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Aston Martin Needs to Step Up Its Detail Game

Aston’s machines are beautiful and sweet to drive, but they still baffle in myriad ways

A friend of mine recently took delivery of a 2019 Aston Martin DB11 Volante, a lovely car that, as is rarely the case with drop-tops, is even more beautiful than the coupe on which it’s based. Along with the most recent Vantage, the model makes clear that Aston is in the middle of a welcome product resurgence, with even more in the pipeline, including an EV and an SUV. (Sadly, the plan doesn’t include additional copies of the insane, one-off V8 Cygnet I recently drove. Too bad, as it was its own sort of fun.)

Yet while I applaud such progress and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed driving several Aston Martins in the past 12 months, the 100-plus-year-old firm’s cars continue to be marked by unnecessary quirks. A few of these idiosyncrasies could be characterized as pedantic complaints, but most are frustrating oversights that, taken together, highlight the need for Aston to up its detail game as it makes a move for greater market share and relevancy.

Indeed, as I picked over my friend’s new car, I started to make some surprising observations. First, there’s the longstanding Aston oversight that is the lack of a glovebox or any sort of convenient bin to stash registration and insurance documents. Additionally, the large, heavy key fob won’t comfortably fit in your pocket, and there is no place to securely place it in the cabin. Plus, the folding cupholders feel as if they were sourced from the Dollar Store. They’ll surely keep warranty administrators busy at dealerships.

Moving to the trunk, Aston provides too few options for securing the owner’s manual (remember, there’s no glovebox), fix-a-flat kit, tow hook, or emergency filler neck for the capless fueling system. In the end, we wedged the tow hook and emergency filler neck in the fix-a-flat kit and left the whole bundle to slide around in the trunk. The issues in this area continue. Aston’s factory battery-charge maintainer connects with a magnetic puck similar to what’s used by Ferrari, Bentley, and others. This is good. Unfortunately, the company simply includes a cheap adapter for this new-to-Aston setup instead of providing a fully updated maintainer. That means there isn’t a consistent electrical connection when charging during storage. My friend ended up rewiring the maintainer, bypassing the lackluster adapter completely. Aston also hides the magnetic puck for the maintainer behind the trunk lid and doesn’t provide an external trunk release. To open the trunk, you must use the button on the key or utilize the switch on the inside of the driver’s door. Sure, you can also swing your leg under the rear bumper to release the trunk but then you need the key with you, and many owners of such exotics keep the keys in the cars in their secure garage.

Aston also needs to improve its wind deflector setup on the convertible DB11. A Porsche 911 cabriolet and Mercedes-Benz SL-class utilize an integrated wind deflector that quickly and smartly powers into position at the push of a button. Not the DB11 Volante. You must fit (and remove) the old-school, fiddly setup by hand, and it takes up valuable trunk room when not in use. Remember, this is a car that starts a touch below $220,000.

There’s also the DB11’s front license-plate mount. Michiganders, of which I am one, are among the lucky Americans to live in a state that doesn’t require a front license plate. It’s clear Aston designers either aren’t aware of or simply don’t care about these plate-less areas. The bulky, silver aluminum mounts sitting behind the grille stand out like sore thumb. And the rear license-plate mount feels as low-rent as those cupholders.

The DB11 isn’t unique among Aston Martins in these regards. On a recent trip to the U.K., I spent time in the new Vantage. It’s another impressive car to behold and to drive, and I really enjoyed piloting the smaller, more focused model. During an initial walkaround, I quickly noticed Aston smartly moved the puck for the battery maintainer so that it’s accessible from outside the car, and the cupholders are improved. Welcome progress. But many of the other issues remain, and the Vantage even has some new quirks.

First and foremost, there are the ergonomics of the center console. While I love that the stability-control adjustments aren’t as difficult to find as in the DB11, why do buttons for the map lights and door locks need to be grouped with the plethora of other controls? Also, like the DB11, I never quite came to terms with the complicated seat adjustments. The digital radio signal was also very bad—the worst of any car I’ve tested in the U.K. And the calibration for the parking sensors is poor, too. I’ve driven many other press cars on the same roads and in the same towns, and the beeps and warnings were unique to the Vantage. It’s not as if outward vision is outstanding in any Aston, so parking-sensor calibration is rather important.

Aston has made such great much progress with its new cars. The new Vantage feels every bit a proper Aston Martin, and it even adds a few new moves to the usual repertoire when pushed on back roads. Thanks to a partnership with Daimler, the various Mercedes-Benz components inside the DB11 and Vantage mean the satellite navigation finally works well and there are modern features like a 360-degree parking camera. The company has come so far in so many ways. But the lack of attention in so many other details reminds that they must do better. I want an Aston to always feel like an Aston—unlike anything else on the road. But I also want the company to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, because their impressive cars and the customers buying them deserve top-spec quality to back up the British character and bespoke style. For the price, that’s not too much to ask.

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