“It’s déjà vu all over again.” That line, attributed to New York Yankee baseball legend Yogi Berra, springs to mind as I’m driving the new English-made 2018 Aston Martin DB11. This is a two-door coupe like the one I tested earlier in 2017, and I’m driving on the same California road, but there is one significant difference: under the hood of the DB11 I’m driving now is a V8 engine instead of a V12.
Dropping a less powerful engine into the same car body is a move being made by many luxury car brands as a way to diversify a marque’s offerings. In Aston Martin’s case, both models hover around the $200,000 mark (the V12 costs about $18,000 more); in this price range, the issue really isn’t cost savings. And both models are ridiculously fast, with the 503 horsepower V8 hitting 60 mph in four seconds, just a tenth of second slower than the 600 horsepower V12 model; about the only place this might make a real difference is on the race track or in a debate over martinis with James Bond—although I’m not sure which model the fictional secret agent and Aston Martin devotee would favor. In terms of real world driving on American roads, the key specification may be weight. The V8 is 253 pounds lighter than the V12, which is like leaving a football linebacker standing at the curb.
As before, after a breakfast at the Pacific Coast Grill near San Diego, I head east on a cliff-hugging road that leads to winding switchbacks, up to the iconic Mt. Palomar Observatory, and then descend out onto the desert with the Salton Sea in the distance. The V8 feels more compact and nimble through curves than the V12, and the sense of control seems a touch finer. Simply put, the V8 is more “wee!” than the “whoa!” evoked by the V12. Both driving experiences have their appeal, depending on whether you lean toward flat-out speed or curve control.
Amenities-wise, the two variants might as well be twins, with similar creature comforts like the exquisite leather interior, Alcantara headliner, and modern entertainment and navigation options. The sharp-eyed will notice that the V8 has two air vents in the bonnet instead of the four in the V12. But overall, you’d almost have to be James Bond to tell them apart.