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First drive: Aston Martin DB12 Volante. Image by Aston Martin.

First drive: Aston Martin DB12 Volante
This 12 might only have an eight, but it gets a perfect ten for looks...

   



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Aston Martin DB12 Volante

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Aston Martin has been using the Volante badge for its convertibles since 1965, so how does the new V8-engined DB12 fit into that illustrious history? Is it as much fun to drive as the Coupe, and should you spend the extra for those few days a year when you can have the top down?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante
Price: £204,000
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power: 680hp
Torque: 800Nm
Emissions: 276g/km
Fuel consumption: 23.2mpg
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Top speed: 202mph
Boot space: 206 litres (roof up), 169 litres (roof folded)

Styling

Styling, and the appreciation of same, is a deeply subjective thing. One personís art is anotherís confusing mess, but I donít think itís stretching the bounds of reality to say that this DB12 Volante is, objectively, truly gorgeous. The styling revisions that morphed the DB11 into the DB12 (the extruded, riveted and bonded aluminium chassis underneath has barely changed) are hugely effective, porting over the massive grille from the old DBS Superleggera and giving the car a far more muscular appearance. Lopping the roof off has done it no harm at all, not least because the eight-layer soft-top folds up really quite compactly, to a depth of only 260mm (Aston claims this as an in-class best) and sits neatly under a tonneau cover, with hardly any of the hump-back appearance that so often blights a coupe-turned-convertible. There are some, ahem, striking colours available including an oh-so-seventies ĎMagneto Bronzeí (brown, to you and I) or the Caribbean Pearl blue of our test car. Relax - regular silvers and greys are available too. Again, this comes down to personal taste, but for my money, this is a far, far better-looking car than the rival Ferrari Roma.

Interior

The DB12 marked a significant step forward from the old DB11 when it came to cabin quality and layout, and the Volante version carries that over. Instead of the somewhat plasticky cabin of the DB11, you get something far more luscious in the DB12. The big centre console, where youíll find most of the controls, has clearly been inspired by Porsche, right down to the little flick-switch for the eight-speed ZF transaxle gearbox, but it works well and even though thereís a new touchscreen (which works fairly well, and which uses Astonís own bespoke software now) thankfully there are still lots of lovely physical switches. Some of these are slightly cheap plastic buttons, but others are beautifully wrought metal roller switches, which are a delight to use. An obvious addition is the toggle switch for the roof, which takes 14 seconds to fold, and 16 seconds to put back up, and which can be done on the move at speeds of up to 31mph. The overall style of the cabin is relatively understated, with few of the dramatic touches youíd find in an equivalent Bentley or Ferrari, but after a while with the DB12 Volante, you start to appreciate that - itís a more subtle kind of car at its heart, and that seems increasingly pleasing as the miles roll by. Actually, the only bum notes are the steering wheel (which too obviously shows off its Mercedes origins) and the driverís digital instrument panel, which works fine but looks as if it could have come from any other car - maybe weíre due a return to proper analogue instruments?

Practicality

If youíre looking for useful practicality... look elsewhere. Well, perhaps thatís not entirely fair. The DB12 Volanteís rear seats are almost entirely useless, unless youíre squeezing in very small people for very short journeys. Theyíre much better used as a repository for small bags, not least because the already compact 206-litre boot shrinks further to 160-litres when the roof is folded. Larger luggage will have to be sent on ahead. The cabin in the front isnít totally impractical, as there is useful (if shallow) storage space under the armrest and in the door bins, and thereís a storage space under that big centre console too. Space and comfort in the front are top-drawer, though.

Performance

The DB12 Volanteís might 4.0-litre V8 engine is, of course, sourced from Mercedes-AMG (Mercedes owns a stake in Aston) but someone at Gaydon has stuck a screwdriver in the engine management control unit and turned it all the way up to eleven, hence the 680hp and 800Nm of torque. The thing is, at start-up and at low speeds, this engine is almost surprisingly quiet and refined, as befits the DB12ís primary mission as a grand tourer. You can select from Wet, Individual, GT, Sport and Sport+ driving modes, all of which turn the engineís wick up or down accordingly, and thereís a separate control for the sports exhaust, so you can make things louder or quieter in any mode according to taste.

