2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante opens up a moving muse

By automotive-mag.com 13 Min Read

Clouds thickened and the air carried a deep, damp chill as I pulled a cap snug over my head, zipped up the collar of my jacket, and headed back to Southern California canyon roads to enjoy the top down as long as I could. It looked like it might pour at any moment, and I couldn’t resist chortling to myself that this beast, the 2024 Aston Martin DB12 in its sunny-day drop-top Volante guise, had brought British weather with it. 

Just like this odd late-February day with temps in the low 50s, occasional sprinkles, and wispy here-and-gone low-hanging clouds, the 2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante feels like a refreshing anomaly, and a departure from the increasingly soulless norm of performance cars in the 2020s. 

Sure, the world might still be getting used to the idea of an Aston Martin SUV—or a Lucid-powered electric one. But this latest convertible embodies Aston’s duality as the maker of exclusive vehicles that are as much plush luxury cars as quintessentially British sports cars. 

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

From the get-go, I was acutely aware that the DB12 sports a German engine. Just as with its Aston Martin DB11 predecessor, the Aston Martin DB12 is powered by a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8, individually assembled by Mercedes-AMG at its own manufacturing center. Here it makes 671 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque thanks to bigger turbos and a more aggressive cam profile. And its personality includes the kind of bark that used to be reserved for Lamborghini or the edgiest of muscle cars. 

Invigorating AMG V-8 power

I’ve been locked in a world of EV launches in recent years and didn’t drive the DB11, so my Aston knowledge goes back to the DB9 and Rapide S sedan. So this was my own first dose of any Aston Martin powered by a V-8 from Affalterbach. 

It’s a jolt. In its latest iteration, the engine is way stronger than any V-12 Aston, so the only thing potentially missing is its song and bragging rights. You won’t miss either.

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

Aston boasts a 0-60 mph time of 3.6 seconds, and a quick run on the driest road I could find suggested that there’s loads of seat-pinning propulsion at any speed, not just from a standing start like in EVs. It’s enabled by lightning-quick downshifts from the rear-mounted ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, which hangs in lower gears at the ready if you select the Sport or Sport+ modes from the  twist dial around the engine start button. All-out blasts are limited by available traction from the custom Michelin Pilot S 5 tires, which are pretty darn grippy and superb in their road noise isolation. 

That drive-mode dial has a great tactile feel and could be all you need to use to change the DB12 Volante’s behavior. It’s at the center console, along with real push-button switches for toggling through stability, exhaust, and adjustable damper settings (color-indicated to orange and red with increasing levels of sportiness). There are also thumbwheels for temperature settings and volume. Just ahead of all of it, in a thin strip and just below the screen, are more hard buttons for climate functions and door locks. It feels a little quaint yet also modern, precise, and refreshing, and I really hope Aston doesn’t try to ship it all on-screen in the future.

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

Back to the sound of the V-8: It’s addictive, encouraging, and just right for the car. Around 4,100 rpm, the DB12 gets added urgency. Rev much past that and quickly lift off the accelerator and there’s just the right amount of overrun. It soundspeak brutal but not savage in its most vocal modes, sings through the shifts, and is especially enjoyable with the top down. It was hard to dial back the settings and my driving as long as curvy roads and hairpins remained. 

DB12 Volante expresses the duality of Aston

The engine has a duality to its personality that fits well because it matches the way the car freely flips between luxury-coupe and edgy-supercar signals. When sitting still, the idle of the V-8 is super smooth, and there’s a silky quality and a distant purr under light acceleration in its comfort-oriented GT mode. 

While the engine helps set the personality, the steering is what makes this car click. It’s a very wide car, and yet seemingly I had absolutely no issue precisely placing the car within its lane and occasionally dodging road debris while driving on narrow canyon roads. The quick ratio never leaves you off guard, the chunky steering wheel loads up nicely off-center, and it  doesn’t pull sideways as the crown of the road changes. 

