If you’ve watched the first two races of the 2023 Formula 1 season, you’ll know that Aston Martin has been something of a sensation. From last year’s seventh in the championship it currently lies second, tied on points with the once all-conquering Mercedes-AMG team. This is no fluke, either. It’s on merit and, to underline the team's strength, comes despite Lance Stroll’s retirement from last weekend’s race in Saudi. The AMR23 is genuinely the second-quickest car on the grid right now, but will that jump in performance be reflected in the company’s road cars?
Lawrence Stroll, billionaire owner and chairman of Aston Martin, has made noises that the current range needs serious improvements, and updates are indeed in the pipeline. Back in January, Stroll said the revised range will be "what those cars should have always felt like" and the first in line for revisions will be the DB11. So heavy is the update that it’s likely to be rebadged as the DB12 when the production version arrives at the end of this year.
The DB12 has already undergone cold-weather testing in Sweden and most recently PH has spied prototypes running at a little-known track in Germany – the Nordschleife, anyone? Stroll Snr had suggested “There's no similarity at all to the current cars," but looking at the camo-wrapped bodywork that’s perhaps a little overstating it. It’s still a DB11 in form, and that indicates at best it's a wholesome facelift rather than an all-new car. In fact, it’s difficult to distinguish huge differences between the prototype and the current DB11, although maybe that’s a smoke and mirrors game.
The splitter and front grille appear to be similar to the DB11’s (praise be there’s no sign of the Vantage’s gopping fish mouth), although the clamshell bonnet has gone. It’s now a separate panel between the front wings that finishes above the nose cone. Just like the DB11 V12, there are two thin cooling vents either side of the central power bulge, but the DB11’s extra vents above the front wheels have gone. The DB11’s heavily sculpted sides and floating roof remain, as do the twin exhausts and general aesthetics at the back end. Don’t be surprised if there are more distinct detail changes once the wraps come off – new headlights and the like.
It's understood that most of the changes will be skin deep. We’re talking revised suspension, and the wonders bestowed on the DBX707 show that Aston’s current team of engineers is very capable of honing a setup. And there's other good news: the 5.2-litre V12 stays. Or at least that’s the mood music coming out of Gaydon. Autocar reported earlier this year Aston Martin product and marketing boss, Alex Long, saying the V12 was “synonymous with the brand” with “a huge emotional connection for the customers”. Hurrah.
The Mercedes 4.0-litre V8, which will almost certainly continue to be second choice, has stacks of appeal, too, and expect both engines to have the wick turned up. The DBS770 showed the AE31 V12’s potential for at least 770hp and the DBX707 demonstrates what the M177 V8 can reach. Don’t expect that much from the DB12, mind; more likely are modest uplifts over the DB11’s 535hp (V8) and 638hp (V12) numbers.
Arguably, the DB11’s weakest area is its interior, so expect a significant change there. Stroll has already said, “How can you have an Aston Martin that sells for £150,000 with three-year-old technology?” So we can surely expect a big update to the infotainment system, which will hopefully include better screens and an improved interface, as well as additional bespoke software to differentiate it from its Mercedes’ MBUX underpinnings. It will also have “our own voices” with “a proper English accent’, said Stroll. With that and a smarter interior, this could at last be an Aston Martin DB11 that delivers on every last bit of potential. It'll just be called the DB12...
Image credit | S.Baldauf/S.B.Medien
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