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Driven: Aston Martin DB11 Volante. Image by Aston Martin.

Driven: Aston Martin DB11 Volante
We think that the soft-top Volante is the best version of the DB11 yet…

 



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Aston Martin DB11 Volante

5 5 5 5 5

When Aston Martin launched the DB11 in 2016, it was cited as 'one of the most important cars' in the marque's storied history. It was joined in 2017 by a V8 Coupe model, which was brilliant, but we're convinced that this new Volante represents the apogee of the model line.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Aston Martin DB11 Volante
Pricing: DB11 range from £149,655; Volante from £159,900
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: two-door convertible GT
CO2 emissions: 230g/km (VED £1,700 first 12 months, then £450 per annum next five years, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 28.3mpg
Top speed: 187mph
0-62mph: 4.1 seconds
Power: 510hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 675Nm at 2,000- to 5,000rpm

What's this?

An Aston Martin DB11 Volante. And try and pick your jaws off the floor; yes, it's a stunner. An absolute supermodel of a car. Even the best pictures don't do the DB11 Volante justice, because it has a magnetic presence that simply does not allow you to tear your gaze away from it. Crikey, you can even paint it champagne gold (it's called Pearl Blonde, in Aston-speak) and it's still a looker of the highest degree.

You might note the rakish profile of the eight-layered hood when it's in situ, which is one of chief designer Julian Nunn's favourite features of the Volante - it required some serious design work by Webasto, tasked with supplying it to Aston Martin, and yet it looks exactly how Nunn imagined it and it only measures 260mm deep when it is stashed away behind the rear seats.

That compact packaging means minimal compromises to the exterior shape. So aside from slightly wider (by 11mm) and reprofiled rear wings - and the roof, obvs - the Volante is almost physically identical to its gorgeous V8 Coupe sibling. This applies mechanically, too, as there has been a slight rearward shift of the weight distribution (from 49:51 for the hard-top to 47:53 for the Volante) and the car has gained 110kg overall, around 44kg for extra structural bracing and the rest on the folding roof and its attendant mechanisms.

Power from the front-mid-engined, AMG-sourced but Aston-developed 4.0-litre biturbo V8 remains the same at 510hp/675Nm, the entire front suspension set-up of the V8 Coupe is retained - with only the rear springs having increased stiffness to compensate for the folded hood - and there has been a slight tweak of the electronic power assisted steering, in order to try and give it even more feedback and feel.

Inside, it's all as per the other DB11s, which is to say using the Aston-specific 'waterfall'-effect centre console, some exquisitely stitched leather seats, a wealth of high-end toys... and a few bits of switchgear from more prosaic Mercedes models. Take note of the indicator/wiper stalk, cruise control lever and the infotainment controls, plus the display screen's graphics too, which are all going to be familiar to you if you've ever been in an A- or C-Class Mercedes. It's not the worst thing in the world, and nor is our other minor observation, which relates to the steering wheel. It has a huge centre boss and is ever-so-slightly squared-off, which a) makes it not the most attractive item we've ever seen, and b) invites an almost immediate and rather unfortunate reference to the Austin Allegro and its infamous 'Quartic' affair.

Nevertheless, the general cabin ambience is incredibly special and inviting, while there are only reasonably minimal impacts on rear passenger space (23mm less legroom and 5mm less headroom) and boot capacity (down from 270 litres on the Coupe to 206 litres on the Volante, which does decrease further to 160 litres if the hood is lowered). However, that's a 20 per cent increase on the old DB9 Volante's numbers, and as even the DB11 Coupe is clearly a 2+2 and not a four-seater, the rear chairs are occasional items for very young children - so the ultimate lack of boot space won't be an issue to Volante owners, because they'll simply use the back seats for luggage if needs be.

Thus, what you have here is the most desirable modern Aston that's currently on sale. It's perhaps worth pointing out that you'll pay for this privilege, though, because the £159,900 Volante is the most expensive of all of the DB11s. It's slightly more than £10,000 in excess of the hardtop V8's ticket and it's even a few quid pricier than the DB11 V12 Coupe, which kicks off at £159,655. But when you're talking about £150,000-plus cars, the price is kind of irrelevant. Rich people wouldn't even consider £10,000 to be a significant sum of money, so the Volante's inflated list price is neither here nor there.

How does it drive?

Perfectly, as long as you're not expecting it to grip, steer and go with the rapier-like precision of a Porsche 911 GT3. The DB11 Volante is a grand tourer, up against the likes of the Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet, the Ferrari Portofino and any forthcoming convertible example of the Bentley Continental GT. And it's hard to imagine any of them could provide a more rewarding handling experience than the Volante, while simultaneously matching its first-rate levels of comfort and refinement.

Ramping the car up through the three drive mode settings - GT, Sport and Sport+ - does the usual tricks to the adjustables: the steering gains weight and feel, the dampers become less compliant, the exhausts get a little rowdier and the throttle becomes sharper. Aston's senior manager of vehicle dynamics, Ian Hartley, who was responsible for the DB11 Volante, says that the company 'didn't want GT mode to do everything'. So if you're a keener driver who's found that idyllic, quiet and sweeping open road and you fancy stretching the Aston's dynamic legs, you'll need to step it up into at least Sport to get the best of it.