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

Unlike some of today’s other performance and prestige luxury models, the gauge cluster in the DB12 is as simple as you want it to be. With customizable left and right modules, you can opt to place a whole lot of information in it or, as I did, keep it to something akin to a traditional gauge cluster with a high-contrast twist. 

I knew after poring over the delicate-feeling cabin and its more than $20,000 in special materials choices, I’d really rather not test them in a downpour. The cabin’s very plush leather didn’t have any hint of the plasticky feel in less exclusive luxury cars. It was part of an “Inspire Monotone Leather Interior” option, with contrast stitching and custom color choices for the leather and carpets, while the dark walnut open-pore wood trim especially had the look of something that should stay dry. 

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

Expensive Aston, expensive options

The DB12 Volante I drove, in Magneto Bronze, pushed well past its $265,000 base price to a bottom line of $327,100, including the $3,400 destination fee. The nearly $60,000 in options also included carbon-ceramic brakes, bronze calipers, smoked taillight lenses, a gloss-black lower-body package, a special convertible-top color, and 21-inch forged satin-platinum-finish wheels. 

The DB12 looks incrementally different than the DB11, but it’s a little sharper in front, more techy in its look with the new headlight design, and more brash with its larger grille. It’s not going to be mistaken for its predecessor, even though underneath it carries over the same excellent bonded-aluminum body construction—the key to the solid, rigid feel of this soft-top convertible and the lack of any uncouth vibrations. According to Aston, improvements to several key underbody structural elements, plus an engine-bay cross brace, help boost torsional stiffness—and the Volante gets its own spring and damper rates. 

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

Inside, it’s a more radical remake with a thorough revamp to the infotainment system, the displays, and much of the switchgear, while keeping to the same essential packaging. The infotainment system is now compatible with a beautiful integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, in a beautiful 10.3-inch screen that uses an interface developed in-house by Aston Martin. It’s quick-responding and quite intuitive; VW should take notes. 

An available Bowers & Wilkins sound system, not fitted to this particular car, cranks out 1,170 watts of surround sound through 15 speakers, while the basesystem offers 390 watts and 11 speakers.

The DB12’s seats are widely adjustable and wonderfully supportive and yet soft. But the DB12 carries over an odd Aston Martin trait that goes back many generations—a seat that doesn’t adjust low enough. I’m 6-foot-6, and while I had no problem sliding in or finding enough headroom, it simply felt that if an inch or two lower, I’d be driving with the car’s roll center rather than on top of it. Aston pointed out to me that the available carbon-fiber performance seats would essentially provide that. 

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

DB12 Volante top-up time

Just as I felt increasingly confident with the car’s dynamics, the slight sprinkles turned to bigger drops that ratatat-tatted against the windshield, and I glanced over to the fine leather with increasing alarm. Next chance I had  I pulled over and motored up the top, and found there’s still decent rearward visibility with the top up. 

The DB12 Volante’s convertible top is lined with a plush material that keeps it Volante hardtop-quiet at highway speeds, even in the wet. It powers down under a hard tonneau in a matter of seconds (16 to close, 14 to open). Aston says it can even be operated at up to 31 mph and into a 31-mph headwind. While there are a couple of token rear spaces that might be used for additional passengers, it’s hard to fathom how they might fit; that  space is better utilized for the wind deflector.

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

Then the skies opened up and absolutely poured, bringing more of the torrential rain that had already scattered my drive with gritty road hazards along the way. I was again reminded that this is no fair-weather supercar. 

Heading down on the oddly banked Encinal Canyon Road—a good part of a road test when it’s dry—I momentarily felt vulnerable as the tail came loose slightly due to the water rivulets on the road and little mudflows off steep hillsides. 

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante

But I engaged the Volante’s Wet mode, with its softer throttle and more stringent stability program, and it all felt reassuringly in check.

The DB12 is a bit under the radar as an exotic car, and a bit ostentatious as a daily-driving luxury touring coupe, but it’s absolutely up for either role. Take your pick. Either way, it’s a reminder that brilliant, luxurious sports cars with charisma still do exist, but in today’s screen-focused norm, they’re at the fringes. And that sometimes provides the most inspiring days of all. 

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