response and exhaust revs never got old. But I could totally see changing the suspension depending on road surface.

The bottom line

Aston Martin makes an exquisite vehicle. From the hand-stitched leather to the brogue accents, every detail has been hand-touched and built with perfection in mind.

Though the V-8 version of the DB11 Coupe was created for a global market – namely places such as China, which tax consumers based on engine displacement – I thought this version of the DB11 was pure delight. Fast and loud then smooth and supple in all the right places. And if you get an extra mile or so per gallon, so be it.

But no one’s really counting. The DB11 is gas-guzzler tax exempt.

More isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just more.

The DB11 V8 Coupe is now on sale with deliveries taking place in the fourth quarter of 2017. Base price of the V8 Coupe is $198,995. In comparison the V12 Coupe starts at $216,495.

Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Aston Martin covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.