More than two centuries after French emperor Bonaparte’s ill-fated advance from the Côte d’Azur to Waterloo, the impact of British firepower is once again reverberating through the region—this time in the form of the new Aston Martin DB12 bombing along Europe’s Route Napoléon. While Aston recognizes that a new source of propulsion is ascendant within the industry, promising to deliver an all-electric vehicle by 2025, the marque has been holding fast to the internal-combustion engine, as evidenced by its recent release of the 12-cylinder DBS 770 Ultimate and now the DB12 grand tourer, successor to the DB11 introduced in 2016.
Under the DB12’s expansive hood is a reworked version of the familiar 4.0-liter V-8 that was, until lately, the mainstay of the Mercedes-AMG range. The 671 hp mill—mounted so far back that the model is practically mid-engine—musters 590 ft lbs of torque and allows the 3,715-pound (curb weight) coupe to charge from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 202 mph.
Heading into the hills, a more aggressive approach to the throttle reveals a slight torpidity off-boost, but beyond 3,000 rpm, the power plant launches the car like a cannon shot. Those concerned that the eight-speed transmission is a traditional automatic rather than a dual-clutch ’box can relax—though perhaps not while accelerating: The vehicle reacts with supercar intensity, delivering relentless forward thrust.
Following Ferrari’s lead, Aston Martin has introduced an arsenal of chassis technology, including a Bosch six-axis motion sensor and an electronic rear differential. The result is a car that bestrides the crests and canyons of these alpine roads with resolute poise, the traction aided by Michelin Pilot Sport 5 S tires, developed specially for the model, wrapped around lightweight 21-inch forged wheels. (These save 4.4 pounds each compared to those of its predecessor.) The cumulative result, in terms of grip, belies the DB12’s rear-wheel-drive configuration—you, too, will swear this is an all-wheel-drive GT.
The most radical improvement, though, is the new infotainment setup. A 10.25-inch touchscreen takes the place of the DB11’s prehistoric Mercedes-Benz media system. Granted, the display doesn’t have the “wow” factor of others in the segment, or even of a run-of-the-mill Tesla, but it’s unobtrusive and easy to navigate, and that counts as a significant enhancement. And as far as functionality, this is Aston Martin’s first truly connected car, boasting over-the-air software updates, real-time route calculation, and its own smartphone app, alongside wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto availability.
Yet the DB12 is not without drawbacks. It lacks the sense of occasion one experiences behind the wheel of the DBS 770 Ultimate, and it’s not as charmingly raucous as its 12-cylinder sibling, either. For that matter, it’s missing even the snort and crackle of a Mercedes-AMG GT or E63 S.
Perhaps Aston will crank up the volume for the inevitable Volante version, but don’t expect a V-12 option like the one available for the DB11—it has already been ruled out. But while stablemates such as the DBS 770 Ultimate, Vantage F1 Edition, and DBX707 have a sportier edge, the DB12, which starts at $245,000, represents the company’s core. It’s an exemplary tourer, engaging but never exhausting, and, in this guise, among the model line’s last stands against the coming tide of electrification.