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Aston Martin DB12 review: the sporting GT up close

The new Aston Martin DB12 combines clever technology and sophisticated craftsmanship with brutal design inspiration from the earlier DBS, along with an all-new interior and a firm look at the future of the brand. It is an impressive continuation of the ‘DB’ lineage which began way back in 1948 with the 2 liter sports model, the original ‘DB1’. Over the past 75 years we’ve seen the company run from the DB2 to the DB11, with the notable omission of a ‘DB8’ (it was considered a confusing name for a V12-powered car).

Aston Martin DB12 from behind

(Image credit: Max Earey / Aston Martin)

Aside from the awkward fact that the DB12 is a V8-powered car, Aston Martin happily carries on its illustrious naming tradition (although it’s likely to ditch the awkward thought of an ill-fated DB13 for a few more years to come). On the surface, this is a major improvement and overhaul of the DB11 introduced in 2016. Aston Martin describes the DB12 as “the world’s first supertourer” that further carves up niches at the top end of the automotive market to fit the current agenda and target audience.

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Up close with the Aston Martin DB12

Aston Martin DB12

(Image credit: Aston Martin)

The first thing to be clear about is that this car has nothing to do with electrification at all. Although Aston heralds the DB12 as “the first of its next-generation sports cars,” there’s still no talk of hybridization, let alone electrification. Aston Martin’s first production PHEV will be the limited Valhalla, the date of which has not yet been announced. In comparison, the DB12 is an old-school powerhouse, albeit with a rich lick of new technology. The latter is evident in the all-new interior, a groundbreaking development that catapults the DB12 straight to the top of its class.

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Aston Martin DB12 on the road

(Image credit: Aston Martin)

The interior has always been the DB11’s Achilles’ heel, an overwhelming cascade of switches, dials, gauges and dated interfaces that was a mild inconvenience at best, but one that couldn’t quite belie the essential brilliance of actual driving. Luxury has evolved since then and even the slightest inconvenience is no longer tolerated. That’s why Aston has invested heavily in a new interior approach, combining digital and analogue with an all-new bespoke infotainment system and an overall less oppressive feel.

Aston Martin DB12

(Image credit: Max Earey / Aston Martin)

You still sit low and comfortably in the cabin in a sporty driving position that blocks any view of the end of the long bonnet, which slopes down to the distinctive Aston Martin grille with metal louvers and wing logo (designed by Peter Saville). Aston Martins don’t shrink, and the DB12 is a few millimeters taller in each direction than the already portly DB11. So it’s fortunate that the steering is so direct and precise that you can easily get the car on the road.

Aston Martin DB12

(Image credit: Max Earey / Aston Martin)

The liveliness is thanks to the refined and upgraded suspension with fully adaptive dampers (soft for cruising, firmer for twistier stretches) and an uprated 680hp 4.0 twin-turbo V8. That’s theoretically enough for a top speed of 202 mph, an academic value that rivals rivals like Ferrari and McLaren, and for a sprint from 0 to 6 mph in 3.5 seconds.

Aston Martin DB12

(Image credit: Max Earey / Aston Martin)

Given Aston Martin’s continued success in Formula 1 (after a rocky start in 2021), such comparisons are all the more telling in 2023. Not only does the sport give the manufacturer regular chances to defeat long-time rival Ferrari, but Formula 1 is also pushing the Aston brand into new markets. It’s an expensive but valuable marketing strategy, backed by the company’s very real motorsport origins.

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Aston Martin DB12

(Image credit: Max Earey / Aston Martin)

However, a “super tourer” has to be more than just a sprinter. To justify this designation, the DB12 must have a wide range of talents. For marketers, that means looking for empty sectors on the Venn diagram of automotive luxury, not as hardcore as Ferrari, nor as luxurious as Rolls-Royce, not as traditional as a Bentley, more tasteful than a Lamborghini, but somewhere close enough to everyone Benchmark deserves its own place.

Aston Martin DB12

(Image credit: Aston Martin)

None of this would matter if the DB12 wasn’t beautiful. In our opinion, it’s the best-looking Aston Martin since the DB9, a fluid composition that maintains the proportionate perfection of its predecessor, with more precise detailing and an overall musculature reminiscent of the ’70s Vantage. “The design of the DB12 features an all-new front end, a wider stance and more muscular surfaces for more presence,” said Marek Reichman, Aston Martin executive vice president and chief creative officer. “The interior has also been completely redesigned,” he adds, “with clean horizontal lines that emphasize the sense of space and provide the perfect contemporary backdrop for a new, state-of-the-art infotainment system.”

Aston Martin DB12

(Image credit: Max Earey / Aston Martin)

These digital details are becoming increasingly important. As well as the crisp typography and simple graphics on the screens, there is a companion Aston Martin app that communicates directly via the car’s onboard E-SIM. The latter also allows for OTA updates of the DB12 software, with more services planned to be added over time. A subscription service offers enhanced functionality, including vehicle management and diagnostics, remote locking and unlocking, and theft alert.

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Aston Martin DB12

(Image credit: Max Earey / Aston Martin)

The optional surround sound upgrade marks Aston Martin’s first partnership with British audio specialists Bowers & Wilkins. The 1,170W system uses 15 speakers for immersive 3D sound, with components embedded in the vehicle structure for better acoustic performance. The infotainment system also supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while frequently used functions such as heating and ventilation are operated via physical controls.

Design detail of the Aston Martin DB12

(Image credit: Max Earey / Aston Martin)

Another first is the inclusion of a ‘wet’ driving mode in the DB12’s Electronic Stability Program (ESP), which is selected via the rotary knob in the new center console. There’s plenty of power to play with and while the ESP can be overridden if needed, the onboard systems do a great job of keeping things under control if you run out of road or capability. It’s also more energetic and vital than even the fastest DB11, with a propulsive nudge accompanied by that howling V8. If you don’t like that sound, you probably don’t have a seat behind the wheel of such a car; At least that’s how Aston is currently arguing. Despite the thick-rimmed steering wheel, the steering is precise and direct, making it an extremely addictive car to drive when desired; For everyday use, it’s as docile and refined as a sedan.

Aston Martin DB12

(Image credit: Aston Martin)

So is the DB12 called Super Tourer justified? The romance of the road trip is changing fast, as is the cultural acceptance of driving fast. The DB12 pays homage to a new era while still looking forward, but sticking to the past with an oily foot. For traditionalists, it’s a car with no conceivable downsides, meaning existing customers and Aston fans can and should rush to sign up. But where is the electrification? We are now at a point where a hybridized supercar is no longer heretical. So could there ever be a PHEV or an electric vehicle in DB’s future? Perhaps a description of tomorrow’s ultimate touring machine would be more convincing if it existed.

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