The DB11 becomes even more striking in open-topped Volante form. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at what's on offer.
The DB11, Aston Martin's consummate sporting luxury GT, becomes even more desirable in open-topped Volante form. It's stiffer, more sophisticated and even more beautiful than its predecessor. In short, you'd like one.
As we've said previously in evaluating the coupe DB11, this model will almost certainly prove to be the most important car in Aston Martin's history. And that means it also needs to be available in this Volante open-topped form.
Lighter and more rigid than the model it replaces, this convertible derivative has been engineered to deliver a much broader envelope of abilities than previous cabrio Aston Martins could offer. Greater levels of performance and handling accentuate the more sporting side of its character, while increased refinement, comfort and interior space ensure it remains a consummate grand tourer.
Aston Martin launched this Volante derivative with the engine most DB11 buyers want, the 4.0-litre V8 the brand has borrowed from Mercedes-AMG (the same as that used in the Mercedes-AMG GT) which puts out 510bhp. 62mph from rest takes about 4 seconds and the top speed is 187mph. Drive is dealt with via a super-smooth paddleshift eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox mounted at the rear and driving the rear wheels. And there's a drive mode control system that independently controls the powertrain and the chassis via 'GT', 'Sport' and 'Sport Plus' options, all of which are quite viable for road use.
There's definitely something about the gloriously fearsome bark of the twin-turbocharged engine when it barks into life - or at least there is if you start it in 'full woofle' mode; there's also a 'quiet start' option, should you want to make a soft getaway. That noise is instrumental in preparing you for a unique experience as you nose out into the traffic. A thoroughbred sportscar deserves a thoroughbred engine and this is exactly that, with an exhilarating roar under hard acceleration, yet with a growl that becomes muted and melodic when cruising.
Visually, the DB11 Volante features the same striking single-piece aluminium bonnet and innovative 'Curlicue' aerodynamic styling that distinguishes the DB11 Coupe. The profile is beautifully sleek and completed by dramatic ultra-slim 'light blade' tail lights that create a bold C graphic for a distinctive night time illuminated signature. Inside, the finishing is of course equally exquisite, with wood or carbon fibre veneer panels on the seat backs. Through the wheel, you view a fully digital instrument panel and there's a proper start button with keyless go, rather than the previous Aston system that required you to clunkily put an 'emotional control unit' key into the dash.
As you'd expect, the fabric hood is beautifully tailored and fashioned from the very latest acoustic and insulation materials, with an 8-layer construction to cosset occupants from the extremes of weather and wind noise. It's available in a choice of bordeaux red, black silver or grey silver and has a class-leading rear stack height. the hood takes just 14 seconds to lower and 16 seconds to close and can be operated remotely from the key, or on the move at speeds of up to 31mph with a 31mph headwind. A cleverer folding system has also led to a 20% gain in boot volume compared to the previous DB9 Volante.
Prices start at around £159,000 for the V8 Volante DB11 model. Whether that represents good value for money depends upon your perspective. You could argue that a Maserati GranCabrio MC or a Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster would cost you much less. But then, so would a Jaguar F-TYPE SVR or a Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet - where do you draw the line? These are all less exclusive and by contrast, mass-produced choices.
For something with the same kind of feeling of exclusivity that you get in this DB11 Volante, you'd need to pay a very great deal more. This car's most obvious and probably closest rival is the Aston Martin's old-tech V12 Vantage Roadster which costs only slightly less in comparable 'Sportshift III' automatic form but uses a much thirstier old-school 6.0-litre 573bhp V12 engine. With a DB11, the focus is more on sportiness and less on comfort. At the end of the day, it depends what you want. As you'd expect, the asking price includes just about everything you could really want in terms of equipment, but of course there's lots of scope to spend more and personalise your car with aesthetic flourishes and hand-crafted interior additions.
If you've managed to shinny up the greasy pole far enough to be able to afford an Aston Martin DB11, it's doubtful that you'll be overly concerned with the trifling matters of economy and emissions, but they mean a great deal to Aston Martin and here's why. The company needs to reduce the average CO2 output of the models across its range or face punitive EU fines. It's mildly amusing that 'engine downsizing' in 'Aston-speak' means dropping the size of the required powerplant to 'just' 4.0-litres and adding twin turbochargers to it.
Nevertheless, that's made quite a difference in terms of efficiency when you compare to the old DB9 Volante (which chugged out a decidedly old-school 389g/km of CO2 and averaged only 17.2mpg). In comparison, the DB11's emissions in V8 form are rated at 230g/km of CO2, while the combined consumption return is rated at 28.5mpg. To give you a perspective on just how much of an improvement this represents, we'll tell you that the old 6.0-litre V12 still fitted to the V12 Vantage Roadster model manages 19.2mpg on the combined cycle and 343g/km of CO2.
The DB11 coupe's bonded structure has made it possible for Aston Martin to take quite a large step forward with this Volante version, the brand delivering a structure that's 26kg lighter and 5% stiffer than its predecessor. The result is a truly magnificent car. One that combines greater performance and agility with increased comfort, refinement and interior space for occupants and their luggage.
There are certainly quicker, higher-tech or more sharply handling options in the market. But when you've miles to put on the clock and want the journey to feel special rather than just effortlessly rapid, it's hard to think of anything much better.