2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante First Drive Review: Possibly the Best Aston, Roofless

Shortcomings in performance and technology have often made modern Astons a heart-over-head proposition, but the DB12 Volante requires no apologies.

byBradley Iger|
Bradley Iger
Bradley Iger.


During the technical briefing for the 2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante, a company representative noted that performance has become a bigger focus for the automaker than before. And as a result, it's now targeting the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini rather than Bentley. That’s certainly a commendable ambition for a brand that owes as much of its reputation to motorsport as it does to James Bond, but I must admit that skepticism was my initial, knee-jerk reaction. 

Performance has always been an intrinsic element of Aston Martin vehicles. But aside from a few notable exceptions like the how-is-this-street-legal Valkyrie, the company’s road cars have traditionally leaned more toward grand touring rather than outright capability. 

For example, the last DB11 I drove—also a V8-powered Volante—had the curb appeal and the ultra-posh presentation that you’d expect from Aston Martin, but when it came time to chase down a Porsche 911 in the canyons, the car ultimately felt out of its element. A more recent stint in a DBX707 produced similar results. While the boosted 4.0-liter delivered legitimately stunning straight-line thrust, its relatively soft chassis tuning simply could not replicate the uncanny composure of a Lamborghini Urus Performante when it came time to attack some corners. And that was fine because the last word in athleticism just wasn't what you expected from an Aston Martin anyway. But this latest declaration changes the rules of engagement. If the company intends to go toe-to-toe with the best in the performance business, it had better come correct. 

After spending a few hours in the Malibu Hills with the DB12 Volante, I’m happy to report that this ragtop not only delivers on several crucial fronts in that regard, but it may just be the most wholly realized sports car in Aston Martin’s history.

Peak Volante

Although convertibles are typically seen as the softer, more lifestyle-focused counterpoint to their coupe brethren—and often a bit of a design afterthought—the DB12 Volante manages to avoid these potential pitfalls. Like its DB11 predecessor, the DB12 Volante boasts an uninterrupted beltline with the roof stowed under its tonneau cover, creating a visual effect that emphasizes the car’s strong character lines rather than detracting from them. The fabric roof opens in 14 seconds, closes in 16, and can be operated at speeds of up to 31 mph. The top can even be pressed into action remotely by way of the key fob, preventing the need to stare blindly into the existential abyss as the various roof mechanisms perform their complicated work while you wait to set off.    

With a dry weight of just under 4,000 pounds, the DB12 Volante is certainly not going to be confused for a Boxster in a blind taste test, but there’s a sense of immediacy and precision in the way that it reacts to inputs that mark a noticeable step forward from the DB11 Volante. 

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Credit goes in part to the DB12’s revamped chassis, a bonded aluminum structure that benefits from torsional stiffness improvements as well as a new, non-isolated steering column, the latter of which was implemented to improve feel both on and off-center. But the real MVP, I suspect, are the new adaptive dampers, which boast significantly more dynamic range than their predecessors. That dynamic range allows the dampers to deliver more compliance in their softest setting and more stiffness at the sporty end of the spectrum. That added flexibility allows the suspension to provide more of whatever the situation demands without resulting in ride quality that feels too wallowy nor overly harsh in its default state. Aston says that minor rear damper programming and spring rate tweaks constitute the core differences in chassis tuning between the DB12 Volante and the coupe. 

Docile Beast 12

A stab of the throttle clearly illustrates why the chassis tuning has become significantly more sport-oriented in the DB12. While I wouldn’t blame you for pouring one out in remembrance of the dearly departed twin-turbo 5.2-liter V12 that motivated the top-spec DB11, the AMG-sourced 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 housed under the DB12’s sinewy hood is no mere consolation prize. 

