The new DB11 is one of the best Astons ever. But is that good enough to take on the evergreen Continental GT Speed?
We have four cars here. Two luxury GT cruisers, and two thoroughbred sports cars.
If we don’t, then one or both of these manufacturers has done something wrong. Which they tend to be rather good at avoiding.
At this sort of money, of course, you’d expect them to. What we have here is Aston Martin’s new DB11, in one of the very few situations in which it will ever look cheap. Next to it, the Bentley Continental GT Speed is a car which first saw the light of day more than a dozen years ago.
Bentley has been keeping it up to date ever since, to the extent that it’s still a viable benchmark for the new Aston. But have we reached the stage where we’re no longer comparing like for like?
It’s not a given. The DB11’s predecessor had a cramped, ancient cabin with laughably poor infotainment, so Aston had to make a quantum leap with this one.
Aston Martin DB11
Engine: 5.2-litre turbocharged V12
Top speed: 200mph
Fuel economy: 24.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 265g/km
That it has done so is evidenced by the fact that getting comfortable is easy. That’s unless you’re in the back, where it’s basically impossible – here, the Bentley offers decent accommodation for kids or even small adults, while it’s equally spacious up front.
The Conti will carry more of your mistress’ haute couture for that clandestine weekend in your Cotswold bolt-hole, too. It will also pamper her bottom, and yours, with even more sumptuous luxury than the Aston – though both are cheerfully epic in this department, and the DB11 has indeed made that quantum leap forward in multimedia terms, vaulting beyond Bentley in the process.
To be fair, there are superminis that have vaulted beyond this particular Bentley system in the many years that have passed since someone in Crewe signed off on it. Borrowed from Merc, Aston’s is crisp, quick, and functional: borrowed from Doris Stokes, Bentley’s is slow, blurry and painful.
There’s nothing slow about the car itself, though. In fact, its mighty W12 engine has more power than the DB11’s new V12, and it turns all four wheels to boot.
Bentley Continental GT Speed
Engine: 6.0-litre turbocharged W12
Top speed: 206mph
Fuel economy: 19.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 338g/km
However, Aston’s engine gets going earlier in the rev range. It has better than half a tonne less to shift, too. Four-wheel drive lets the Conti match it on wet roads, but in the dry of a baked sliproad on to the Autoroute du Soleil the DB11 will streak away.
Once cruising, it’s the Aston whose engine note will be the more pleasing companion. Assuming you don’t have your Billy Bragg or Attila the Stockbroker turned up too loud, of course. There’s more of said engine noise, however, as well as some accompaniment from the wind and road sections, so this is an area in which Bentley takes a wholly predictable win.
The Conti rides better around town, too. Both cruise perfectly smoothly, but at lower speeds you’ll need no reminding that this is, after all, a Bentley.
On the kind of roads that gladden your heart, however, it’s the other way round. The Aston takes centre stage, with a magnificent combination of chassis balance and steering feel. It’s made for corners, whereas the Conti responds to being hustled by feeling its weight.
Naturally, both feel their weight in the other sense. Either car is an expensive extravagance that will cost heavy sums both to buy and to own. Naturally, you get a huge list of premium equipment whichever you choose – Aston is marginally more generous, though, and bear in mind what we’ve said above about the Conti’s media system.
Financially, the only real way to separate these two is in their retained values. The DB11 is forecast to depreciate slower than the Conti by a hefty 15% – and given the immodest sums we’re talking about, that means an annual £10k or more over the course of three years.
If you just want a Bentley, and can afford it, you’ll buy one anyway and not care. And there’s no denying that even after all these years, and even with a stone-age media system, the Conti is still a magnificent car.
The brand new Aston does more than just tie it in knots on B-roads, though. Its sportier edge makes it the most likeable all-rounder – and though the Conti’s ride and refinement do remain untouched, it’s beaten here by what must be one of the best cars Aston Martin has ever made.
Review: Aston Martin DB11 v Bentley Continental GT twin test