Two cars in one, or at least that’s the arrangement you’ll need to accept if you want to get your hands on a new 2020 Aston Martin DBS GT Zagato, shown here in its best renderings yet.
You’ll also need to shell out $9.8 million CAD (£6 million GBP), which is a bargain when factoring in that a classic 1962 DB4/GT Zagato sold for a cool $15.4 million CAD (£9.45 million) a few years ago.
Of course, rare classics with racing pedigree are almost always worth more than a new car, even one as hard to come by, as visually stunning, and as brilliantly fast as the new DBS GT Zagato. Still, there’s another reason I referenced a classic Aston Martin Zagato.
All 19 2020 DBS GT Zagato customers (the same number of original 1960-1963 DB4 GT Zagatos built) will also be taking home a continuation DB4 GT Zagato, which is a true classic ‘60s era Aston, albeit produced new from old chassis number allocations.
The two cars make up Aston’s “DBZ Centenary Collection”, the more modern of the pair based on Aston Martin’s already fabulous DBS Superleggera, which stuffs a big twin-turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 behind its gaping maw of a front grille, capable of churning out a formidable 715 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. The powers that be at the company’s Gaydon, UK headquarters haven’t made mention about any straight-line performance increase in the upcoming DBS GT Zagato, despite the original ‘60s car making significantly more than a conventional DB4, but it has other attributes that nevertheless make it very special.
Any similarities to the now three-year old Vanquish Zagato were intentional, with Aston even painting the launch model shown here in what appears to be a near identical deep Volcano Red metallic (or something close) with rich gold trim highlights (the DB4 Zagato in behind wears a more fitting Rosso Maja red), the glittering secondary Au hue even embellishing the twinned five-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels.
Other design details pulled forward from the Vanquish Zagato include its gigantic front grille, double-bubble floating black roof panel, pronounced rear fenders, and rocket booster taillights, but that’s not to say this new Zagato-badged Aston is merely a redo of a past model. Of course, the DBS Superleggera under the skin influences its design much more than any previous model could, its longer, lower and leaner body featuring more creases and sharp-angled folds than the earlier Aston, which was decidedly more rounded and curvaceous.
Ultra distinctive is a gold-coloured active grille insert that’s actually comprised of 108 individual segments of carbon fibre. When the new DBS GT Zagato is not in use, these tiny pieces come together to form what appears to be a solid, flush panel, although when the ignition is turned on these little pieces reposition in order to allow front ventilation, a process that makes the grille “flutter”, says Aston.
Other unique details include extremely long and deeply sculpted side vents, these also adorned in gold, while the side sills don’t feature this supercar segment’s usual carbon fibre extensions, but rather tuck rounded rocker panels under the body as in days of yore. Of course the headlights are much more in line with modern Aston Martin design than anything from the Vanquish’ era, while those intricately detailed aforementioned taillights get fitted neatly within a sizeable horizontal black panel that hovers above an even larger wing-like rear diffuser.
Everything black is open-weave carbon fibre, of course, even the roof that’s actually a single piece stretching from the windshield’s edge to the base of the rear deck lid, with its noted twin-hump design followed by a complete lack of rear visibility. This car was made for Franco “What’s-a behind me is not important” Bertollini (Raúl Juliá – The Gumball Rally, 1976), although while there’s no rear window, nor even louvres to see out the back, Aston did include a rearview camera for backing up, mounted in a centre mirror-style monitor similar to General Motor’s Rear Camera Mirror.
As for the beautiful DB4 GT Zagato, which made its debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last month (we’ve expanded on this story’s gallery with 20 detailed solo photos of this breathtaking classic in its most modern production trim), it’s the latest in Aston Martin’s line of continuation cars, which began with 25 DB4 GT Continuation models that sold for $2.4 million CAD (£1.5 million) each in 2017, and (it doesn’t get much better than this) 25 recreations of the classic movie car from the 1964 James Bond (Sean Connery) film Goldfinger, complete with all the cool offensive weaponry and defensive armour that made the eccentric Q (Desmond Llewelyn) a hero to gadget freaks everywhere. The Goldfinger DB5 Continuation will arrive in 2020, just like the two new Zagato models featured here, but for only $4.5 million CAD (£2.75 million) each.
