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Aston Martin DB12 defines the super tourer in the most exceptional manner

Aston Martin DB12 defines the super tourer in the most exceptional manner
PHOTO: Aston Martin

The DB12 showcases Aston Martin's speciality as a builder of sporty grand tourers, and this "super tourer" might be the best one yet.

Aston Martin has eagerly awaited a comeback, and it might just take place during this year, which is their 110th anniversary. It started off with an unexpected Formula One performance from Fernando Alonso, who delivered several podiums in the first six races of the season.

Though Aston Martin appears on the silver screen in Bond films, successes on the track arguably do even more to bring the brand back into the limelight.

With billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll at the helm, things seem to be falling into place. Hopefully, some good fortune will be shared with their road cars, but I don't think Stroll believes in luck.

The DB lineage spans 75 years, and the latest model, the DB12, is the first product of the Stroll era. Though it bears some resemblance to the DB11, considering that Stroll assumed control only in Q2 2020, the DB12 is the first of many cars to come.

Aston Martin seems audacious for proclaiming the DB12 to be a "Super Tourer", but the model might be a natural evolution of the species.

As sports cars from Ferrari and Lamborghini become even more extreme and luxury cars from Bentley and Rolls-Royce become even more comfortable, the gap in the luxury car market between both extremes has widened.

The DB12, along with rivals such as the Ferrari Roma and Porsche 911 Turbo, are aiming to fill this space. They are striving to be the consummate touring implement, offering a healthy dose of style and luxury to complement driving enjoyment.

Aston Martin is trying to achieve this by eschewing the in-your-face approach of Ferrari and Lamborghini, while combining the refinement of Rolls-Royce or Bentley in a sleek package that can rival Porsche's confidence on the open roads.

Lines and curves

The familiarity of the DB12's design arises from the need to provide cooling for the more powerful powerplant to optimise power delivery.

The front grille opening is 56 per cent larger than that of the DB11, while the muscular appearance allows for a 6mm increase in track width at the front and a 22mm increase at the rear, with wider tires for improved grip.

The DB12 closely resembles Aston Martin's more formidable DBS Superleggera. However, it replaces the front one-piece fender/bonnet with a more conventional front-opening engine lid, featuring a soft plastic snout for pedestrian protection.

The designers have also taken the opportunity to introduce a revised Aston Martin emblem and fonts for the Aston Martin nameplate. Although these details seem miniscule, they contribute to the overall impression that the entire car has been thoroughly worked on.

The DB12 still retains its identity as a refined gentleman's steed, but it represents a huge step up in modernity and elegance with subtle styling changes to deliver the best-looking modern-era Aston Martin to date.

The most significant changes, however, are not visible. Over 70 per cent of the chassis and powertrain are either new or heavily revised. Firstly, engineers worked on strengthening the body's torsional stiffness by 7 per cent overall, with the revised front cross-bracing resulting in a 140 per cent increase in stiffness. The rear, on the other hand, has been stiffened by 30 per cent.

This enhanced rigidity enables the Bilstein DTX (DampTronic X-Technology) system to operate at its full potential, extending the damping boundary by 500 per cent.

Said system features an active, computer-controlled damper adjustment that instantly adapts to different driving conditions using a reactive and pre-mapped algorithm. It provides improved damping without compromising ride comfort, even though the suspension is 22 per cent stiffer at the front and 24 per cent stiffer at the rear.

To enhance refinement, the elasto-kinematics of the suspension bushings have been fine-tuned to maintain geometry at extreme conditions while attenuating noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) transmission.

Muscle and mechanics

Regrettably, the V12 engine has been replaced due to environmental demands. In its place is an AMG-sourced 4-litre bi-turbo V8, which kicks out 680hp and 800Nm of torque.

The power increase is achieved through larger turbos, new cam profiles, optimised cylinder heads with new AMG engine mapping, and increased cooling capacity.

