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Replacement for the DB11 grand tourer packs a 671bhp V8 and has the Bentley Continental GT and Ferrari Roma in its sights

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Might this be the most significant facelift that any grand-touring sports car has ever had? The Aston Martin DB12, which we first sampled in France in July 2023, isn’t quite all-new, but the shift in approach that it represents definitely is – and might be quite easy to overlook.

This is really the first of Gaydon’s major model introductions since Lawrence Stroll bought control of the company. The Aston Martin DBX SUV was still an Andy Palmer-era Aston, after all.

As is Aston Martin’s way, the things you interact with the most feel really special – the trim of the steering wheel, the shift pedals, even the forces back through the pedals. It’s a car you crave to drive and enjoy in a very tactile way.

While there have been other low-volume, special-series introductions since, the DB12 is the first big-ticket Aston model to be designed and developed entirely under the Canadian's ownership; and also since the arrival of key Ferrari expats Amadeo Felisa and Roberto Fedeli into the leading CEO and CTO roles.

This car should tell us exactly how and where ‘the new Aston Martin’ really wants to progress and do things differently than it has previously.

On first acquaintance, the car felt like a big step on from its predecessor, addressing weaknesses that Aston Martin has suffered with for a long time but retaining the company’s defining dynamic strengths. Now, on its native British roads, can it seal the deal?

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aston martin db12 review 2023 02 panning side

Twelve follows eleven here, then, in all ways but figuratively - with the number of cylinders under that newly pinched and ridged bonnet. Whereas the Aston Martin DB11 could be had with either 4.0-litre V8 or 5.2-litre V12 turbo power, Aston has concentrated its engineering effort this time on a revised version of that V8 from Mercedes-AMG, which develops significantly more than even the old DB11 AMR’s V12 managed: 671bhp at 6000rpm and a healthy 15% more torque of 590lb ft from 2750rpm. A Mercedes-sourced plug-in hybrid version of the car is being developed for introduction in 2026.

From some angles, in particular the rear and in profile, you still see the DB11 in this car, yet both the head-on view and the overall proportions look like a big step forward and worthy of a new name. In the metal, it’s easy to tell the DB11 and DB12 apart: the DB12 is wider and more purposeful and looks like it has far greater sporting intent. Indeed, the company doesn’t call it a grand tourer now but a super tourer (no, not like the ones from the 1990s BTCC). According to Aston, “grand is not enough” to describe it - which sounds like a cross between a James Bond film and what’s needed to pay the average energy bill these days. Far better to underpromise and overdeliver when it comes to launches like these, history teaches.

Chassis-wise, a redesign of key components within the DB11’s bonded aluminium monocoque brings a 7% improvement to torsional rigidity for the new car – and, allowing for the weight saved under the bonnet, delivers an 85kg weight saving overall compared with the launch-spec DB11 V12 in a car that's slightly shorter but wider. 

Elsewhere, the DB12 becomes the first Aston DB model with a torque-vectoring electronic rear differential (like that of the smaller Aston Martin Vantage sports car) and also gets firmer suspension springs and anti-roll bars than the DB11 had, plus new latest-generation adaptive dampers. Unlike its predecessors, it has a rigid-mounted electromechanical steering system, for the enhanced steering precision and feedback such a system grants.


aston martin db12 review 2023 11 interior

On the launch of the Aston Martin DBX 707 in 2022, a heavily overhauled version of the DBX, we were given the obligatory show-around of the car. All was going well until we got inside and prodded the screen on the dashboard. “Yeah… that’s still not a touchscreen,” came the awkward reply.

However spectacular Aston Martins look, sound and perform, nothing screams ‘old tech’ these days more than a large display screen in the middle of a dashboard that you can’t operate by touch (whether touchscreens are a good thing is another debate, but you get what I mean…). On a car launched in 2022, as the DBX 707 was, and built by a car maker positioning itself at the very top of the industry, it wasn’t really good enough, however fantastic the rest of the car was.

Thankfully, the Aston Martin DB12 does have a touchscreen. The software it runs is not perfect, the fonts are a bit small, and some of the menus are too well hidden. But of much bigger significance is the fact that the screen exists at all; that you can prod it with your fingers; and that the software is all of Aston’s own design rather than being a Mercedes hand-me-down.