If you’re still scratching your head about the stratospheric price of the two combined Zagato models featured in this story, consider for a moment the original 1962 DB4/GT Zagato’s price noted earlier wasn’t even the most expensive DB4 GT Zagato to be auctioned off. After the original 19 examples were created from 1960 to 1963, Aston Martin built four more on unused chassis allocation numbers in 1988, all of which were dubbed “Sanction II” models, while in 2000 the automaker created another two cars to “Sanction II” specification (which meant they received a larger 352-horsepower 4.2-litre engine), albeit renamed them “Sanction III”, these latter examples fetching $18.6 million CAD ($14,300,000 USD) in 2015 and $16.5 million CAD (£10,081,500) in 2018, making them some of the most valuable cars ever sold.
Of course, it would be unwise to invest as if these 19 new DB4 GT Zagatos will grow in value like their earlier siblings, but then again if past success is any reflection on future prospects, the lucky new owners should be sitting rather pretty in a few years, if not immediately after taking delivery, while they might even end up receiving their all-new 2020 DBS GT Zagatos for free.
More than a year has passed since I drove Aston Martin’s then new 2017 DB11 Launch Edition, but the memory remains indelibly stamped in my limbic system. It’s easy to recall the animalistic snarl…
More than a year has passed since I drove Aston Martin’s then new 2017 DB11 Launch Edition, but the memory remains indelibly stamped in my limbic system.
It’s easy to recall the animalistic snarl of its 600 horsepower twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12, not to mention its otherworldly 3.9-second sprint to 100km/h, which happens to be 0.7 seconds quicker than the wonderful DB9 I remember fondly as well. I’ll still have to take Gaydon at its word regarding top speed, as my city’s local racetrack wouldn’t even be capable of speeds up to 322 km/h (201 mph), that number 27 km/h faster than the DB9 that I also enjoyed fully at moderate speeds yet never experienced at full flight. So with a powertrain like that, what’s all the fuss about a downgraded V8 variant?
The new 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 makes a sizeable 503 horsepower and 498 lb-ft of torque, which might be a step down from the V12, but is a major move up from Aston’s outgoing 4.7-litre naturally aspirated V8 that put out 430 horsepower and 361 lb-ft of torque in top-line “S” guise. Interestingly, this allows a zero to 100km/h sprint time of 4.0 seconds, which as you’ll note above is near identical to the V12-powered DB11, while the V8’s top speed (that I’ll likely never see) is rated at 301 km/h (187 mph).
This one hails from Mercedes’ AMG headquarters, unlike the in-house engineered and produced V12 that remains an upgrade, but it nevertheless continues to be individually hand-built. At this point, purists might begrudge Aston for deriving its entry-level engine from an outsider, but keep in mind the old AJ37 V8 was initially sourced from Ford before being thoroughly massaged and hand-built for A-M application. Also notable, excuse the pun, the new engine’s mechanical melody and exhaust system’s bellow are wholly unique when compared to the old V8 and either old or new V12, moving away from higher pitched tenor-like lightning cracks to a baritone’s thunder, albeit both fully capable of stimulating adrenal releases from enthusiasts.
As a bit of an historic aside, Aston Martin has had a V8 in its lineup since 1969, the original DBS V8 and even more appealing (in my opinion) V8 series 1 through 5 models that followed being personal favourite Astons, likely due to their prominence in my formative years. Aston built just over 4,000 V8 examples within a 20-year tenure (a tiny figure considering the company delivered more than 5,000 cars last year alone), including high-powered Vantage and drop-top Volante versions, not to mention the unorthodox 1986–1990 V8 Zagato. V8 power continued in the 1989–2000 Virage and then came back for the 2005–2017 Vantage we all know and love, now replaced by an all new 2018 Vantage with the new DB11 V8’s mill behind its radically reworked A-M grille.
As for DB models (DB incidentally short for Sir David Brown, Aston Martin’s owner as of 1947, and DBS for David Brown & Sons, his great uncle’s gear manufacturing business (that supplied Aston Martin amongst others) who’s sons first gave him an apprenticeship at age 17, before he eventually became its managing director), only the DBS used a V8, making the return of V8 power in a DB series car eventful.
