Aston Martin has created what it calls “the world’s first super tourer” with the stunning new DB12, a brutish, V8-toting successor to the acclaimed Aston Martin DB11, which marks the beginning of a bold new era for Gaydon’s sports car family.
Its arrival coinciding with both Aston Martin's 110th birthday and the 75th anniversary of the hallowed DB nameplate, the DB12 is fundamentally based on its predecessor but with a raft of wide-reaching and hugely significant upgrades carried out to its powertrain, chassis and interior with a view to claiming a competitive edge over the Ferrari Roma and Bentley Continental GT.
Aston chairman Lawrence Stroll previously said the replacements for the DB11, Vantage and DBS front-engined sports cars would be more like “all-new cars” than mere facelifts, and certainly the DB12 is related to its forebear in not much more than its general silhouette. The new name itself is a clue to the extent of the revisions, which go far beyond the reaches of a traditional mid-life update.
Aston’s director of product and market strategy Alex Long hailed the DB12’s unveiling as a "really big moment for Aston Martin, particularly under new ownership. This is the culmination – and the first step, really – in an enormous overhaul of the business.
"DB12 represents the first product from a complete renewal of our range over the next 24 months under the ownership of Lawrence [Stroll]. Since he's come in, we've invested very, very heavily – not just in what we see in front of us in terms of product – but in the fundamentals of the business.”
Designed according to the imposing principle that “grand is not enough”, the DB12 will enter production in the coming months ahead of customer deliveries beginning in autumn, with an anticipated start price of around £185,000.
New interior gets bespoke infotainment system and over-the-air updates
The DB12 is a thoroughly new car in all aspects, but it is inside where the reinvention is most obvious and tangible - in keeping with Stroll’s ardent belief that to keep cars competitive at this price point, they must be sumptuously appointed and accommodate the latest technology: ““How can you have an Aston Martin that sells for £150,000 with three-year-old technology?”
And so gone is the old car’s oft-derided, ageing Mercedes infotainment platform – noted for being one of few in this segment to not run through a touchscreen – to make way for an all-new and totally bespoke set-up engineered and programmed by Aston’s new, in-house software division.
"This is the start of a very big investment in interior design. For many, many years, we were renowned for exterior design, and I will admit we were falling behind,” said designer Miles Nurnberger.
A 10.25in touchscreen is now the centrepiece of the cabin, sitting atop a dramatic sloping centre console dubbed the 'waterfall'. Said to be the highest-resolution screen in its class and to respond to touch inputs in just 30 milliseconds, it introduces Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – a long-awaited upgrade for Aston owners – and a whole new host of connectivity functions.
Aston says buyers can read reviews of restaurants in the navigation interface, for example, before setting them as the destination, and can pre-programme the route guidance in a new smartphone app before getting in the car.
Over-the-air connectivity also means updates can be rolled out without the need for a dealer visit, and offers customers the chance to join an online 'community' of Aston owners through an integrated interaction platform.
For the first three years after sale, Aston will include a selection of subscription features for free, including 4G-connected navigation, voice assistant, car locator, breakdown response and remote diagnostics.
The software is now all Aston’s own work, rather than borrowed from Mercedes - a huge and symbolic investment for the low-volume marque. Asked why the firm had created a new software division in house, rather than licence an existing platform from Stuttgart again, Long said: "Two reasons: one is that there's a level of functionality we need that they don't focus on, and there's also a lot of non-essential functionality they have, because a lot of their cars operate in different segments to ours, so there's redundancy in the technology.
"And the second thing is the interface that defines the brand is more and more important in a digital era. To operate really at the height of luxury, you have to have your own interface, your own handshake, with the car as a customer."
But though the digital overhaul is substantial, Nurnberger added that “in bringing this trend of digitalisation into the car, we've had to balance physical controls and digital controls in what we believe is the right way."
To which end, the DB12 retains a comprehensive array of physical – and intricately designed – switchgear for the most important functions, arranged around a new gear lever and steering wheel for easy, quick access.
