We spent some time with Aston chairman Lawrence Stroll who, in a throwaway but deliberate remark, called the DB11 “slow”. The engineers clearly took that to heart, as the DB12 is brutally fast, more DBS than DB11 in that respect. Responses are almost instantaneous at any speed. Even so, the eight-speed auto is nicely matched to the engine with a more GT, sorry, super tourer positioning in mind. The gearshifts don’t want for any extra crispness or the savageness that a dual-clutch auto would bring. The engine sounds suitably epic, too, although not quite as deafening as Aston’s V12.
We drove the DB12 on two of France’s great roads: the Route Napoléon and the Col de Vence. The former has lots of hairpins and second-gear corners, the latter more in the way of faster third-gear turns. The DB12 was better to drive on the Col de Vence and more fun with it, with superb body control, flowing and stable handling and so much grip. Compared with the DB11 it feels a good bit stiffer than the 7% improvement figure suggests, and it comes alive as an exciting sports car in higher-speed corners. You crave the next one as soon as you’ve exited the last. The flipside is that the DB12 can feel frustrated at lower speeds. Its size becomes apparent, and the diff and transmission calibration aren’t quite there for slower-speed cornering thrills. There’s clear room for the new Vantage below the DB12 in pure agility terms, even accounting for the bigger car’s more sporting positioning.
Perhaps most transformative of all, even more so than its extra speed and breadth of agility, is the ride and comfort, which best manifests around town. Aston wasn’t kidding when it said the breadth of the dampers’ ability had increased. Sure, you have to place the car carefully, but you’d never guess you were in something so sporting and powerful given the low-speed refinement and comfort. It’s not intimidating at all. Our test route didn’t include many motorway miles, but it seemed formidably long-legged here, too.
After a day of familiarity, though, still not all of the controls were falling easily to hand. Credit to Aston for not putting everything on the touchscreen, but it has the feel of a first-generation layout in the way physical and digital controls mix. Further usability refinements are to come, with seven more front-engined sports cars, including derivatives, to follow the DB12 over the next two years. Even so, the lift in perceived quality, technology and comfort is big, and this new interior successfully addresses the DB11’s biggest shortcoming.