Aston Martin is working on its first electric sports car, but by releasing the DB12 it just made life a bit more difficult for itself. This new Grand Tourer, or rather Super Tourer, as it’s being touted, is nothing short of breathtaking. It’s a car that reminds you why you love driving and even for an EV evangelist like me, wonder why you’d want a car without a V8 engine.
Though very much a luxury brand already, Aston Martin is looking to elevate its position, both in terms of luxury and performance. The British motorsport company has returned to Formula One and is having major success, gaining new followers from across the world. Its DB range is 75 years old this year and has been known as the car of choice for James Bond for many of those. With the DB12 it is looking to create a new legacy.
I had the chance to drive the new Aston Martin DB12 through the mountains just north of Nice in the South of France. I observed it on the highway in GT mode and around the windy mountain passes in Sport mode, even trying its all-out Sport+ mode where my nerves would allow. I don’t think there was a second behind the wheel where I wasn’t smiling, which is what you would expect from a quarter of a million pounds worth of sports car.
That’s not to say the DB12 is perfect. The model I drove didn’t have final firmware for the infotainment system and the vehicle automation controls like the adaptive cruise control weren’t yet active. However, even when finished it may struggle to match the technological slickness that you’d find in high-end BMW and Mercedes models.
How much does it cost?
The Aston Martin DB12 was announced in May 2023 and is expected to ship to customers in the final quarter of the year. Prices for the car start from £185,000 / $245,000. However, there is an enormous amount of customisation available for the car that can increase the price dramatically.
Aston Martin’s Q customisation is available at the home of Aston in Gaydon, UK. However, a new flagship store has just opened in New York offering the full Q experience for bespoke customers, including live video links to the factory and a lifestyle screen to visualise your creation.
Features and design of the DB12
The DB12 is a progression of the former DB11. At first glance, not all that much has changed but in the details, it is a different story. The DB12 is bigger, wider over the wheel arches by 10mm at the front and 16mm at the rear. It has a larger grill for increased cooling, and a lower deeper splitter. There are new LED headlights, side scrapes with the Aston Martin livery, and new 21-inch alloys on a brand new tyre – the Michelin Pilot Sport S5. There are new springs and anti-roll bars, new bushes, Bilstein dampers and carbon ceramic brakes that were not available on the Aston Martin DB11.
Every inch of this car has been reexamined, and fine-tuned to create a stronger, faster and more efficient build. It’s a process that began as soon as the DB11 launched in 2016, but has been a full-time job for the designers and engineers at Aston for the last three years at least. As a super tourer, the car is designed for both comfort and performance, but perhaps foremost it’s designed to thrill.
Inside, the view is no less impressive. The stitched leather steering wheel and seats, carbon fibre panels, chunky metal buttons and integrated screens. Though this is a two-door sports car there are rear seats here too, though you probably wouldn’t want to do a long journey back there unless you were a kid. There is boot space too, with 262 litres it’s enough room to fit a couple of small cases or one large one – enough for a weekend away.
While the technology was always going to be important in the DB12, the Aston Martin designers sought to integrate it and not have it take over that pure driving experience. That’s certainly evident from the two screens in the dash. In the centre, the 10.25-inch screen sits flush in the centre console, almost missable when turned off. This is an extremely high-resolution touchscreen display with capacitive touch. The interface is Aston’s own and is modelled to mimic the way we use personal devices, with app drawers and swipe access to features.
Of course, you can also use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto instead if you wish but it’s a very clean and easy-to-use system. Its mapping comes from Here Maps, which also supplies BMW’s current mapping system.
A second 10.25-inch display sits behind the steering wheel, providing not only the vehicle dynamics but also a space to show either the navigation, media or other car details. I was a little disappointed that there is no option for a head-up display in the DB12, as I feel it’s a nice way to allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road – something even the new Rolls-Royce Spectre allows for. However, the placement of the screen behind the steering wheel allows a really easy view, so your eyes never have to travel too far from the road.
While screens are present in the DB12, it has kept a good amount of the controls to mechanical dials and switches. Below the driving dynamics selection dial in the centre console, the driving mode has a chunky leather switch, while either side of it are industrial-looking metal rolling dials for the climate control, fan speed and entertainment volume. Aston Martin has realised that these need to be easy to adjust at speed, and these couldn’t be easier.
Another impressive feature of the DB12 is the sound. This comes courtesy of the Bowers and Wilkins Halo audio system, with 15 speakers placed throughout the cockpit to achieve that signature sound. The speakers aren’t hidden either, the dimpled speaker plates (to help the sound travel better) all carry the B&W name, including the tweeters mounted in the dash itself. It looks impressive and sounds even better. Though you may be tempted to just listen to that engine.
Underneath that bonnet is a 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 engine that produces 680ps and 800Nm of torque. It will do a 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds, to 124mph in just 10.19 seconds and a top speed of 202mph. The eight-speed gearbox allows a paddle-shift operation to take you through the gears, or you can just let the car do the work.
Lots of cars are fast off the line – especially many big EVs – but it’s in the handling where you really get to see what the DB12 can do. The car just sticks to the road, no matter how hard you push it – or at least it does way past where I’d dare push it.
That purr from the engine is never offensively loud put when pushed it does produce a satisfying noise. Aston Martin has spent a huge amount of time tuning this engine to deliver that perfect Aston sound. It’s a little higher pitched than I was expecting and while it sounds great when accelerating, it sounds even better as you drop through the gears in time for a tight corner.
You can really feel the difference between the drive modes on the DB12. That GT mode feels calm and relaxed, while the Sport mode really tightens things up for some real driving, and the Sports Plus is all-out madness. There’s also an Individual mode to set your personal driving preference and a wet mode for when you need more grip.
The advanced driver assistance systems include adaptive cruise control, complete with stop-and-go functions, making this an easy drive on motorways and in traffic. There’s also lane keep assist and lane departure warning, though I was unable to try these on my drive, as they hadn’t been activated on the test vehicle.
Should I buy a DB12?
There are very few cars that look as good as the Aston Martin DB12, there are also even fewer that drive as well as it. The combination makes this a rather tempting proposition. However, what I really love about the DB12 is that Super Tourer status; the fact that it can be a wild sports car one minute and a graceful long-distance tourer the next.
It's this duality that makes the car something that you can use day in, day out. For road trips, commuting and weekend drives. You could claim that a 200k car is a little excessive for a commute, but if you had one, why would you drive something more sensible five days a week?
I said at the start that Aston has caused itself more problems in a move to electric by making the DB12 so good, but maybe that's not the case. If Aston Martin can apply itself to the electric engine in the way they have here, there's no reason an EV sports car of the future is likely to be outstanding too.