Aston Martin DB11
Creative head Marek Reichman tells Josh Sims why the DB11 is kicking off a decade of innovation at Aston Martin that will make the company’s sports cars unrecognisable in years to come.
Marek Reichman, the creative head of Aston Martin, has given his new car what one might call the “11-year-old test”. “Irrespective of how the car is reviewed, I know the response I get from an 11-year-old if I’m driving a Vanquish,” he says.
“And it’s very different to the one I get when driving this car. They go a bit bat shit crazy, like they’ve seen their favourite pop star.”
The car in question is, of course, the DB11 – of course because the DB line is, in no small part thanks to the association with James Bond, unarguably the British luxury car manufacturer’s most famous, even among those who know little of cars. And, according to Reichman, the DB11 is a game changer, at least for Aston Martin.
“It represents a shift in mindset in terms of how our customer will perceive the design language of Aston Martin,” he says. “Look at its predecessors and there’s quite a feline, amorphous form – it’s that holistic approach that cars of a latter generation took. Look at the DB11 and it’s technology that defines it. It’s a real form-follows-function approach, rather than maintaining the pure line of the DB9.”
To the lay driver, of course, this grand tourer experience is somewhat oblivious to the technology. Sat in a surprisingly spacious leather-clad cabin – so leathery, in fact, that Aston Martin has perhaps overdone its Britishness by brogueing it – one is propelled from nought to 60 in three seconds, whipped around corners with the ease of a go kart, and, if giving your own 11-year-old or younger a thrill is the order of the day, pinning them to the back of their child-seats. Yes, should Bond ever grow up, the DB11 is the first two-plus-two from Aston Martin that comes with Isofix.
The driving modes – “GT”, “sport” and “sport plus” or “crikey”, “help” and “stunned silence” – and new adaptive damping system allow you to cruise or bomb around as you see fit. Naturally, it’s a fantastic, assured drive and, thanks to the carefully-considered music of the 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12, one worth having with the radio off. To a car designer like Reichman, however – and perhaps the man on the street awed by the DB11’s presence – all those exterior surfaces represent a new level of engineering and aerodynamics for the marque.
There’s the clamshell bonnet, for example, made – with great complexity – from pressed aluminium. The result allows for a minimum of interrupting breaks to its lines, while also having energy absorbency properties that make it better for any slack-jawed pedestrian who comes off badly at the wrong end of it. There’s the re-engineered fuel tank, which leaves more room in the boot for the pram, or something much more glamorous.
Or there’s the “AeroBlade”, as Aston Martin is calling it: intakes at the base of the c-pillars that channel air through ducts passing within the body of the car, churn them up and exit them at the back. The result? Reduced rear lift. In other words, it’s a spoiler, without the need of the kind of actual physical spoiler that turns beauty into boy racer. Small wonder Aston Martin has been very quick to patent this genuine innovation in aerodynamics.
But the thing is, whatever any of it does, all this just looks so good too. Of course, Reichman has not sacrificed all pursuit of beauty to the demands of science. There’s the roof strake, for example, flowing in an unbroken line from A to C pillar thanks to a process of extruding, stretching, pressing, laser cutting, polishing and anodising – a lot of work for a little thing.
And there’s the grille. “It’s my favourite part of the car,” says Reichman. “It’s a bit DB5. There’s a slight undercut that gives it a bit of a shark’s face, and I’m fascinated by sharks. They have an amazing beauty while also being amazing predators. I wouldn’t want to swim with them but I love watching them swim – and I think an Aston Martin needs to have that same sense of potency too.”
“We’ve made some very risky changes,” Reichman adds. “There’s a very hard line to the rear of the car now, for instance. But in every kind of art form – from sculptors to singers – every now and then you need a step change. Of course, with an Aston Martin you fundamentally still have to have a balanced form, because that’s what an Aston Martin is about.
“But if you have those proportions right – and we pushed with every single millimetre – then that allows you to be more daring with the elements in between. It’s like a fantastic haute couture dress on a model who looks perfect without it anyway.”
Indeed, that daring look’s set to shape the blueprint for Aston Martin for the coming few years. While new iterations of the
Vantage and the Vanquish are in development, Reichman stresses that the DB11 represents such a new school of thinking for the company that, come the end of the decade, go into an Aston Martin showroom and the DB11 will be the only recognisable car in the line-up. Everything else will have, in some way or other, followed the super-modern design philosophy it embodies.
“The company has a clear set of goals and, what’s more, the money in the bank to make them happen,” says Reichman. “I’ve been lucky in that Aston Martin’s emphasis on making its cars beautiful means I’ve been like a kid in a sweetshop and as a designer, typically, I get what I want. But I think the company’s vision is what has kept me working here now for much longer than I expected. After the end of this decade I might have to retire – I’ll either be exhausted or I’ll have run out of ideas.”
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