To really wake the engine up, you donít need to be in any particular mode, you just need to find the space and safety to shove that big throttle pedal to the stop. When you do that, irrespective of mode, the V8 springs violently into life and loudness, and issues a cultured, well-educated rumble of thunder that sounds very different to the higher pitch of a Ferrari V8, but not quite as muscle-car-y as a regular Mercedes AMG V8. You wonít have much time to consider that, though, as the horizon will by then be accelerating towards you at what seems like Einsteinian speeds. That 3.7-second 0-62mph time seems entirely believable, in spite of the DB12 Volante being rear-drive only, and that top speed of 202mph seems totally do-able, given a suitably long runway (or just some kind of diplomatic immunity). Aston does quote an official fuel economy figure of 23mpg, but we doubt many owners will notice nor care.

Ride & Handling

The DB12 Volante is a big, wide car and - at almost 1,900kg - itís no lightweight either. So youíll be expecting it to be a classic GT, all comfort and cosset and not so much with the cornering. Well... Aston does refer to this car as a ĎSuper Tourerí and no, thatís not a reference to 1990s BTCC racing. It means that this is a car with the comfort of a grand tourer, but the performance and poise of a supercar.

Is it? Well, kind of, yes. I mean, the DB12 does definitely err on the side of comfort (as long as you have the adaptive dampers set to Comfort mode, it does a remarkable job of soaking up the worst that Cotswold back roads can throw at it) but it has more than a few tricks up its sleeve. The biggest of those is just how far back in the chassis the V8 engine is set, making this pretty much a mid-engined car. Which youíll really notice when you find your first truly challenging set of corners and experience just how light and agile the nose of the Volante feels as you swing it from apex to apex. The steering is GT-light, but there is some good and useful feel and feedback, so itís far easier to guide - accurately - than youíd think. The only real handling limitation is the width, which has you backing off on tighter roads for fear of snagging those big, gorgeous (and expensive) 21-inch forged alloy wheels on a kerb or the edge of a ditch.

The best way to drive the DB12 Volante is to use the big, tactile switch to select Sport mode, but then press the separate suspension button (to Comfort) and exhaust button (to maximum loudness). You can obviously set all this up as a default mode in the Individual setting, but thus established the DB12 Volante has a truly remarkable combination of grip, poise, agility, comfort and sheer speed. It makes for a heady cocktail.

Value

Ummm... Anyone expecting Ďvalueí from a £204,000 car is probably barking up the wrong tree, but if it helps the DB12 Volante is a little more affordable than the Ferrari Roma Spider, and a touch more expensive than the Bentley Continental GT Convertible. All use V8 engines although when it comes to power, the Bentleyís is by far the least potent, while the Ferrari gives away almost 70hp to the Aston. You can pretty easily add £100,000 to the Astonís list price without trying too hard with the (gloriously time-wasting) online configurator but overall, given that the DB12 Volante has way more power than the Bentley and a good bit more than the Ferrari, and that we reckon itís much better looking than either, weíll call the Aston the winner when it comes to value.

Verdict

Cars such as the DB12 Volante are almost closer to being works of art than simple transport. Indeed, itís far from impossible to imagine a DB12 Volante stuck to the wall of a gallery somewhere, as an exemplar of the car designerís art. Itís not just skin-deep, either - this is a wickedly fast car, that also happens to be extremely comfortable, and which also, also happens to be far more deft and deployable on tight and twisty roads than you might imagine. Itís fabulous, is what weíre trying to say.



Neil Briscoe - 15 Apr 2024



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2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante. Image by Aston Martin.2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante. Image by Aston Martin.2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante. Image by Aston Martin.2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante. Image by Aston Martin.2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante. Image by Aston Martin.

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante. Image by Aston Martin.2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante. Image by Aston Martin.2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante. Image by Aston Martin.2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante. Image by Aston Martin.2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante. Image by Aston Martin.








 

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