It gets tiring to hear people say “It’s great, but I wish it was like X…” when it comes to Aston Martins. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed those I’ve driven, telling people about them ends up with a string of reasons why they prefer Porsche. Or Bentley. I hope, rather fervently, that the new DB12 will stop such nonsense.
Cynics will claim it’s a DB11 with a new face, Aston will tell you otherwise. It now only comes with a 671bhp 590lb ft turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 that needs lots and lots of air to stop it from going pop, which is why the DB12 has such a big mouth. 0-62mph takes 3.6 seconds and it’ll do 202mph as well, which is pleasingly fast. The whole car’s been given a pleasing nip and tuck, too, making it look far more resolved than the DB11 – it’s a chunky looking thing, though it manages to pull off ‘elegant’ as well. You can, of course, spec it in plenty of colours, including that AMR lime green which is visible from space. Fresher than a Continental GT, less delicate to look at than a Roma, Aston’s found a strong groove here.
Inside is a huge step up from the DB11 (and the Vantage, and the DBS). Where there were once things you’d recognise from Aston’s past, or from other manufacturers now there’s genuinely slick touch screen, real buttons that control useful things like air con and volume, and a pleasing dial to switch drive modes. The seats are huge and cosseting, there’s not a wonky stitch to be seen… it’s properly sorted.
As a thing to look at, and be in, it’s bang on then. How’s about something to live with? It’s the first ‘connected’ Aston Martin, which means Gaydon can update its software bits without you having to go to a dealer and wait for a USB stick to do its thing. You can have all sorts of live info fired to the car, too. On the move, the infotainment is a doddle to play with. The menus don’t require digging through to find what you want, everything is a prod, or maybe two away – but the things in there aren’t the kind of thing you’ll need to bother yourself with on the fly. The instrument cluster, again digital, is big, bright, and clear. Everything you need to know is right there in front of you.
There’s space in the boot for a decent amount of things, perhaps not a big shop for a family of four, but enough. Aston has seen fit to put cubby holes all over the place, too, so you needn’t worry about where to put your phone, wallet, or any of that stuff.
Aston’s clearly thrown a huge amount of cash at the DB12 to make it feel just right from the off, and it shows.
On the move it’s a wonderful thing. In the most inert GT setting it’s smooth and comfortable. The adaptive dampers can only go so far to stop its 21 inch wheels from getting a little crashy on rough roads. Giving the gas pedal a decent stop made a big grin happen all over my face. A well of noise, and torque shoots you forward, the car never showing any signs of being bothered by being asked to fling you down the road. It just does it. And then… it keeps you there. Perhaps the strangest thing about the DB12 is that it never seems to push you to press on – the thing’s entirely there to serve you.
Twist the drive change mode dial… thing wrapped about the engine start button and it’ll leap into Sport, Sport Plus, Wet, or Individual mode. Sport is the car’s sweet spot for making progress. Plus makes it a little too harsh for my delicate bum, but turning the wick up a touch transforms the car from slinky cruiser to something akin to a cannonball. A cannonball with nice upholstery, I’ll admit. Power delivery becomes more urgent, which, after how potent GT mode feels, is perhaps a touch needless… except it’s not because angry torque is fun torque. It steers wonderfully, communicating what the front of the car is doing. You can lean on it, too. That’s, in part, thanks to the Michelin Pilot Sport S 5 tyres it wears on each corner keeping the car stuck to the ground (and quiet on the motorway, too). Even with the whole thing set up for speed, there’s a lack of aggression there. Perhaps an air of British restraint keeps it in check – you’ll only see its true colours if you queue jump it, or speak ill of its home town? It never begs to be flogged. It does exactly as told, and waits patiently for instruction.
Aston’s built a far more relaxed character into the DB12. It could have thrown silly (well, sillier) power at it and made a silly lairy smoke monster, but that would have been foolish. The reason for the foolishness is where Aston is taking itself. It’s always been synonymous with luxury, but it’s upping the ante – apartment complexes, hyper exclusive special editions, all sorts of luxury stuff that the super wealthy will enjoy. That end of the market doesn’t always want silly tyre smoke. It needs something to relax in. A DB12 will let them do just that, but at 180mph.
The DB12 is what you’ve expected Aston Martin to make for years. And it means I won’t have to say ‘yes… but’ any more. If this is the kick off point for a new era, the next Vantage will be something really special, too. Gaydon should be pleased with what it’s done here, and Crewe should maybe feel a little nervous.