While the engine comes completed from AMG, Aston adds its own air intake, exhaust system, and slimline wet sump lubrication design, the latter allowing a lower centre of gravity. A-M also created new ECU software and reprogrammed the engine and throttle mapping, giving it performance characteristics and sound qualities more familiar to the brand, all before fastening it into the DB11’s engine bay via bespoke engine mounts (you really need to take a look around under its clamshell hood as you not only get an excellent view of the nicely finished engine and robust aluminum strut tower braces, but also get to peak at the suspension bits below some wafer-thin racecar-like CFRP fender panels).
I’d like to think Aston Martin owners are environmentally conscious, although such issues probably don’t matter as much to the brand’s performance- and luxury-oriented clientele as to the automaker itself, which is forced to deal with a literal world of regulating bodies that are forever increasing their emissions restrictions. It therefore only makes sense for A-M to be proud of the new V8’s CO2 figure of 230g/km, which allows for lower taxation rates in key growth markets like China.
Likewise, the V8 is considerably more fuel-efficient than the V12, its Transport Canada numbers being 13.0 L/100km in the city, 9.8 on the highway and 11.5 combined compared to 15.5 city, 11.4 highway and 13.7 combined. These figures reflect the use of the DB11’s standard auto start/stop system, which alternatively can be shut off if you’d rather listen to the engine/exhaust rumble at idle.
Both engines use an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission mounted mid-ship for better weight distribution, and it’s by far the smoothest Aston gearbox I’ve ever experienced, yet it transitions through cogs at a wickedly quick rate when switched to Sport Plus mode. Alternative default GT and Sport modes provide less aggressive application, while you’ve got the choice of DIY steering wheel paddles or complete automation.
After time well spent with the new 2018 DB11 V8 I can attest that most buyers should be completely satisfied with its everyday performance. Even slight dabs at the throttle produce instant response, this aided by a lightweight, extra rigid carbon-fibre driveshaft, yet acceleration ramps up smoothly and effortlessly, while that sonorous growl is ever-present, albeit never overwhelming.
Yes, leave any thoughts of supercar extremism to the new Vantage, as the DB11 is a brilliantly capable grand touring car that’s big on refinement, comfort and ease of use. In fact, it’s one of the easiest ultra-luxury GTs I’ve driven around busy city streets. The evenly weighted yet wonderfully reactive Bosch electric steering is near effortless to direct even when negotiating confining parking spots or tooling around town, which is surprising considering how meaty the rubber is underneath and how unfathomably capable it is through the corners.
It really does feel more agile through tight figure-hugging curves and more stable at high speeds, Aston attributing this to “detailed revisions to the suspension bushing, geometry, anti-roll bars, springs, dampers and ESP software,” or so it said in the DB11 V8 press release. It’s all aided by a smaller engine that’s 115 kilos (254 pounds) lighter than the V12, while the entire car weighs in at just 1,760 kilograms (3,880 lbs). Of course the lighter engine reduces mass over the front wheels, plus the V8 gets pushed rearward behind the front axle for better weight distribution. It all makes for a thoroughly sporting GT that never forgets that comfort is king.
On that note, there is no difference between V8 or V12 cabins, as each DB11 receives an identical list of standard features and the same extensive menu of available colours and optional trims. My tester, finished in elegant Arizona Bronze, including its mirror caps, door handles, roof strakes and top panel, plus black mesh hood duct finishers, gloss black lower extremities with bright details elsewhere, and rounded out by standard 20-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels framing subtle light grey-painted calipers, was fitted with a gorgeous saddle tan leather interior featuring beautiful quilting and ornately decorated perforations, not to mention oh-so British brogue detailing highlighted by lovely cream leather underlay below.
I need to stop right here to explain how incredibly soft the leather is. It’s exquisitely finished, while the detailing of the perforations and stitching are like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Aston Martin truly does some of the best leatherwork in the industry, and the DB11 pays the utmost respect to this tradition.
