2019 MOTOR Awards: Biggest Surprise, Most Improved, and Biggest Disappointment

Weighty Aston Martin grand tourer defies expectations

2019 MOTOR Awards Biggest Surprise

BIGGEST SURPRISE - Aston Martin DB11 AMR

In an ideal world, motoring journalists shouldn’t have expectations and thus there would be no surprises or disappointments. Each product would be approached with an open mind, but we’re only human and inevitably information and experience combine to paint a picture of what a car might be like before you’ve sat behind the wheel.

Sometimes a car is less than the sum of its parts, yet happily the reverse is also true. Occasionally, a certain model belies its spec sheet to overachieve, and no car did a better job of that than the Aston Martin DB11 AMR.

Information and experience. In this case the information was that Aston Martin had applied many of the DB11 V8’s sportier chassis settings to the DB11 V12 in order to create the more focused AMR.

Experience of both models didn’t suggest that this was a great idea. The V12 DB11 is a beautiful grand tourer; a little soft when driven really hard, but the balanced handling and great ride quality more than compensate. 

The V8 certainly sharpened the DB11’s handling, but introduced an unwelcome terseness over bumps without really turning the sizeable coupe into a true sports car. Hence there was the possibility Aston had attempted to gild the lily and in the process spoil what made the regular DB11 great in an attempt to make it ‘sporty’ – arguably a fool’s errand when dealing with something that weighs 1800kg and has a 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 in the nose.

As it turns out, the DB11 AMR happens to be one of the sweetest and most finely judged machines around, a superb sports-GT that absolutely nails its brief.

There is a very small ride penalty to pay, but with the three-stage adaptive dampers set to Comfort it glides over most bumps. Crucially, the DB11 AMR feels to be tuned to work on the road and only on the road; flicking the dampers to Sport Plus doesn’t result in rock-hard suspension that rattles your teeth out and is only suitable for the track, instead reining in the DB11’s weight while still accepting bumps rather than springing off them.

It’s a very easy car to drive fast or slow, has an enormous amount of power (470kW/700Nm) and revisions to the exhaust make it scream like a supercar at high rpm. Add in beautiful looks, refined everyday manners and an interior that looks and feels special (bar the outdated Mercedes infotainment) and you have one supremely desirable Aston.

Most Improved - Mercedes-AMG G63

Let words not be minced: the dry-bitumen handling of the previous, ladder-chassis G63 was a right shame, not a bit up to the technology or power under the bonnet. But, partly by fitting independent front suspension, they’ve fixed all that with the new one – it actually goes around corners properly now! A true night-and-day improvement.

Biggest Disappointment - Ford Mustang GT Auto

Attempting to drive an auto Mustang on track is like being shown a huge chocolate cake and only given half a mouthful. Still tasty, but the experience is fleeting and you’re left wanting more. At BFYB this year, the GT couldn’t complete two laps before heavily restricting revs to keep temperatures under control. There is a fix, but you’ll need to turn to the aftermarket.

 

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