But we'd go so far as to say Sport+ is how we'd drive the car 99 per cent of the time, should we ever be lucky enough to own a DB11 Volante. The damping is firm-edged and obviously taut in Sport+, yet at no point on some fairly bumpy and crumbling Alpine routes did the ride quality degenerate into the shonky as we pounded along at quite ridiculous velocity. Indeed, you might say the Sport+ DB11 Volante rides like some of the current hot hatch brigade when they're operating in their softest modes; that's how comfortable it is in its most aggressive setting.

Naturally, later on when cruising along an autoroute at 80mph, the GT option was magnificent for just letting the Aston lollop gracefully along, the thickly-insulated hood in place and the whole car doing its best impression of a coupe in terms of its near-impeccable noise suppression. There's the suspicion that GT mode will be essential on the UK's fragmenting roads network, on which we get multiple different surface changes and 'patchwork quilt' road repairs in the space of a few miles on an alarmingly regular basis, and there's also the suspicion that the GT setting's low-speed ride is just a teensy-tiny bit choppier than it strictly needs to be. But on any route that's six-out-of-ten or better for asphalt quality, Sport+ will do you fine.

And Sport+ makes the Aston, which is wonderful in GT mode, come alive. The steering always remains on the lighter side of what's generally desirable for a sports car, but there is plenty of information flooding back to your fingertips, and the immediacy and consistency of its responses are both sublime. With a mammoth amount of front-end grip, a trustworthy yet playful rear axle - slides, easily provoked out of hairpins in low gears, are controllable and enjoyable when they come - body control out of the top drawer for a 1,870kg soft-top and a drivetrain that is equally laudable, the DB11 Volante is a genuinely excellent sports car. Granted, it would be happier on a fast, flowing A-road, of the sort that drapes itself through some of the lower-lying glens of the Scottish Highlands, than it would be trying to tear up the snaking Stelvio Pass, but you'll be surprised how nimble, chuckable and downright fun the Volante is when being hustled at speed.

It's not fazed in the slightest by rapid direction changes through flick-flack bends. It doesn't take an age to settle on its springs in the wake of high-speed crests and big compressions. Tightening radius corners are not a problem for it, as understeer at any sort of road speeds was entirely impossible to come by. No, it just gets on with putting in an assured, rewarding and grin-inducing performance when you want it to, and you can cover ground at a quite alarming rate in the DB11 without the open body feeling like it is flexing, or the suspension giving the impression it is letting the movements of the shell get out of hand. For a machine primarily designed to be a maximum-posing-power GT, the Volante is a riot on the right road.

And, of course, we've saved the best until last. We might have already mentioned the V8 and its associated eight-speed transmission are stunning, but that's to gloss over the sheer majesty of the performance and noise of the Volante. The pick-up of pace, from low speeds or the mid-range, is quite tremendous. Aided by whip-crack reactions from the faultless ZF automatic, you can elicit expletive-inducing acceleration pretty much anytime, anywhere. It's also one of those cars that is epically strong as the needle sweeps past national limits, so you need to have your wits about you if you're on a motorway and you feel like cutting loose - otherwise, an irresponsible number that's deep into three figures will be on the clock before you know what's happening.

Yet the abiding memory of the Volante is the soundtrack. It's everything you could imagine of a V8 Aston - and, yes, here comes the jaded old warhorse of a cliché, but... as it's a convertible, it better allows you to hear the wonderful tunes the DB11 is playing. Which are not, we might add, simply re-treads of classic AMG V8 tracks of yore. With a much more guttural, rumbling bassiness at low revs and a cleaner, zingier voice as it races past 4,000rpm, Aston's bespoke intake and turbos-back exhaust has clearly done the trick in giving it a distinctive calling card. This is no lazy Mercedes-AMG remix by a British dance act, we can tell you.

And, of course, the tailpipes emit all sorts of cracks, rumbles and thuds on flat upshifts, lifts of the throttle at higher revs and downshifts as you're braking hard into bends. In short, the Aston could have been a slightly wobbly mess dynamically, but when it looks and sounds as phenomenal as this, it would probably have got away with moderately flaccid handling. However, the talented chassis is more than capable of matching Aston Martin's traditionally strong characteristics with some true dynamic wonders of its own. Marvellous.

Verdict

Convertibles are not for all tastes and the most sombre, po-faced, helmsmithy of drivers will tell you they can never be a truly rewarding car. Well, we disagree. The Aston Martin DB11 Volante is clearly geared at hyper-smooth, effortlessly rapid, cross-continent crushing pace and ease-of-use first and foremost, but the Gaydon outfit hasn't forgotten than Astons traditionally always drove better than the competition. The Volante is a prime example of that noble trait and there's no 2+2 cabriolet beyond £80,000 that can match it for the all-round sensational quality of experience it offers. For that reason, we think it's the best DB11 yet - and the finest car of its exalted type in the world.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 19 Feb 2018









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2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante drive. Image by Aston Martin.2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante drive. Image by Aston Martin.2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante drive. Image by Aston Martin.2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante drive. Image by Aston Martin.2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante drive. Image by Aston Martin.

2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante drive. Image by Aston Martin.2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante drive. Image by Aston Martin.2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante drive. Image by Aston Martin.2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante drive. Image by Aston Martin.2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante drive. Image by Aston Martin.








 

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