As we shoot past craggy rock formations, rocket through tunnels carved into the stone and saunter by pelotons of cyclists, something about this narrow mountain road northwest of Nice starts to feel incredibly familiar. Is this the road from Golden Eye, or at least part of it? When my drive partner and I hit the hairpin, all doubt was eliminated and my hopes were shattered like a brick through a plate glass window.
Before hopping behind the wheel of Aston Martin’s new DB12, I had crossed my fingers in sanguine optimism that I wouldn’t need to type out a single reference to James Bond and the brand’s indelible connection to the storybook British super spy. After all it’s sort of a cliche and he’s dead anyway. (Bastards!)
But here we are and I’m living a minor childhood fantasy. (C’est la vie!)
On to the car…
Power and Performance
When you take the driver’s seat, the first thing you notice is the DB12 feels ready to fly. Hit the gas pedal and that expectation is realized. The juiced up 4.0 twin-turbo V8 engine fuses 671hp and 590 lb-ft of torque to your foot. Push that pedal to the floorboard and you’ll get to 60 mph in a scant 3.5 seconds. But adrenaline will start slapping you in the synapses much, much faster.
All that power represents a massive jump over the V-8 DB11’s 528 hp and 513 lb-ft. The engineers used modified cam profiles, optimized compression ratios and deployed fatter turbochargers to tune, what is in essence, the same engine to a new level of swole. Nuttier still, the DB12’s V-8 throws down more juice than the outgoing DB11’s optional twin-turbo V-12, which yields 630 hp and 516 lb-ft. Yowzahs!
This is my first lap on the Route Napoleon in southern France. The passage, thought to be one of the continent’s best motoring roads, features mostly wide bits of tarmac with plenty of long sweeping turns, plus a few tighter sections where precision is paramount. In short, a perfect test for a grand tourer…wait, scratch that, Aston has dubbed the DB12 a “Super Tourer.”
Push the throttle and the DB12 will obviously move, but thanks to a 7% stiffer chassis, new intelligent adaptive dampers, hardened anti-roll bars and upgraded coils, it will shuffle as well. You can come into those long sweepers nearly as hot you can handle and the Aston will hold the line you’ve selected. Unlike more pure bred sports cars, there is a touch of shift in the body to keep passengers comfortable — after all this is a GT car and not a track weapon.
In the tighter, blinder sections you start to feel the Aston’s girth, it is a large 2+2, after all. But throw the DB12 into a turn hard and the chassis remains poised (though you may lose some years after spotting an oncoming delivery truck hogging the asphalt).
The Aston Martin Valour Is a Muscle Car for the Ultra-LuxuriousWith a V12 under the hood and a manual gearbox, the Valour is ready to make some noise
Overall the DB12 feels incredibly well balanced. Aston says 52% of the weight of this front engine sports car rests on the rear wheels. The steering is light and incredibly precise, though a touch dull, something that I was thankful for on rougher bits of road where more feedback would have been too jarring.
The DB12 uses a ZF eight-speed, rear-mounted transmission to manage all that power. In automatic, shift changes are intuitive, instantaneous and buttery smooth. Most drivers won’t use them much, but Aston has moved the paddles from the column to the steering wheel, not my cup of tea, but probably resonates better with the GT consumer. (I’m merely an aspirational one.)
There are essentially five drive modes — GT, Sport, Sport+, Wet and Individual (with four settings for the Electronic Stability Program — Wet, On, Track and Off). All of which behave as you would think, though I did catch a rather torrential rain winding up a mountain and the Wet mode did not feel quite as surefooted as I would have liked. (The rain was so intense for a minute, I considered pulling off as the wipers were having trouble keeping up with the downpour. So take that as a healthy caveat.) Also, it feels like if Aston are going to call the DB12 a “Super Tourer,” they should change the “GT” mode’s name to “ST” as well, right?… Joking. I kid because I love.
The pre-production test model I drove came with optional carbon ceramic brakes that deliver some serious bite, plus they save almost 60 pounds over the massive standard 400mm front discs and 360mm rear discs. So for many they might be worth the upgrade. In for a penny, in for a pound as they say.
New 21-inch wheels can be specked in three different designs: standard five-spoke and optional multi-spoke and Y-spoke and in a range of colors and finishes. But they all come wrapped in a DB12-specific Michelin Pilot Sport 5S tires, which, as though they were like jelly donuts, are piped with noise-canceling polyurethane foam that reduce road din by 20% — a pretty sweet treat for those who want to roll in quiet comfort.
Anyone plunking down a quarter million clams on a car is entitled to some rather lofty expectations, and the Aston doesn’t disappoint. Bridge of Weir leather and Alcantara wrap nearly every surface, with a good bit of carbon fiber accents and beautifully designed covers for the epic Bowers & Wilkins speakers. All in all, Aston has done a fine job creating an interior that feels both contemporary and should age gracefully into a collectible classic.
While the front feels spacious, the back is…not. Technically the DB12 is a 2+2 and I don’t want to say the rear cushions are “useless,” but as with most cars in the segment, the seating’s utility is dubious. However, the back seat is absolutely perfect for a hoity backpack. After all, your things deserve nice things too, so why not have a place to rest it on fine leather.
The DB12’s trunk space exceeds expectations. It’s plenty for a couple of overnight bags or even a set of golf clubs (though you might need to take the driver out and stow it separately.)
During my drive, the new in-house designed, 10.3-inch infotainment system was frequently unhelpful, and my drive partner and I were often left looking for signage to stay on the Route Napoleon. The engineers said there would be at least 12 more updates to the system before the first customer finds a set of keys in their hand. But when they do, it might be best to use the Apple and Android smartphone mirroring to find their way for a while.
My only other complaint about the DB12 is rather subjective, but the blinker sound is positively grating on the soul. So caustic in fact that I was tempted to rip the damn lever off the steering column. My co-driver shared the sentiment. But the DB12 does come with a stunning Bowers & Wilkins sound system, perfect for drowning out the turn indicator.
Anyone catching a glimpse of the DB12 in the wild could be forgiven for mistaking it for the previous version. The updates to the exterior are somewhat subtle. A larger grille lifts the nose and the headlights are modestly re-sculpted. New sideview mirrors stretch to the edge of the housings. There is also a new version of Aston Martin’s wings badge, but you’d need to be awfully close to notice.
This year marks the 110th anniversary for Aston as a brand and their 75th producing a DB model. With deliveries scheduled to begin Q3, this year, the DB12 is a worthy celebration of both milestones. It’s a high-performance and ultra-luxury supercar you can live with — whether you are a super spy or just living the daylights out of your fantasies.
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