The stitched leather continues onto the dash top, instrument panel and most everywhere else inside, Aston even wrapping the steering wheel in matching hides for a look that was more about country club class than racetrack flash. A unique swath of black Satin 2×2 Twill Carbon vertically split the dash top into two before surfacing the centre stack background as well as the door inserts, the latter panels enhanced with yet more tan leather and satin aluminum detailing even including the speaker grilles, the genuine lightweight metal similar to other brightwork throughout the interior, which Aston collectively calls its “Jewellery Pack” (alternatively available in a “Dark” tone). The roof pillars and headliner were covered in black suede-like Alcantara for a rich look and sumptuous feel, not to mention a hushed overhead ambience.
All in all, I believe this is Aston’s best work to date, as it combines the old world charm its cars have been lauded for since the marque was created 105 years ago, with a completely new level of refined modernity.
On that note, Gaydon did its level best to keep up with industry-wide in-car infotainment developments with its previous DB9 and Vantage models, but when production runs last a dozen years or so it’s nearly impossible to meet the demands of new consumers being weaned on iPads and Android tablets. Fortunately the DB11 relegates small displays with simple graphics and rudimentary controls to the past, not to mention Aston’s glorious analogue primary gauges.
The new model replaces the mechanical wizardry of whirring dials, the tachometer of which always spun in the opposite direction to anything else on the market, with a colourful display of fully configurable readouts, each rich in contrast, high in resolution, and graphically artistic. It’ll be an impressive sight for anyone stepping up from an older model, and truly adds to the driving experience thanks to loads of functionality, but something tells me that one day in the not too distant future Aston will be reoffering analogue gauge clusters as multi-thousand-dollar upgrades, in similitude to the move up from a quartz-infused luxury timepiece like the Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 to a mechanical one such as the same Swiss watchmaker’s Professional Moonwatch.
Unless you’ve spent time in Mercedes’ more recent models you probably won’t notice where Aston sourced its electronics, the gauge cluster less obvious yet the 8.0-inch tablet-style infotainment display atop the centre stack and palm rest/knurled metal rotating selector on the lower console dead giveaways. The latter is infused with all the latest functions, such as character recognition, multi-touch responsiveness, gesture capability, etcetera, while the former displays an entirely new level of clarity, artistry, and processing speed. The result is an easily sorted system with superb navigation accuracy, wonderfully detailed mapping, split-screen backup and overhead 360-degree surround parking cameras, and plenty more, while the audio system delivered good sound quality, albeit not as impressive as the optional Bang & Olufsen BeoSound system tested in last year’s DB11 V12.
Along with the enhanced displays is much improved centre stack switchgear, the topmost circular buttons set aside for Aston’s pushbutton ignition and trademark gear selection, the midsection for the dual-zone auto HVAC interface, which included heated and ventilated seat controls, those just below for infotainment, audio, parking sonar, camera, the aforementioned auto start/stop system, locks, etc. It’s a tidier assortment of buttons, knobs and toggles, still enhanced by stylish satin silver anodized metal yet no longer overwhelmed by big billet aluminum knobs. Consider it gentrified, if you can say such about an Aston Martin, thanks to touch-sensitive switchgear, crisp, clear backlit script and displays, plus more, but it’s still oozing with character.
The 2018 DB11 V8 starts at $233,650, a significant $20k and change more affordable than the V12 version, while standard features on each include simpler full-grain leather upholstery than noted above, the Alcantara headliner, pushbutton ignition, configurable gauges, 8.0-inch infotainment display, navigation, 360-degree camera, and dual-zone auto climate control mentioned earlier, as well as Wi-Fi, two USB ports, front and rear parking sensors, and much more.
Myriad exterior and interior colourways and trim options are available, while additional extras include multiple wheels, various leather textures and inlays, seat embroidery and/or embossing, a mid-grade Premium audio upgrade as well as the top-line B&O system, a universal garage door opener, blindspot monitoring, auto park assist, and more.
From a livability perspective, the driving position is superb, with excellent reach and rake from the steering column, and wonderfully comfortable, multi-adjustable seats. Their three-way warmers and coolers improve comfort yet further, while everything else about the DB11 is much more user-friendly than the previous model. What’s more, the steering wheel has a slightly flat bottom, making ingress and egress easier.
