Behind The Wheel Of The Aston Martin DB12, The ‘World’s First Super Tourer’
We put the “best DB yet” claim to the test in the South of France.
This year marks both Aston Martin’s 110th anniversary and 75 years of its iconic DB line, which includes the original James Bond DB5, as well as every Aston driven by the world’s most famous secret agent ever since. Perfect timing, in other words, to introduce the next vehicle to bear the legendary prefix, (in automotive terms) every bit as freighted as the famed double-O—the brand new DB12.
It arrives at a time when Aston Martin is enjoying one of the most dynamic runs in its century-plus history, thanks to the continued podium captures of its Formula 1 team this season. DB12 is also the first all-new sports car to be launched under the leadership of Lawrence Stroll, the Canadian billionaire who took over as Executive Chairman of Aston Martin Lagonda in 2020, and who has invested so wisely in the F1 program. And finally it is the marque’s first new vehicle for Aston Martin CEO Amedeo Felisa, the former CEO of Ferrari who assumed his new role last year.
With so much on the line, there was no question of making DB12 a “typical” GT. With 670 hp—more than its closest competitors, the Ferrari Roma, McLaren GT, and Bentley Continental GT—and 800NM of torque courtesy of its hand-built V8 Twin-Turbo, it’s a hence they have dubbed DB12 the world’s first “Super Tourer,” as well as the “most complete and accomplished” DB model in history—one that “shines with authenticity, capability and passion to deliver a driving experience that’s second to none.” And we were invited to the South of France recently to put those claims to the test.
“When a brand has as much history as Aston Martin it is important to honor the past,” says Felisa, who has quickly warmed to his new role. “Not by looking back, but by pushing on with the same energy and passion that propelled our founders 110 years ago. With the new DB12 we are reinvigorating the DB model line and reasserting Aston Martin as a maker of truly exceptional performance sports cars. By combining class-leading performance and exceptional chassis dynamics with cutting edge technology, impeccable craftsmanship and immaculate design, DB12 leads Aston Martin into a new era of excellence.”
With a starting price of around $245,000 in the U.S., a 0-60 sprint of 3.5 seconds, and a top speed of 202 mph, the DB12’s numbers alone add up to something pretty spectacular. With its predecessor the DB11 having been on the road since 2016, it’s safe to say all eyes are on Stroll and Felisa to see if they can inject Formula 1-like magic into the DB program.
Speaking at the opulent and Bond-worthy new Maybourne Riviera hotel, perched on a cliff overlooking Monaco, Miles Nurnberger, the brand’s Director of Design called the DB12’s launch part and parcel of “our very ambitious statement to create the world’s most desirable, ultra-luxury British performance brand. The really significant word in all of that is actually ‘performance,’” he points out.
“The company in the past definitely has been a performance brand, but it’s something that, in the last two or three years, we have definitely re-emphasized”—a nod here, we infer, to the F1 reboot but also limited-run hypercars the Valhalla and Valkyrie. “[It’s] very, very important. It drives our day-to-day activities and what we do, and our choices.”
At an exquisite lunch in the hills above Monaco, for which Michelin-starred British chef Tom Kerridge was flown, Nurnberger continued, “In redefining our next generation of sports cars, performance in particular was something in which we wanted to shift the brand’s perception. Obviously, first of all in a dynamic sense, but there’s also movement within the aesthetics and all the other attributes that the car has towards that goal.”
Prior to DB12, which is aimed at introducing an all new “Ultra-Luxury Performance” category, Nurnberger explains, “You have the ultra-luxury experience, you have Rolls-Royce and Bentley, to one side. What you might say about these brands is that they slow time down. They give you more time. Then on the other side, you have the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Lamborghini—in many ways they speed time up. It’s all about exhilaration. And that’s a very different type of luxury.”
The idea with DB12, Nurnberger notes, is “actually being able to mix those elements together. We believe that’s quite a unique brand position and actually a real strength of Aston Martin today. So we have the luxury elements that we’ve been very good at for many, many years. And what we add is more performance. So in terms of powertrain, in terms of chassis dynamics, this is really being raised to a new level with DB12”—which is 34% more powerful than DB11.
“Alongside that, there’s a huge investment in interiors that started about three years ago. We made a big, big decision on going our own way, investing more in the design team and the materials and everything around interiors. And when you drive the DB12 you instantly feel that change.”
You actually get a sense of it even before getting behind the wheel, at first glimpse of the DB12 in fact, with its all-new front-end treatment, wider stance and “more muscular surfaces,” all designed to convey “an impressively athletic physique, measured aggression and unrivaled elegance.” Standard-fit 21-inch forged alloy wheels and the latest evolution of the iconic Aston Martin wings badge complete the exterior visual cues.
Climbing into the cockpit, where a state-of-the-art infotainment system—entirely bespoke, designed and developed by Aston Martin, it is the marque’s first in-house system—forms the centerpiece of an all-new interior that is leagues above any previous Aston DB car, completes the mission.
Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Aston Martin, elaborates on the “Super Tourer” concept thusly: “Historically, the GT code among most contemporary enthusiasts meant some semblance of comfort, speed, and refinement. But since the Aston Martin customer is no ordinary motorist, and we no longer simply design objects in and of themselves, we’ve fused everything together on the DB12—he handling, dynamics, powertrain, sense of space, and styling—and we’ve done it to the max through technology to deliver this new category of performance-design driving experience.”
He adds, “We know that when the owner of an Aston Martin heads out for open-road driving at the upper limits, hoping to reach those exhilarating moments of perfection, they are seeking the thrills of speed and performance while safely commanding control of their experience. DB12 intuitively knows what the driver is wanting and effortlessly gives them that optimal combination at any driving moment. It’s this total experience that separates the DB12 as the first breed of Super Tourer.”
The DB12 features five pre-defined drive modes, emphasizing its versatility: GT, Sport and Sport+ progressively adjust the car’s dynamic behavior; Wet mode enhances stability on lowgrip surfaces; and Individual mode allows the driver to “precisely tailor the vehicle systems to their preferences, with the freedom to mix and match chassis, powertrain, ESP and traction control settings.”
No matter the setting, the driver is swathed in luxury throughout the journey; one only need decide if the engine alone should provide the soundtrack; or the top-drawer surround sound system from the marque’s new audio partner, Bowers & Wilkins.
UK-sourced and hand-stitched Bridge of Weir leather hides cocoon the interior, soft, supple and supportive, making the DB12 suitable both for long journeys and speed runs. With DB12 Aston has introduced a new quilting pattern as well. And those who wish to go their own way can commission Q by Aston Martin, the brand’s bespoke division, to create something truly one-of-a-kind. Options range from “a single small distinguishing detail to full-scale engineering and production of entirely bespoke components,” with literally nothing out of reach or impossible to express.
Roberto Fedeli, Group Chief Technology Officer of Aston Martin, further expands on that theme, declaring that, “DB12 is a statement car. One that asserts Aston Martin’s position as a leader in performance, dynamics, engineering and technology. We have pushed every aspect of this car to be best-in-class. The result is more power and performance than its rivals. Combined with exceptional handling and an exciting soundtrack, it is a car with passion and a truly sporting character. Crucially, thanks to its breadth of capability we have achieved this without compromising refinement, comfort and luxury. Together with our use of industry-leading dynamic control and infotainment systems, DB12 is the start of Aston Martin’s most exciting new era.”
We are all waiting to see who will be tapped as Daniel Craig’s replacement in the role of James Bond. But whoever earns the iconic 007 designation is sure of one thing: Aston Martin now has a mission-critical and suitably stylish and thrilling ride ready and waiting.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Maxim magazine.