Tuned Mercedes-AMG V8 now gets 671bhp, but no V12
The DB12 takes its power from the latest evolution of partner firm Mercedes-AMG's handbuilt, twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, here tuned to give 671bhp and 590lb ft (34% more torque than the V8 DB11) for a 0-62mph time of just 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 202mph.
The power hike comes courtesy of modified cam profiles, tweaked compression ratios, larger turbochargers and improved cooling.
But conspicuous by its absence is the thunderous 5.2-litre V12 that was offered alongside the V8 in the DB11 - which is now only used in one Aston Martin model, the limited-run DBS 770 - and that's no longer available to order.
The firm, which has offered a V12 since 1999, says there is a future for its largest engine "in an all-new application", but highlights the 100kg saving over the front axle offered by the V8 - and points out that it is scarcely less powerful or quick than the outgoing, V12-engined DBS.
The DB12 keeps its predecessor’s eight-speed ZF gearbox, but the mechanical limited-slip differential makes way for an electronic unit which is said to go from “fully open to 100% locked in a matter of milliseconds”, boosting handling precision and consistency.
Chassis overhaul brings enhanced comfort and control
Aston has sought to enhance the DB12's long-distance appeal while also endowing it with corner-carving abilities on a par with the most fearsome supercars on sale. As engineering boss Simon Newton put it: "We still enjoy this niche in between Continental and Roma. But the segment has moved on since the 11..."
Aston touts the capacity of its new ESC system to enhance responsiveness and agility at all speeds, and says uprated adaptive dampers and stiffer anti-roll bars go some way towards offering an "increased breadth of capability".
The aluminium chassis itself is 7% stiffer thanks to reinforced braces, crossmembers and undertrays, which the firm says improves dynamics and refinement while also enhancing off-centre steering feel. Brake feel has been enhanced, too, with the fitment of a retuned brake booster.
Long said: "It's a real drivers car. It's meant to be far more tractable, far more agile, but also confidence-inspiring without losing what makes it an Aston Martin: supple ride quality, the ability to go long distance."
Newton added that learnings from the development of the standard and hot variants of the Aston Martin DBX SUV had an influence on the DB12 programme: "We had in early phases, 707 versus DBX and that was the sort of gap we wanted to replicate – or exceed – when it came to the DB11 versus the DB12."
Aston has yet to confirm how much quicker around a track the new car will be, but extensive Nürburgring testing has been under way for several months.
New performance-enhancing design for reborn beast
Designer Miles Nurnberger said his team’s priority for the DB12 was to place “much more emphasis on performance and power", and so the new GT is a more overtly aggressive proposition than its predecessor.
But there is also, he notes, “more sensuality to the design versus the DB11, which was mainly more of a technical design”.
The front grille is bigger, the aero elements beefier, the wheels larger and the tracks wider – 6mm at the front and 22mm at the rear – to give a noticeably more muscular stance.
Meanwhile, the wing mirrors are smaller and sleeker to aid airflow, and the door handles are electronically ‘self-presenting’ for a slippier side profile on the move.
Plus, the headlights have been reshaped and are now equipped with LED Matrix technology, plus a distinctive DRL signature, and the package is capped off by the application of Aston’s revised wings badge - the first time it’s been put on a production car.
What will come next for Aston Martin's GT cars?
Not on the cards yet, but Simon Long said: “We’d never say never.” AMG has paired this V8 with a rear-mounted electric motor in the 819bhp Mercedes-AMG GT63 S E Performance - and the DB12-sized AMG GT coupé is set to get a hybrid option as well.
Every Aston GT gets a drop-top Volante, and recent spy shots show the DB12 will be no different. Expect the electronically folding soft-top to bring a small weight penalty, together with a hike in price over the coupé.
Hotter DB11 brought a power boost, a louder exhaust and a raft of chassis tweaks. Today’s Vantage F1 Edition and Aston Martin DBS 770 show continued appetite for more ‘focused’, special-edition Astons, but Long was keen to emphasise the DB12’s “broader operational kind of remit” than those two cars, and played down potential for a track-flavoured makeover.