The powerplant is paired with a carbon fibre prop shaft and the latest version of the rear-mounted ZF8HP automatic gearbox, whose rapid-shifting nature could easily be mistaken for that of a dual-clutch transmission (DCT). Unlike DCTs, which are often harsh in heavy traffic, this gearbox maintains a smooth character.

It also incorporates a shortened final drive (2.70 vs 3.083) for improved acceleration through the gears. Additionally, the DB now features an electronic rear limited-slip differential to better distribute torque to the rear wheels. Thus equipped, the DB12 sprints from rest to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds and reaches a top speed of 325km/h.

To haul it down from speed, the DB12 has cast-iron 400mm front brake discs and 360mm rear discs with grooved and drilled surfaces, designed to enhance thermal capacity. The brake booster has been fine-tuned for better pedal feel.

Optional carbon-ceramic brakes are available, featuring 410mm front discs and 360mm rear discs, accompanies by 6-piston and 4-piston callipers respectively. The DB12 is also the first car OE equipped with Michelin's Pilot Sport S5.

Additionally, the DB12 boasts lightweight 21-inch forged wheels, reducing weight by 2kg per wheel. Assured by all the top-spec performance features in the DB12, I leave the Nice-Monaco area and venture onto the Route Napoleon, which forms part of the Monte Carlo Rally.

Gentlemanly journey

Initially, I navigate through traffic and discover that the DB12 is refined and responsive even at low speeds. Aston Martin has replaced the oft-criticised Mercedes-sourced infotainment system with their own in-house design, supporting wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The dual-screen system comprises two 10.25-inch Pure Black high-resolution screens that offer highly responsive touch control.

It is commendable that the physical buttons and switches for commonly used controls like air-conditioning and volume have been retained, instead of burying them in touchscreen sub-menus. They have even kept the engine start-stop button easily accessible.

Kudos to them. As traffic clears and we reach the country roads, we switch from the comfortable GT mode to Sport mode. In Sport mode, the DB12's steering feels slightly more connected, offering enhanced precision, despite being electrically assisted.

Turn-in is eager and the DB12 resists understeer well. The engine and transmission responses are heightened, while remaining tractable. Switching to Sport Plus mode further heightens the positive steering-chassis response but the ride remains surprisingly comfortable and compliant despite the firmer setting, so I keep it in Sport Plus for most of the 350km drive.

Even in the default GT setting, the DB12 demonstrates better resolution in both ride and handling compared to the DB11. Switching to Sport Plus mode provides even greater composure and, while firmer, it still offers a relatively comfortable ride compared to other GT cars.

Some may wonder if the relative comfort is just due to softer damping. Further testing on a track would be necessary to confirm but based on my impressions on the winding mountain roads, the steering in Sport Plus mode is impressively sharp, even without an ultra-quick rack like some of the more extreme sports cars on the market today.

The sinuous mountain roads are bumpy and challenging but the chassis moves all with excellent composure and at the limit, it rotates rather than attempts to plough on.

I keep reminding myself that the DB12 is not attempting to be a Ferrari 812 competitor because its point of reference is more the Porsche 911 Turbo, and it really does well to reach those lofty standards while being even more calm and collected.

Creating the perfect Super Tourer is not guaranteed, even with the best ingredients. It is akin to alchemy. However, after an extensive drive around the Côte d'Azur, I must agree that the DB12 is the epitome of a Super Tourer, defining the genre in the most exceptional manner.

Aston Martin DB12 4.0 (A)

  • ENGINE - 3982cc, 32-valves, V8, twin-turbocharged
  • MAX POWER - 680hp at 6000rpm
  • MAX TORQUE - 800Nm at 2750-6000rpm
  • GEARBOX - 8-speed automatic with manual select
  • POWER TO WEIGHT - 380.3hp per tonne
  • 0-100KM/H  - 3.6 seconds
  • TOP SPEED - 325km/h
  • CONSUMPTION - 8.2km/L (combined)
  • PRICE EXCL. COE - $1,289,000 before options
  • AGENT - Wearnes Automotive

ALSO READ: 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Veloce is an engaging drive and offers value for its price point

This article was first published in Torque. Permission required for reproduction.

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