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First drive: 2023 Aston Martin DB12 Coupe. Image by Aston Martin.

First drive: 2023 Aston Martin DB12 Coupe
The Aston Martin DB12 is billed as much more than a traditional GT. Can it live up to the hype?

   



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2023 Aston Martin DB12 Coupe

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On the face of it, the Aston Martin DB12 is merely an updated DB11, but the changes go much deeper than a more aggressive design to include a totally revamped interior, bang up-to-date technology and a chassis developed to be more engaging and more competent than ever before. In the process, Aston is hoping to reposition the car away from traditional GTs such as the Bentley Continental GT and closer to the likes of the Ferrari Roma and McLaren GT. Can the new DB12 live up to its "Super Tourer" billing?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 Aston Martin DB12 Coupe
Price: from 185,000
Engine: twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power: 680hp
Torque: 800Nm
Emissions: 276g/km
Economy: 23.2mpg
0-62mph: 3.6 seconds
Top speed: 202mph
Boot space: 262 litres

Styling

Approach the DB12 from the rear and you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for its predecessor, the Aston Martin DB11, as the back is the least changed aspect of it, even if the tracks front and rear are wider than before. You'll not miss the larger wheels filling that space though, as 21-inch rims are now standard (an inch bigger then before) and they're shod in special Michelin Pilot S 5 tyres, too. More slender door mirrors and tweaked side strakes modernise the side view further.

The biggest exterior style changes are found at the front, where the redesigned apron sits closer to the ground and appears to incorporate an aerodynamic splitter. In the middle is a larger radiator grille to increase cooling flow to the engine, and that's flanked by new headlights.

Interior

Inside is where the DB12 is most obviously different to its forerunner as it's the first Aston Martin to benefit from a brand-new digital dashboard setup, backed up by a new electronic architecture underneath. The latter allows far more functionality and connectivity than before - including an impressive smartphone app for owners and lots of active safety - but it's the design and layout of the cabin that will stand out and be noticed by prospective buyers.

A lovely compact new steering wheel sets the tone, with long, slim and metal gearchange paddles behind. The appearance of the thoroughly modern set of digital instruments can be altered a little and the layout is easy to see at a glance. That's complemented by a new 10.25-inch touchscreen in the middle of the car that responds crisply to input and is easy to find your way around. Just as importantly, Aston Martin has retained physical switchgear for key items, so you can adjust the climate control by feel rather than having to look at the display, for example. The large rotary control below the screen is ludicrously solid in its movement and it's only for choosing the driving mode (it's topped by the engine-start button). And behind that is a compact drive selector that's just as satisfying to use.

Practicality

Although there are rear seats in the DB12, it's best to think of them as stylish holders for extra luggage, as GT cars such as this are not bought with carrying lots of people in mind. Sure, adults can fit in there if the front seats are moved quite far forward, but that's not comfortable for anyone in the car. With just a driver and passenger on board, however, there's plenty of space, loads of adjustment in the excellent seats (buyers can spend as much as they please on customising the materials, colours and finishes of the cabin) and enough oddments space for a long journey. The boot holds 262 litres, which should be plenty for a typical owner.

Performance

At launch, the DB12 is offered with a new derivative of the phenomenal Mercedes-AMG V8. As before, it's a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre unit with the turbos inside the vee. Peak outputs are 680hp and 800Nm of torque and it sounds fantastic in any of the driving modes, but particularly so in the Sport Plus setting with a menacing bark as it approaches the top quarter of the rev counter. Sure, Aston's V12 might be more musical, but there's no denying the sensational performance from the V8. Aston quotes a 0-62mph time of just 3.6 seconds and the DB12 will tick over the magic 200mph mark if you have a long enough private road.

Drive to the rear wheels is via an eight-speed automatic transmission mounted at the back of the car and an electronically controlled differential. The control of these is integrated with the rest of the sub-systems and the different driving modes - Wet, GT (the default), Sport and Sport Plus - though it's possible to press a button for full manual control of the gearbox too. It's so good, there's no need to, but any excuse to use the tactile gearchange paddles.

Ride & Handling

A significant amount of reworking to the chassis has gone on under the skin in the evolution from DB11 to DB12. Much of it is to stiffen up the core structure and suspension mounting points to allow that suspension work better and to enable uncorrupted feedback to the driver's hands. To this much stiffer base is bolted a new generation of adaptive damping and a six-axis accelerometer that informs the car's brain what's going on, allowing, among other things, for predicted grip levels. It's all very clever, but in reality, you just get in and drive and the car does its best to make it enjoyable without its intervention.

By deploying a 'Wet' mode for the first time, Aston Martin felt justified in making the DB12's default settings more aggressive than usual, but in GT mode the car is wonderfully smooth and tractable, making it a doddle to cover hundreds of miles on the motorway or battle with stop-start traffic. Not that you'll want to do that in this car with Sport and Sport Plus modes to explore. The DB12 ramps up its focus noticeably in these, though it stops short of ever becoming a bone-jarring plank. I'd suggest that the Sport mode is suitable for most enthusiasts to drive everywhere in, with Sport Plus for the occasional blast down a particularly good piece of road.

Point the DB12's nose down one of those and you'll discover why Aston is referring to it as a Super Tourer. The steering really does come alive, communicating what's happening at road level through the solidly-mounted steering system, while the body control is excellent without ever being uncompromising. Grip levels are high, there's a delicious rear-lead stance to the chassis on the exit of corners and the DB12 can easily maintain a high average speed with little fuss.

Value

The DB12 starts at about 185,000, but none will leave the factory without customer personalisation - and the sky really is the limit on that front, especially when the bespoke Q by Aston Martin service is taken into consideration. That price, and the car's remit, puts it up against the Bentley Continental GT and Ferrari Roma, and the DB12 is closer in character to the Italian car. In reality, the new Maserati GranTurismo should be considered a rival, too, as should the McLaren GT.

Verdict

No GT car made by Aston before has ever been this engaging. The DB12 is a car that owners will be looking for excuses to drive and it delivers an astounding performance thanks to a well-thought-out technical specification. The fact that it can still play the role of a fast and comfortable cruiser is all the more impressive after you experience its on-the-limit driving dynamics. And even if you're only moderately interested in how the DB12 drives, the new look and cabin are hard to ignore if you're in the market for a high-end GT.



Shane O' Donoghue - 15 Aug 2023



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2023 Aston Martin DB12. Image by Aston Martin.2023 Aston Martin DB12. Image by Aston Martin.2023 Aston Martin DB12. Image by Aston Martin.2023 Aston Martin DB12. Image by Aston Martin.2023 Aston Martin DB12. Image by Aston Martin.








 

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