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Aston Martin’s new DB12 Volante is loud, sleek and proud

This car is so gorgeous it reminds you why you fell in love with cars in the first place

Aston Martin DB12 Volante

The moment comes as we turn on to a road called The Slades. In common with many such roads in the Cotswolds, the charming corner of England just near Oxford, this road runs through beautiful, rolling hills, populated with small villages filled with cottages and houses made of honey-coloured stone.

It is bucolic, and we are indeed under the shade of trees, with the first buds of spring appearing on branches. But what is running through my mind is the sheer volume and power of the voice of Noddy Holder, lead singer with the legendary 1970s glam-rock group Slade. Why? Well, quite apart from the name of the road, I reckon Holder’s piercing vocals might be the only thing that could outshout the turbocharged V8 engine of this Aston Martin DB12 Volante.

Volante is a badge with more than a little heritage at Aston Martin. It was first used in 1965 for a convertible model that looked a lot like the contemporary DB5, but was technically called the Short Chassis Volante. Ever since, Aston’s chop-top cars have been badged as Volante, which translates from Italian as “flying”.

This, the DB12, is the latest in that august line, and the DB12 is awash with heritage. Those DB initials are those of David Brown, who, flush with money from making and selling tractors, bought up Aston Martin in the 1950s and built it into a legendary company, maker of some of the most beautiful and rapid cars of all time. These days, having passed through independent and Ford ownership, Aston is back to being independent, owned by Canadian fashion brand billionaire Lawrence Stroll, along with stakes held by Mercedes and Chinese giant Geely.


The DB12 draws its power from Mercedes. Under that long, lascivious nose, the DB12 – in spite of the name – doesn’t have a 12-cylinder engine, but instead uses a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 unit, taken from Mercedes-AMG. Here in the Aston Martin, it develops a frankly silly 680hp and 800Nm of torque. Those figures are sufficient to propel this sleek and slinky convertible from standstill to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds, and that’s in spite of the DB12 being driven only by its rear wheels.

The DB12 represents a distinct step forward from the previous DB11, and never mind the slight aural downgrade from that car’s 5.5-litre turbo V12 engine. The old DB11 was a lovely car in many ways, but its on-the-limit handling could be tricky, and its cabin was way too cheap in look and feel.

The DB12 doesn’t suffer from any issues in the cabin. There’s a big, sweeping centre console festooned with real, proper buttons and switches, a shallow but wide touchscreen, and palpably better quality than in the DB11.

The cabin style has also become rather more understated, which may seem a bit lacking in theatre for a car whose price tag will stretch towards €500,000 in Ireland, but which I reckon might actually be more satisfying in the long term. It’s technically a four-seater, with a 2+2 cabin, but few human beings are of sufficiently compact dimensions to fit comfortably in the back.

Being a convertible, the DB12 Volante gets an impressively insulated roof, which folds neatly away (just 260mm deep when folded) under a cover, leaving the car with impressively clean looks all the way from that gaping snout to the pert rear. This is a spectacularly pretty car, but its engineering is just as attractive, with the extruded and bonded aluminium chassis being strong enough that Aston reckoned it didn’t need any extra load-bearing structure to become a convertible, just a tweak of the rear suspension settings.

Aston Martin DB12 Volante
Aston Martin DB12 Volante
Aston Martin DB12 Volante

That 4.0-litre V8 engine actually sits behind the front axle line, so technically this counts as a mid-engined car, and that is the key to unlocking some fairly remarkable performance. And it really is Noddy Holder loud. As Slade Road opens out, a deep, long prod of the big throttle pedal opens up the eight cylinders and as the DB12 launches forward on a vicious wave of power, so too does the engine rumble and thunder loudly through the adjustable sports exhaust.

Straight line performance such as this is hardly a surprise, even with the DB12′s chunky 1,800kg kerb weight (the convertible conversion adds 90kg compared with the coupe) but what is surprising is the way this car copes with tight, narrow, bumpy roads such as those that wend their way through the Cotswolds.

The nose – through fast, talkative steering – darts so quickly into corners that you’d swear Aston had filled the front tyres with helium. No big, beefy front-engined coupe has any right to be this agile in tight turns. Yes, the DB12 is wide – intimidatingly so at times – but it’s far more chuckable than you might expect.

It helps that the suspension stiffness can be, at the touch of a (real, not on-screen) button, altered independently of the driving mode, so you can have the steering and engine in Sport, and the dampers in Comfort, which works really well when the road is bucking and heaving. With big tyres and a stiff structure, the DB12 deals with bumps remarkably well, only occasionally fidgeting or heaving.

Aston reckons that this DB12 Volante is a Super Tourer – a car with supercar performance but Grand Tourer comfort. That works, in a way, although I reckon it’s more GT than true supercar, in spite of that savage acceleration.

Roof down, with everything switched to GT mode, the DB12 is quiet and refined enough to allow you to hear the local birdlife chirping happily in the trees. Two clockwise clicks of the driving mode wheel to select Sport+ mode, and it all goes a bit feral and feisty, albeit with that constant underlying sense of comfort and cosset.

Most of all, it’s a deeply beautiful car, so physically gorgeous that it reminds you why you fell in love with cars in the first place. At this price level, few objective decisions are made, but for my (nonexistent) money, this DB12 has more beauty and presence than the rival Ferrari Roma, even if the Roma feels a bit more agile on a give-and-take road.

I think there might be time for one more run up The Slades, with the exhaust set to its loudest. Come on – feel the noise.