Lifting the lid on Aston Martin’s drop-top DB11 Volante
Although there was a tinge of irony behind the launch of a classic British convertible in the rainy south of France, we were left with no doubt that the new Aston Martin DB11 Volante is something special, regardless of the outlook. Just as night follows day, Aston Martin – like every other manufacturer in its class – will eventually launch a convertible version of its sporting coupes. The latest model to get the drop-top treatment is the DB11, launched to great acclaim in 2016. It’s taken the best part of two years to get the Volante model to market, even though the open car (which revives Aston’s legendary nameplate) will ultimately account for 40 per cent of all DB11 sales.
The company is deep in an ambitious plan to revitalise, re-engineer and expand its entire range (it quietly pointed out, amidst the gloom of the UK’s recent car sales statistics, that it is currently the fastest growing car brand in the country) and DB11 Volante has had to wait its turn in a crowded launch schedule.
The DB11 was launched in 2016 to great acclaim, and has taken almost two years to receive an update
It’s certainly been worth the wait. The convertible sports car presents car manufacturers with a conundrum. If you replace a steel, aluminium or carbon fibre roof structure with a complex arrangement of motors, folding supports, covers, flaps, canvas and roll-over support, all you are doing is adding weight and removing stiffness. There’s also the carefully honed aerodynamic surfaces to consider, not to mention the aesthetic consequences of re-shuffling the rear bodywork. Aston Martin has trodden very carefully with the form of the existing DB11, determined not to mess up that hawkish front end and the neatly detailed tail. The changes, unsurprisingly, are on the rear deck, where the coupe’s ducted c-pillars are no more. With the top down (in an impressive 14 seconds, no less), the Volante can lay convincing claim to being one of the best-looking cars you can buy.
With the top down, the hood takes up little space behind the rear seats, leaving plenty of room in the boot
With a big twin-turbo V8 under that clamshell bonnet, the DB11 Volante is also a spirited and sonorous performer, although there’s no getting away from its scale as you nose the car down narrow French lanes. The traditional Aston interior is all present and correct in its tactile, leather-clad wondrousness, although once you’re cued in to the car’s dimensions and dynamics, your focus is on the world outside – especially with the hood down. The steering is quick-witted and the throttle a delight and there’s a supreme restraint in the overall ride quality, making this a perfect cruising machine. You can increase the ferocity of the throttle, the hardness of the ride (and the sound of the exhaust) in stages, should the clouds ever clear and the road surfaces start to look more forgiving to over 500 horsepower being pushed out through the rear wheels.
Next up for Aston? The New Vantage, a long-awaited and radically different overhaul of AM’s most sporting model. Once this ultra-sporting machine arrives, will the DB11 be seen as a more sober choice? Right now, it's as close to the perfect traditional sports car as the company has ever got.