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At 671 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, it not only bests the DB11’s V8 by 143 hp and 77 lb-ft, but it also outshines the V12 by 41 hp and 74 lb-ft. But beyond the peak numbers, the 4.0-liter really proves its worth in the way that it makes that power. With no discernable turbo lag and gobs of low-end torque, the boosted V8 shoves the DB12 Volante along with savage urgency well into triple-digit territory, and it does so while delivering a burly, muscle car-like soundtrack courtesy of Aston Martin’s active exhaust. 

The three-mode exhaust system brings significantly more character to the DB12's soundtrack than any actual Mercedes-AMG vehicle I’ve driven. When closed, the eight-layer roof does an excellent job of muting road noise, delivering almost coupe-like isolation, but I kept the top down for the vast majority of my stint with the DB12 Volante because the exhaust sounds so damn good. And when you want to mellow things out, all you have to do is press a button on the center console to bring the pipes down to a whisper.  

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I didn’t do that very often, to be honest. Unlike some DBs of the past, this one really loves to be hustled through the canyons. Even in tight, technical sections where hefty grand tourers don't typically shine, the DB12 Volante continually impressed thanks to vast mechanical grip, quick steering, and super sticky Michelin Pilot Sport S 5 summer tires. The optional carbon ceramic brakes provided excellent, consistent stopping power as well, though they do get a bit noisy when you’re really working them out. Combine this with flat high-speed cornering and properly aggressive transmission programming in Sport+ mode and you can start to understand why my first question to Aston reps after my drive was whether or not sport seats are available. (Yes, there is indeed a carbon bucket on the DB12 Volante's options sheet.)

A Huge Step Forward

If there’s one aspect where modern Aston Martins have been consistently hamstrung, it’s technology. The automaker previously relied on Mercedes-Benz to supply its infotainment systems, but the Germans weren’t keen on giving Aston its latest and greatest, so for the past few years, the British brand has been saddled with systems that were effectively outdated from the factory. Mercifully, that era has ended. 

The DB12 and DB12 Volante usher in an all-new system that was built in-house by Aston Martin. Although there are still a few wrinkles to iron out—wireless Apple CarPlay is only expected to come later this year as an over-the-air update, for instance—the 10.25-inch touchscreen is a huge step forward from anything Aston has used in the past. It’s quick to respond, the graphics are sharp, and it even has cool touches like the subtle, haptic feedback-like bass tone that alerts you to new notifications on your phone. 

It may seem like a relatively minor change in the grand scheme of things, but the infotainment system is something that folks will interact with almost every time they get in the car, and bringing this to a contemporary standard does a lot to make the DB12 Volante feel thoroughly modern. Aston thankfully also avoided the temptation to ditch physical controls. There are hard buttons for things like exhaust volume, damper stiffness, and the auto start/stop function, while knurled metal dials allow you to adjust temperature, fan speed, and audio volume.

Fantastically Complete

These details also speak to the completeness of the DB12 Volante. So often in the past, Aston Martins have felt like they were 95% of the way there, and folks tolerated the deficiencies because of the charm. Those caveats are now gone. Of course, there are still a few minor quirks, like the fact that there’s a button on the steering wheel to skip the audio track forward but none to go back. However, this level of nitpicking really indicates just how little there is to truly complain about.

The 2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante is a fantastic performance car full stop, and it delivers the kind of visceral driving experience that the Italians are rapidly losing sight of in pursuit of lap records. If you want to see what Aston Martin looks like at the top of their road car game, look no further. 

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante Specs
Base Price (as tested)$265,000 ($339,500)
Powertrain4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 | 8-speed automatic | rear-wheel drive
Horsepower671 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque590 lb-ft @ 2,750-6,000rpm
Dry Weight3,960 pounds
Seating Capacity4
Cargo Volume9 cubic feet
0-60 mph3.6 seconds
Top Speed202 mph
EPA Fuel Economy15 mpg city | 22 highway | 17 combined
Quick TakeKey technological updates and more sport-focused tuning overall make the DB12 feel like a new chapter for Aston, and dropping the top only adds to the sense of occasion.
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