Aston Martin’s DB series has always been the manufacturer’s backbone model. Named after David Brown, who owned the company from 1947 to 1972, the DBs are among the most beautiful cars in the world, not least the famous silver birch DB5 that catapulted the model into iconic status. The latest incarnation, the DB12, continues the bloodline and is an important car launch for the brand. It is also the first built under the stewardship of the new owner, Lawrence Stroll.
It is an evolution of the DB11 but a lot more than a facelift, with over 80 per cent of the car being all-new. The new exterior design has been expertly executed and, of course, Aston Martin is in safe territory here. No one was losing sleep worrying that the British manufacturer would make an ugly car, and the form is testament to chief creative officer Marek Reichman and his team’s ability to move the design language along into the future, while retaining a solid grasp on Aston Martin’s DNA. The launch colour of Iridescent Emerald is particularly effective, and the new car will easily hold its own among the current crop of luxury sports cars.
The exterior is a triumph, but would be of no consequence if the interior was not radically overhauled. The DB11 has been around for seven years, and its interior was feeling rather dated. Combined with an antique infotainment system, that was becoming a bigger and more significant barrier to entry to the DB range. DB12 has stepped up to the plate and delivered on this issue. And, yes, finally, there is a touchscreen. The pre-production models still have a few wrinkles to iron out, but this is a step change from the DB11’s system, which felt outdated even at launch. The cabin has been brought bang up to date. They have taken a leaf from the Bentley Continental’s interior playbook with knurled metal rotary barrels and dials on a smart central column.
Interior uplift aside, they seem to have abandoned the GT battleground of the Bentley Continental and gone off supercar-hunting with the likes of Ferrari Roma and 911 Turbo in the crosshairs. The quirky buttons for drive selection featured in earlier DB automatics have gone, but will be missed by few. In their place is a stubby gear lever, which is in keeping with this car’s more sporting pretensions. Indeed, this subtle shift tells you a lot about this car’s difference from the outgoing model. Slipping into the brogued leather seats of its predecessor, the DB11, and pushing the button marked “D” was an altogether more stately affair. It was more of a Grand Tourer in the guise of a British gentlemen’s club.
By contrast, in the new car, admire the rich Bridge of Weir hides as you settle into its perfectly shaped seats; grasp the Mercedes-sourced three-spoke wheel and select Drive with the metal lever, and the DB12 surges into life with a tautness that challenges you to grab it by the scruff of the neck.
The figures are, of course, impressive. A top speed of 202mph after getting to 60mph in 3.5 seconds – similar to the outgoing DB11, but that fails to tell the whole story. The DB12 drives like a completely different car. The all-new intelligent adaptive dampers may be the unsung heroes of this new model: they are that good. The DB12 accepts lateral load when cornering a lot more enthusiastically, and the power is always there when you need it – not surprising when you have a mighty 671bhp to play with from the revised V8 twin-turbo powerplant. The DB12’s re-mapped gearbox also impresses, with crisp full-throttle upshifts, giving you the confidence to drive this car with a lot more urgency.
Fernando Alonso is Aston’s on-track talisman, and the great Formula 1 driver proudly flies the flag for the brand – seemingly happy, at least for now, to act as big brother and mentor to the junior driver in the team, Lance Stroll, who happens to be the son of the owner. Make no mistake, F1 is vital for Aston Martin road cars. Astonishingly, 72 per cent of buyers of the Vantage F1® Edition are new to the brand – a clear indicator of the power of the sport as a global marketing tool. In its early days, Aston Martin focused on race cars, and it is now not afraid to embrace these roots in a way we haven’t seen from the brand in decades. Born first to race is now something to be recognised. It signals Aston Martin’s direction of travel.
The argument with Aston Martin DBs often began and ended with ‘Yes, but doesn’t it look good?’ Owners of the new model need no longer deflect with how pretty it looks, as every aspect of the car can now be legitimately compared to its rivals. Aston Martin has the ambition to be the most desirable ultra-luxury performance brand. That was a tall order with the DB11. The DB12, on the other hand, takes it a lot closer to that goal.
From £185,000; astonmartin.com