There’s a crackling rush from the 2019 Aston Martin DB11 AMR’s 630-hp V-12 engine as it hurtles from corner to corner like a glossy, art-deco bullet. In supplanting the previous non-AMR DB11 V-12 coupe, the addition of the Aston Martin Racing suffix to this sleek two-plus-two’s name denotes its status as the new zenith of the DB11 lineup, a designation the British brand intends to affix to the top of each of its model lines going forward. But the AMR is no brazen track-day warrior—such distinction is reserved for Aston’s even-further-fortified AMR Pro moniker that won’t be applied to the DB11—but rather a graceful tornado of style and speed, infused with just enough racing fumes for one-percenters to feel a bit more special for splurging on its top-dollar billing.
Without driving the AMR back to back with a 2018 DB11 V-12 coupe, it’s difficult to discern the improvements brought by the new car’s modest chassis updates, which encompass revised tuning for the three-stage adaptive dampers, a slightly stiffer rear anti-roll bar, and firmer engine mounts and bushings for the rear suspension and subframe. Matt Becker, Aston’s chief engineer and ride-and-handling guru, describes them as lending a sharper, more connected feel by stiffening the back end of the car, yet without infringing upon the DB11’s unflappable poise as a high-speed grand tourer.
The smooth roads of northern Germany, which bear little resemblance to the heavily potholed thoroughfares of the Midwest, also tempered our gluteal sensors on our first go with the new car. But the DB11 AMR was resolutely composed pretty much everywhere it went. Corners are greeted with pleasantly firm and progressive brake feel, and grip levels are communicated via light tugs from the precise and fluidly weighted helm. The car’s considerable size never strays far from mind, but it feels as lithe and controllable as could be expected of a roughly 4200-pound rear-driver endowed with this much power.
The suspension’s firmness is selected via a toggle on the left spoke of the steering wheel. Regardless of the mode, there’s a tautness to the AMR’s responses as it rockets in and out of first-gear switchbacks, but it’s also relaxed enough to allow the chassis to assuredly flow over narrow, rolling two-lanes at near-triple-digit speeds. Even with the dampers cranked to their firmest state, the DB11 AMR never warrants the descriptor “harsh.” On restricted sections of the autobahn, the effortlessness with which the AMR can cruise at 150 mph allows its front-seat occupants to unwind in the firm but not overly supportive chairs for long stretches at a time.
It’s also a bit tough to notice the AMR’s revised engine calibration, which frees an additional 30 horsepower over the previous V-12 DB11—its 630 horses arrive at the same 6500 rpm, with torque staying put at 516 lb-ft from just 1500 revs. There’s simply massive amounts of a shove on tap at all times. Lag from the twin-turbo 5.2-liter V-12 is virtually nonexistent, and power builds with a satisfying linearity up to the 7000-rpm redline. Bury your right foot into the carpet and the AMR pulls with an almost electric fervour, and it can easily overwhelm its 295/35ZR-20 rear tires on frisky corner exits without feeling uncouth.
Far more important is the finessing of the AMR’s active exhaust system, which, when fully uncorked, rocks a rich, melodious tune that belies the two compressors muffling the engine’s exhaust pulses. It’s less the smooth, high-pitched wail of classical V-12s and more a crisp, guttural growl, with loud pops and crackles on the overrun that can not only be heard but also felt inside the cabin yet never sound forced or synthesized. (The only acoustic helper is a sound tube piped through the firewall from the engine bay.) Think Jimmy Page accompanying the London Symphony Orchestra.
The DB11’s various driving modes (GT, Sport, and Sport+; selected via a toggle on the right steering-wheel spoke) vary the intensity of the noise as well as the aggressiveness of the throttle and transmission programming. GT mode is best for leaving the house without angering the neighbours, and Sport+ is ideal for when you’re turning hot laps at the track. But Sport is the perfect mix of everyday civility and entertainment that the AMR should default to upon startup.
The ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic receives updated programming and is an excellent match for the DB11 AMR’s setup. It has creamy torque delivery and tight, smartly timed shifts, and it responds well to the big column-mounted shift paddles. Andy Palmer, Aston’s CEO, has already indicated that this likely will be the brand’s preferred type of auto gearbox going forward. Our only niggle is the transmission’s rather clunky and abrupt upshift from second to third gear—particularly when in Sports mode—that can briefly unsettle the rear of the car when accelerating out of a corner.
Lightweighting measures are mostly limited to the AMR’s 20-inch forged-aluminium wheels, which save a claimed eight pounds per corner versus cast pieces. With a curb weight roughly the same as before, the more powerful AMR should shave a tenth or two off the already respectable 3.6-second zero-to-60-mph time posted by the last DB11 V-12 coupe we tested; top speed is a claimed 208 mph compared with its predecessor’s 200.
Earning its Place
Buyers can pluck from Aston Martin’s plethora of colour and trim options to temper the visual distinction of the AMR, although this version does render the roof, roof strakes, side sills, and front splitter in gloss black as standard. Along with the performance upgrades, further contributions to the $241,000 AMR’s approximate $22K premium over the DB11 V-12 are a darkened grille and headlight surrounds as well as smoked taillight lenses. Dark-chrome switchgear, satin carbon-fibre trim, and fluorescent Lime stripes along the centre of the seats and the headliner add some zest to the beautifully turned-out cabin without overdoing it with racing-influenced ostentation. If that’s your thing, though, look to one of the 100 examples of the $270K DB11 AMR Signature Edition that will be painted in AMR’s Stirling Green hue with bold Lime exterior accent stripes. The seating position overlooking the DB11’s long hood is excellent, and the addition of contemporary electronics and Mercedes-Benz’s infotainment interface (courtesy of Daimler’s 5 per cent stake in Aston Martin) have greatly improved usability over that of Aston’s previous ancient in-car technologies.
Even with the change to AMR-only guise, Aston Martin’s V-12–powered DB11 remains as striking to behold as it is to drive, a totem of rolling sculpture and fire-breathing badassery wrapped in sophisticated refinement. While the presence of Mercedes-AMG’s awesome twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 in the standard DB11 coupe and Volante convertible is of little sacrifice to shoppers seeking the wind in their hair or a more budget-minded price tag, the Aston Martin Racing treatment equates to the extra little kick we expect to receive from stepping up to any car with a V-12 engine.