You can tell this is Aston’s first proper go at designing its own modern touchscreen interface, because it’s working through a few beginners’ mistakes. Some of the menu icons are too small to easily hit with an outstretched arm, for instance. There’s no physical cursor controller either on wheel or centre console, so no option but to reach for those fiddly icons; the software’s a bit glitchy and vulnerable to crashing; and the navigation is missing a couple of display modes. Oh, and the screen as a whole gets quite hot when it’s been on for an hour or so - which makes holding your fingertip to it, to move the map around or scroll down on a menu, a little unpleasant. 

Still, all are things that can be fixed with updated software (what an old chestnut that's becoming), and this wouldn’t feel like a new Aston Martin if it hadn’t been launched with some ‘areas for improvement’.

After a day of familiarity, not all of the controls were falling easily to hand. But credit to Aston for not putting every control on the touchscreen. This has the feel of a first-generation layout in the way physical and digital controls mix. Further usability refinements are to come, though, with seven more front-engined sports cars, including derivatives, to follow the DB12 over the next two years.

The cabin’s other main area of progress, meanwhile, is undoubtedly its material quality, which is now on a par with Bentley’s in places and well beyond that of a Ferrari. There’s a chunky engine start button, with a rotating collar around it for juggling driving modes, which both feel expensive to the touch - as do the knurled-metal roller toggles for heater temperature and audio volume control. There's now in places the look and feel of a high-end, military-chic watch about the DB12’s cabin. 

There’s plenty of room in the car, decent storage and usable occasional back seats. The DB12 isn’t quite as large as some two-plus-two luxury coupés, nor is its cabin quite as roomy - although there’s plenty of room up front, so you don’t feel too intimately acquainted with your passenger and you don’t bang elbows across the centre console, while kids of up to about the age of 12 could comfortably travel in the back seats.

The same, of course, applies to the dashing Volante, which retains the back seats of the Coupe. The open-air DB12 feels much the same as the Coupe when its canvas roof is up – perhaps a little darker in the hind quaters of the cabin, but not to a conspicuous extent – and this is not bad thing. However, note that boot storage takes a bit of hit, despite the fact that Aston has reduced the 'stack' height of the stowed roof to just 26mm, which is says is class leading. 

With only 206 litres, the Volante's boot is notably smaller than that of the coupe, whose 262 litres is hardly the stuff of holidays with the family. The Ferrari Roma does does better than the Aston in both its forms, though only marginally so.


aston martin db12 review 2023 17 engine

On the road, the DB12’s V8 doesn’t want for much – certainly not outright power, nor mid-range response, nor effusive audible presence. Thanks not only to that headline power output but also a shortened final drive ratio, the car feels much quicker and keener than its predecessor ever did, but it's still more soulful and mellow than a visceral, frenetic Ferrari V8 might be.

Gaydon has very cleverly conjured greater energy, rapidity and vigour for this car without making it higher-strung or any less effective as a long-striding GT. The gearbox shifts smoothly in GT mode, quicker in Sport and Sport+, holding lower gears for longer - but without overworking the active rear differential or making the car feel hyperactive. Even in slippery conditions, the DB12’s ground-covering composure is first rate.

Iron brakes comes as standard, carbon-ceramic ones are optional and, in the case of the Coupe, were fitted to our test car. They’re the kind that need quite a squeeze on the approach to a corner and again as you draw the car to a stop - although ultimately they create lots of stopping power and have decent feel at speed.

Then, when you floor the accelerator, you’re catapulted backwards. You need to recalibrate just how quickly everything comes at you in the DB12 versus the DB11, because it's faster and more capable everywhere. Your brain takes a while to realise that this is something altogether different.

We spent some time with Aston chairman Lawrence Stroll who, in a throwaway but deliberate remark, called the DB11 “slow”. The engineers clearly took that to heart, as the DB12 feels more DBS than DB11 in that respect.

Even so, the eight-speed automatic gearbox is nicely matched to the engine with a more GT – sorry, super tourer – positioning in mind. The gearshifts don’t want for any extra crispness or the savageness that a dual-clutch 'box would bring.

The engine sounds suitably epic, too; nicely savage but mellifluous with it, although not quite as wonderful as Aston’s old atmospheric V12 at revs. Opting for the Volante brings you that much closer to the action, of course, while also protecting you from buffetting, for the most part. 

Weighing some 110kg more than the Coupe, the Volante is a slower-accelerating car on paper, but the truth is that, out on the open road, and with the roof down, it feels even faster. The sense of acceleration is magnified and there's something a disconnect between the car's louche, French Riviera aesthetic and its ability to send your stomach into free-fall.

