2023 Aston Martin DB12 First Drive Review: Feels Like a Fresh Start
The DB12 feels like Aston finally coming into its own—though not without a few growing pains.
Grand tourers are designed to cross continents in a hurry, using every ounce of power to transport you in comfort from departure to destination, eating miles in massive mouthfuls. And that’s given us plenty of comfortable GTs with supercar power. But Aston Martin wanted more for its mainline GT. Don’t call the 2024 Aston Martin DB12 a grand tourer, call it the world’s first “super tourer.”
According to the company, that means the DB12 walks the line between a conventional supercar and that of a traditional grand tourer. A car that’s as much at home shredding its tires at Silverstone or Laguna Seca as it is beating sat-nav ETA projections between London and Monaco. And the DB12 certainly has the specs to do just that, with a twin-turbocharged V8, better tires than previously used on the DBS or DB11, chassis and suspension improvements, standard carbon ceramic brakes, and an all-new interior. But can something actually be a super tourer?
Dual-personality cars are often compromised in ways that don’t allow them to be great at either goal. The DB12 runs into some of those issues, along with a couple more surprising ones that might have more to do with the example I drove being a pre-production prototype vs the final car that will be reaching owners by the end of 2023. But overall, the ingredients for greatness are all there.
2023 Aston Martin DB12 Specs
- Base price: $245,000
- Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 | 8-speed automatic | rear-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 670 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque: 590 @ 2,750-6,000 rpm
- Curb weight: 3,714 pounds
- Seating capacity: 4
- 0-60 mph: 3.5 seconds
- Top speed: 202 mph
- Quick take: There's a true super tourer under that beautiful body that's held in check by a few final fit-and-finish decisions.
- Score: 8/10
Can Any Car Be a Super Tourer?
The beating heart of the DB12 is a heavily revised twin-turbocharged V8 sourced from everyone’s favorite team at Affalterbach, Mercedes-AMG. Aston has worked with this engine before, both in the DB11 and the Vantage. However, if you’re going to make a Super Tourer, you’re going to want big numbers, which is why Gaydon’s engineers threw bigger turbos at it to develop a wondrous 670 horsepower. That number actually feels underrated, but it’s to be expected. As an ex-Aston employee once responded to my questioning of the DBS’s official figures: “My dear boy, we’re British. We’re always conservative.”
What’s truly righteous about this engine is you don’t ever need full throttle to turn and burn asphalt, as half to three-quarters gas sends you rocketing forward with such urgency, you barely have time to think on mountain roads. Tracks and Germany’s Autobahn better look out.
That raucous engine is connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the same unit from the DB11, though it’s been given shorter gear ratios and revised tuning for sharper, cleaner shifts. Its programming is a little too aggressive in Grand Tour mode for seamless cross-country trips, shifting harder than I would’ve expected. But the others make sense in terms of sharpness. There’s also Aston’s new e-diff, which allows for a far more playful persona compared to the grand tourers of old.
The DB12 also receives five drive modes: the default Grand Tour, Sport, Sport+, a configurable Individual mode, and a Wet setting for, you guessed it, wet conditions. These modes change steering weight, suspension stiffness, throttle map, transmission shift points, and exhaust volume. I found that I liked Grand Tour the most, as you have plenty of power and the gearbox and suspension were far more suitable for road use. Though the steering in both that, and Sport and Sport+ modes, could’ve been more communicative and heavier for my liking.
Aston further revised the chassis for better turn-in with increased stiffness and tossing it along both the fast sweeping corners as well as the hairpins that litter the Route Napoléon, the DB12 feels half its weight. It’s there, but not as prevalent as you’d expect. That’s also down to the now-standard carbon ceramic brakes, revised suspension geometry, and new Michelin Pilot Sport 5 tires, which are way better than the Pirellis the company used to run. The only sense you get of its 3,700-pound curb weight is from its width speeding through those incredibly tight confines.
The dynamics help it begin to truly feel like a super grand tourer, though that can’t be said about the seats. These mid-tier Sport seats—a comfort-focused grand tour seat and skeletonized track seat are also available—dug into my right side so hard, it became quite hard to comfortably drive for long periods of time. There just wasn’t enough padding on the bolstering and, hopefully, the production versions have more stuffed into them.
Aston Martin told me that the infotainment system, a new OS with a 10.3-inch screen not based on the old Mercedes-Benz system, wasn’t in its final spec, with four more software drops before it reached production status. That is true; though it looked pretty and crisp, it was slow to respond to inputs and the built-in navigation system lost our route more than once. In any case, Apple CarPlay is available, as are a bunch of physical buttons and knobs for HVAC controls and drive mode settings in a beautiful stack cascading down the center console.
The Bowers & Wilkins stereo wasn’t half bad, though it needed a little bit of adjustment, too, as the default tune was quite bass-heavy.
One More Thing
There is one thing I want to bring up about my time in the DB12 as a driver and passenger. I’ve been reviewing cars for a decade now, and I understand the nature of subjective experiences. There is no single truth; that said, my truth is that for some reason, sitting inside the DB12 made me feel sick.
Aston set up a great event to showcase what it’s built, running along the French Riviera and up into the mountains, following the awesome Route Napoléon, the same road I once blazed along in Bentley’s Flying Spur. It’s a perfect course for something like the DB12. But from the get-go, my driving partner and I experienced headaches and nausea in both seats—and neither of us normally get carsick. I first attributed it to drinking too much of France’s rocket-fuel espresso. But the feeling didn’t fade, and we ended up pulling over multiple times to get some fresh air throughout the day.
We ran through every conceivable cause—bad food, winding roads, jet lag, and more—but in the end we came up empty. So was it the car? Impossible to say, really, but the fact that these were hand-built, pre-production prototypes fresh from the factory in Gaydon can’t be overlooked. It could’ve been fumes from fresh adhesives or other materials, for example, or some other fluky thing.
After I mentioned this to Aston, the team arranged a second drive in a different car the following day, and that time I only experienced a slight headache. So perhaps it was just bad luck with the one car—but we’ll know before long when customer deliveries begin later this year. Regardless, I felt it important to note.
The Parts Are There
Aston Martins tend to get better with age, as dynamics sharpen, and manufacturing is smoothed out once the cars hit their production strides. And the bones of the DB12 are solid, as the chassis, suspension, and that tower of power of an engine work. Or as the kids these days say, serve.
My time with Aston’s latest confirmed it’s a car that’s happy to cross continents in short order, it feels like a true luxury product, and it’s a strong statement from a company that’s coming into its own at a really fascinating time. The downsides—the uncomfortable seats, too-aggressive transmission, and too-light steering—are all eminently tweakable things. The big takeaway is the basic recipe is more solid than almost anything the company has put forth in recent years. There is a true super tourer underneath that beautiful body worthy of the Aston Martin crest. You could feel it wanting to emerge. For now, all we can do is wait to see how it all comes together once the car enters full production.
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