Continuing this practical theme, the powered seat system only requires a slight tug on a strap up top to tip the seatback forward before it glides in the same direction via its own power, allowing relatively easy access to the rear seats. You probably already guessed those rear seats are very small, but they’re good enough for children. This makes the DB11 a good GT choice for someone with a young family or for grandparents with grandkids, although anybody regularly transporting larger teens or adults might want to consider the longer and more accommodating four-door Rapide S.
If you’re fortunate enough to see a DB11 parked at the side of the road or witness one pass by, or better yet if you’re in the dealership preparing to go for a drive, an easy way to differentiate the new V8 from the V12 are the nostril-style engine vents atop the hood, the V8 removing two from the centre panels for what I think is a cleaner look, while darkened headlamp bezels and unique wheels help to set it apart further.
This last point probably summarizes the new DB11 V8 quite well. While most of us would probably gravitate to the V12 if money were no object, if only because it’s higher up the pecking order, it’s not necessarily the better car. Both models thoroughly impress in their own unique ways, and each is different enough to be preferred over the other. I can also attest to these being the best Aston Martin GTs ever made.
If you’ve ever witnessed one of Aston Martin’s V8 or V12 engines blast past at full song or even better, experienced the soul stirring sound from within the cockpit, hopefully from behind the wheel,…
If you’ve ever witnessed one of Aston Martin’s V8 or V12 engines blast past at full song or even better, experienced the soul stirring sound from within the cockpit, hopefully from behind the wheel, word of an all-electric model about to be born from the storied Gaydon, Warwick, UK manufacturer might not elicit the same kind of enthusiasm that the second-generation Tesla Roadster did to the comparatively startup Palo Alto, California firm’s legions of EV zealots attending last month’s Hawthorne, CA semi truck launch program.
Truth be told, the good folks at Aston will have to work very hard to beat the Elon Musk dream car’s claimed 2.0-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h, but of course the RapideE won’t be competing directly with Tesla’s tiny sports car when it arrives on the market. Instead, Aston is projecting its 800-horsepower EV will achieve a 4.0-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h, a 250 km/h (155 mph) top speed, and an ambitious range of 400 km (250 miles) without de-rating, a technical term for reducing power in order to extend range.
The details planned to achieve such performance haven’t been disclosed, but it’s thought a battery of at least 80kW should fit within the current car’s prop shaft torque tube, ideal for its low, central location, and helpful in keeping the Rapide’s passenger and cargo compartments as unaffected by the transition as possible. On this note, it’s undetermined whether the final RapidE will utilize the current single electric motor, like the test mule concept, or house two smaller motors at each rear wheel, being that both have advantages. The latter might allow for some extra frontal cargo space, which is always a bonus with grand touring cars like the Rapide. Aston is sharply focused on keeping the RapidE’s weight as close to the current gasoline-powered model as possible, which will be important to achieving the EV’s performance targets.
As it is, the Rapide S is a long, low and very lean four-door coupe, capable of whisking four adults from nil to 100km/h 4.4 seconds, and then on to a 327 km/h (203 mph) top speed, much thanks to a front mid-mounted 552 horsepower 6.0-litre V12 with 465 lb-ft of torque, plus a Touchtronic III ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox capable of shift increments of just 130 milliseconds, which drives the limited-slip diff-enhanced rear wheels via a lightweight, quick spinning carbon-fibre prop shaft. Proposing to potentially shelve all this mechanical wonderment for something purely electrified is the equivalent of getting hyped up about an ETA quartz powered movement replacing the ébauche, escapement, balance spring, etcetera in a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph.
Still, anyone in business and/or finance knows you should never bet against the market, and these days the car market is certainly turning toward things electric. On that note, the RapidE was originally a concept developed in conjunction with the equally legendary performance car marque Williams, albeit the Grove, Oxfordshire, UK-company’s heritage is in motorsport, specifically Formula 1 in which it’s earned 16 championship titles by the likes of Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg (last year’s F1 champion Nico Rosberg’s father), Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, and Canada’s own Jacques Villeneuve. It also has a less known engineering division.