Quite unusually, the Volante also has the same 202mph as the Coupe, and it will hit that speed roof up or down. Impressive. 


aston martin db12 review 2023 20 panning rear

There's muscle and purpose about the DB12’s low-speed ride that instantly tells you that you’re in a GT sports car that takes its dynamic ambitions a little more seriously than so many DB cars have over the years. And yet there's also impressive sophistication about the car’s body control at higher speeds, on surfaces both good and bad.

Its weighty, medium-fast steering conveys plenty of feel, puts you at ease and invites you to explore the capabilities of the taut, balanced, intuitive handling. And the traction and stability controls allow a little liveliness from the driven axle and a clear sense of involvement and sporting verve to the driving experience - but they always ensure that this 200mph, 671bhp super tourer feels like it’s on your side.

On the European launch, we drove the DB12 on two of France’s great roads: the Route Napoléon and the Col de Vence. The former has lots of hairpins and second-gear corners, the latter more in the way of faster, third-gear turns. 

The DB12 was better to drive on the Col de Vence and more fun with it, with superb body control, flowing and stable handling and so much grip. Compared with the DB11, it feels a good bit stiffer-riding, and yet it has the precision, fluency, feedback and balance to come alive in higher-speed corners more than its predecessor ever did. You crave the next one as soon as you’ve exited the last. The same very much applies to the Volante, albeit with a touch more heft in the body movements and the subtle sense there's some extra weight just ahead of the back axle.

The flipside is that the DB12 can feel frustrated at lower speeds. Its size becomes apparent and its chassis and active diff seem better tuned for driver engagement at speed than for hoofing the rear end around hairpins. There’s clear room for the new Vantage below the DB12 in pure agility terms, even accounting for the bigger car’s more sporting positioning.

Perhaps most transformative of all, even more so than its extra speed and breadth of agility, is the DB12’s ride and comfort, which best manifests around town. Aston wasn’t kidding when it said the breadth of the dampers’ ability had increased. Sure, you have to place the car carefully, but you’d never guess you were in something so sporting and powerful given the low-speed refinement and comfort. It’s not intimidating at all. 

On the motorway, the car is suitably long-legged, relaxing and can devour distances in as hurried or laid-back a fashion as you prefer - although clearly it’s still a little way short of the most refined luxury cars for all-round cruising isolation, with some road noise from those 21in wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 5 S tyres being noticeable.

Along with a naturally quite resonant aluminium structure, this applies especially to the canvas-roof Volante. It's a littel nosier than the Coupe, and the roof mech can creak from time to time. This isn't a red flag – far from it – but it's something to be aware of it you plan to do epic drives in your DB12.


aston martin db12 review 2023 01 cornering front

Aston Martin has kept something of a lid on DB12 prices, mostly out of the need to keep the car competitive with key rivals such as the Ferrari Roma.

The DB11 V12 went out in 2022 as a £178k car, while the old V8-engined car rose from £145k to £165k over the course of a five-year life. On those bases, a £185k V8-engined DB12, with more performance than an outgoing V12 and in the wider context of the last few years, seems decent enough value. And as Aston has found out to its cost over the years, the appearance of decent value remains quite important even to well-heeled Aston customers.

The DB12 Volante soft-top convertible is available for a premium of about £15,000. Drivers of both cars can expect 26-28mpg from either car on longer cruises, which should make for brim-to-brim touring range of about 460 miles.


aston martin db12 review 2023 22 static

Gaydon has updated, improved and subtly repositioned its mid-range series production GT coupé with careful skill here. The Aston Martin DB12 is a better-looking, faster and better-handling car than the old DB11 and has a considerably more impressive interior with a much improved digital specification.

It adds further intrigue to a sporting GT segment in which dynamically it feels less like a Bentley Continental GT than any of its predecessors have, the Bentley being more comfortable and refined but less dynamically poised and involving. In other ways, however, Aston is clearly borrowing from Bentley’s established playbook for cabin quality and material appeal, and the DB12 is a much more convincing luxury product than the DB11 was as a result.

What matters most is that, while finding ways to make this car more competitive with the likes of the Ferrari Roma than the DB11 was as a sporting prospect and more appealing as a driver’s car, Aston has preserved its supple ride, its authenticity of character as a muscular British-made GT and its classic big-engined-Aston appeal as a long-distance ‘continent crusher’. As a result, it has created what could be its most complete product in decades, but retained the soul of a DB car all the while.

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.