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Driving both the Vantage and the DB11 at Sepang International Circuit offers an insight into two distinct sides of the Aston Martin brand.

21 Sep 2018

What happens when you drive an Aston Martin Vantage, a DB11 V8 and DB11 V12 around a race track? Well, you get quite confused. Hear me out.

The Vantage's balanced chassis and precise front end make it a great track weapon
I started the morning at Sepang International Circuit in the Vantage. It's a sharp, agile and precise car that takes very naturally to a race track.

Because of its light weight, great balance and precise front end, you feel like you can really push your limits. It gives you confidence to dive late into braking zones and aggressively attack the corners. However, I hopped straight out of that and into the DB11 V8 and suddenly everything I was doing before is now all wrong.

Both cars share the same engine, but the DB11 feels entirely different. It's heavier and struggles to turn into corners the same way, with ample amounts of understeer. It also doesn't track corners as well, with clear body movement even mid-corner.

I really am quite confused.

Understeer is somewhat inevitable in the heavier DB11
You see, the DB11 isn't a track car in any way. Yes, it's blistering fast, but it's made to cover long distances quickly and effortlessly, rather than to go round corners with its tyres screeching. On a race track, it's conspicuously out of place, especially since there's a Vantage sitting right next to it in the pit lane.

Understand that, and drive it accordingly, and things make more sense. Hopping into the DB11 V12, I told myself that I shouldn't be trying to replicate what I was doing in the Vantage. Instead, I should appreciate the car for what it really is - a muscle car.

This means braking early, taking a wider line and let the car sweep into the corner. Then once the car has straightened out, just drop the hammer, and let the immense torque of the V12 engine pull you out of the corner and blast your way down the straight. And especially with the gloriously sonorous V12 motor, you really want to soak in the engine and all of its delight.

The gloriously sonorous V12 engine in the DB11 is an experience in itself
Some sports cars are truly impressive because of the way they can hustle around a track. This isn't so much the case with Aston Martin. In my mind, the desirability of an Aston Martin, especially a grand tourer like the DB11, is all about the experience - the sound, the pliancy, and that wonderfully characteristic engine.

You may be wondering then, what's the point of taking both these cars around a track?

Other than being a great opportunity to test the best that Aston Martin has on offer right now (this event was also catered to customers as well), it also highlights the vastly different character attributes of both cars, and the clear thought process that has gone into designing either car.

Indeed, these cars are targeted at very different sorts of buyers. On one hand, you have the DB11 - a grand tourer great for styling and profiling about town, but also for the 400km commute up to Kuala Lumpur. It's a gentleman, with smooth moves and subtle looks. And of course, the V12 engine is an especially creamy piece of kit.

The DB11 is the better car for long commutes, but for adrenaline-pumping laps around a race track, it is the Vantage you want to be driving
On the other hand, you have a car like the Vantage, clearly targeted at driving enthusiasts. It's sharper, more precise and certainly more intense, but it's also a shoutier and less subtle-looking car. Less gentleman, more punk rocker. 

What it does prove, though, is that Aston Martin recognises that its customers want that distinctive choice between the two and have created two models that amply meets those demands.

So that leaves the big question: Which one would you have?

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