Williams Advanced Engineering, which is also working to develop models for Nissan’s performance division Nismo, the sub-brand behind specially-tuned models including the GT-R, and previously partnered with Jaguar to create the esteemed C-X75 hybrid supercar, while also having designed and assembled the first battery system for the fully-electric open-wheel FIA-sanctioned Formula E championship, has been partially responsible for the RapidE’s development, the EV’s full-scale production initially planned for right about now. Unfortunately the previous production partner, China’s LeEco, a cellphone and streaming firm, pulled out due to financial problems resulting from its work with floundering EV car builder Faraday Future, so instead Williams will take over engineering integration of a small 155-unit RapideE run set to arrive in 2019.
“Williams Advanced Engineering has always endeavoured to work collaboratively with its customers to meet their sustainability challenges and find energy efficient solutions,” said Paul McNamara, Technical Director at Williams Advanced Engineering. “For today’s car manufacturers, this is particularly important as legislation demands more energy efficient vehicles. This project with Aston Martin will draw on the extensive battery and EV experience we have accumulated and we are extremely pleased to be supporting this prestigious British company with their future electrification strategy.”
The upcoming RapidE, which appears based upon the Rapide AMR concept, looks much like a regular Rapide in its current test mule phase, other than blue accents and unique RapidE badging with a stylized plug forming from the final E’s middle prong. Inside, the RapidE’s instrument panel gets battery life and regenerative braking indicators, replacing some of the now redundant gasoline engine’s gauges. So far there aren’t any changes planned for the interior, trim aside.
Likewise, the RapidE’s suspension should carry forward mostly unchanged. The prototype rides on an identical setup to the current V12-powered road car, and while the former is hardly ready for primetime (with those having driven it complaining of truck-like handling) Aston will need to keep RapidE production costs within reason. So far the prototype doesn’t include any electronic driver assistance systems such as stability-control software, while its even missing a finished cooling package to keep the battery from overheating, the old radiator now unnecessary. Reportedly, straight-line performance and range are test mule weak points too, the British brand still having plenty of work to do before the production RapidE is ready.
Aston and Williams are charging ahead to solve such issues, all of which are necessary hurdles for any manufacturer to overcome when transforming a gasoline-powered vehicle to fully electric, and the finished product should coincide with the launch of Aston’s new DBX crossover SUV and Lagonda luxury sedan. We’ll have to wait to see if EV versions of these latter two models materialize in production form (the DBX concept used four wheel-mounted electric motors), but it only makes sense being that some of the British brand’s most important markets are planning to eradicate internal combustion engines in the not too distant future. In fact, it’s quite likely that delays of these models coming to market stem from a need to make sure they’ve been inherently designed to accept electrification, something the Rapide was not, which has caused greater challenges and compromises in the transformation.
“Having unveiled the RapidE Concept back in October 2015 we reach another milestone with the confirmation that we are now putting the first all-electric Aston Martin into production,” said Dr. Andy Palmer, Aston Martin’s President and CEO. “RapidE represents a sustainable future in which Aston Martin’s values of seductive style and supreme performance don’t merely co-exist alongside a new zero-emission powertrain, but are enhanced by it. The internal combustion engine has been at the heart of Aston Martin for more than a century, and will continue to be for years to come. RapidE will showcase Aston Martin’s vision, desire and capability to successfully embrace radical change, delivering a new breed of car that stays true to our ethos and delights our customers.”
It’s good to hear Mr. Palmer confirm that internal combustion engines won’t disappear from the automaker’s lineup entirely, although their future availability will hardly matter in jurisdictions planning to totally eradicated them, such as Aston’s own Britain that’s promised to ban diesel and gasoline-powered engines by 2040, following a similar position across the English Channel in France, and since followed up by comparable sentiments in important premium car markets such as California and China, the latter already a leader in electric car development and production.
Such steps are arguably important for the greenification of the world, depending on how the electricity is sourced, but for performance car enthusiasts the thought of never again hearing the glorious mechanical machinations of an Aston Martin’s internal combustion engine are just too sad to contemplate. Still, being how important electric powertrains are to Aston’s low- and zero-emission Second Century Plan strategy, the RapideE is just the beginning. In fact, electric propulsion will be part of every Aston Martin by the mid-2020s, whether in the form of full electric power or hybrid, and EVs are expected to make up 25 percent of A-M sales by 2030.