2024 Aston Martin DB12: First Drive Review

Abhay Verma
Driving what is being touted as Aston Martin’s finest yet

The Italians may dominate the world of supercars, but the British hold a special place in the hearts of enthusiasts. British supercars have always felt distinctively aristocratic, besides feeling more soul stirring. Aston Martin tops that list with the kind of cars it has offered, not to forget the marque’s 110-year old storied past. As a James Bond fan I also cannot deny that Aston Martins are a bit more special for me – who can forget the DB5 in Goldfinger! Heck, the DB5 also made a comeback in Skyfall driven by Daniel Craig – remember the part where he threatens to press a switch hidden inside the gear lever to eject M, because she’s complaining? Hard to not like the DB5, even today! And then there’s Aston Martin’s illustrious history in motorsport. 

All said and done, Aston Martin is one of the most special supercar makers in the world and the DB is one of its most special nameplates. In case you didn’t know, DB stands for the initials of David Brown who bought the Aston Martin brand in 1947 – pure coincidence that this was also the year that India got freedom from the British rule! And the DB12 which replaces the DB11 is the first ‘new’ Aston Martin since the brand was bought over by Canadian magnate Lawrence Stroll. But guess what – there’s no V12 anymore, only an AMG-sourced, twin turbocharged V8. Ironically, Aston Martin had gone from the DB7 to the DB9, skipping a DB8, to avoid the assumption that there’s no V12 anymore! This is a bummer, but by the time I returned the car to Select Aston Martin New Delhi, the official retailers in India, I wasn’t complaining. I’m also hoping a V12-engined DBS will come in the future!

Coming back to the DB12, it reminds of the DB11 visually – the massive grille and headlamps look strikingly similar but the DB12 looks sportier and is wider too. The exhausts and rear bumper look gorgeous, while the slim tail lamps go well with the short, slim rear end. I also like the bonnet design – it’s ridged and opens conventionally (not from the rear like before), while the air vents on the front fender are a work of art. I’m also in love with the wing mirrors, they’re simply a class act. The 21-inch wheels are wrapped in specially developed Michelin Pilot Sport 5S tyres that also get ‘AML’ or Aston Martin Lagonda branding – the rear wheels are shod with 325-section rubber! C-pillars hide intakes that send air out through the boot lid and there’s a cleverly designed active spoiler too. 

I would have liked to have it in Aston Martin’s trademark racing green but the Storm Purple our test car was wearing is extremely eye-catching too. The colour, design, low slung stance and overall dimensions certainly ensure the DB12 is one of the easiest ways to become an attention magnet on the road too. The DB12 also boasts one of the best looking cabins in an Aston Martin and makes the DBX707’s interiors look archaic. There’s a touchscreen finally, and a 10.25-inch unit at that! Most controls sit between the front seats and accessing it all is easy. You get two more seats but our resident six-footer Saneet refused to sit at the back for more than a few seconds, that too even with the front seat moved all the way ahead! Jokes apart, what’s truly noteworthy is the cabin’s exquisiteness, attention to detail and ultra-high quality of materials. 

There’s a richness to the cabin that makes it befitting of a super-luxury sedan, and this is one of the areas where the DB12 has an upper hand over its Italian rivals, who feel relatively inexpensive. And thankfully, most controls are physical buttons! But while the steering feels as special as it should, the instrument cluster display looks a little too plain. The DB12 also comes with a comprehensive equipment list – including ADAS! It also boasts Aston’s new E&E architecture which makes for a modern feel. The user interface is thus slick and a welcome change from what I’ve seen on the DBX707. The options list also includes a 15-speaker Bower and Wilkins audio system. You press the starter button which sits in a large rotary dial that lets you select drive modes, to fire up the V8. 

Credit where its due – the engine was born in Germany but the engineers at Gaydon have fettled it to sound and feel exactly the way an Aston Martin’s engine should. This feel starts from the exhaust note which helps the DB12 make a statement instantly and you also get a ‘loud’ button for making it sound even more glorious. The same, M177 V8 offered a relatively meagre 528PS in the DB11, but a host of updates including modified camshafts, revised compression, better cooling and yes, a set of bigger turbochargers (turbocharging for the win!) result in significant gains. The engine now puts out a stonking 680PS and a gut-wrenching 800Nm, which is also 80PS and 100Nm more than the DB11’s V12! There’s a progressive feel to the power delivery making it easier to put the power down. The engine isn’t startlingly quick to rev and there’s lots of engaging feel as you build your way to the redline, which adds more character to the performance. 

The V8 is hard not to fall in love with, and like I said, there’s no trace of this being an AMG-sourced engine. The ZF-sourced 8-speed torque converter impresses on most occasions except when trying to downshift furiously, where it feels a tad slow, even in Sport+. Claimed 0-100kmph time is just 3.5 seconds and I have reason to believe the claim, as the DB12 darts ahead with serious ferocity, especially with launch control. Then there’s the exhaust note which makes sure you’re heard before you’re seen. Barreling down open roads is satiating, even when merely in the passenger seat. Of course, I had a wide grin plastered across my mug most of the time, and not just when stepping on the gas, but also around corners, courtesy the stiffer chassis, adaptive suspension and E-Diff. 

While the Michelins ensure leech-like grip, the taut chassis and adaptive damping ensure the car stays put even when the surface is bumpy. This is particularly impressive because several fast cars I’ve driven around the same set of corners had me bounce around. The steering feels sharp and precise – this is particularly impressive given the DB12’s size and heft, because you’d expect this from a Lamborghini Huracan given its diminutive size, but the DB12 is far bigger. More importantly, there’s a fluidity to it all and you get a more luxury car-like feel rather than aggressive, taut feel of a hardcore sportscar. Another important bit is the ground clearance – I was able to clear nearly every speed breaker without contact, despite the car not getting a ‘lift’ function. Overall, the DB12 is more super-luxury than super-car, though it is ever willing to bare its fangs. 

Most importantly, Select Aston Martin ensured I got ample seat time, without any restrictions. This meant I drove the DB12 enough and drove it hard enough to understand it. And fact is, the DB12 is easily among the most special ‘fast cars’ on sale in the country today. It has loads of character, panache while also being sporty enough for sportscar enthusiasts to not complain, and yet offer impressive comfort. And as a ‘new’ Aston Martin it also feels promising, ready to put behind all the gremlins that plagued the brand in the past. It is priced at Rs 4.89 crores ex-showroom onwards – not too high a price given the experience and the exclusivity the DB12 can bring to your garage.

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